Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Copyright Grab by the French
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com/
Dear SFWA Members,
As many of you already know, the ReLire program currently underway in France has scanned many books it considers to be "orphan works" in order to make them available through a public database. This database has already been found to contain many titles that are clearly not orphan works or in the public domain, including a number by prominent SF and fantasy authors. A more detailed explanation of the program is available here: http://blog.authorsrights.org.uk/2013/04/26/french-copyright-grab-the-machine-creaks-into-action/
As this is a program of the Bibliotheque Nationale Francaise (French National Library), the Board is currently discussing options for applying pressure to the French government to prevent further works by SFWA members from being scanned and made available through this program, and we invite any members who have connections with the United States Trade Representative or any relevant branch of the U.S. Government to contact us. For the moment, however, we are informing all members of the issue and making them aware of the process involved in finding out whether a work is included and how to request that it be removed from the database.
All parts of the ReLire website and database are available only in French. The Society of Authors has produced translations of four key pages, the ReLire home page (http://www.societyofauthors.org/sites/default/files/ReLIRE%20home%20page.pdf), the Your Rights page (http://www.societyofauthors.org/sites/default/files/ReLIRE_authors_rights%20(3).pdf), the Search page (http://www.societyofauthors.org/sites/default/files/ReLire_search%20(2).pdf) and the FAQ (http://www.societyofauthors.net/soa-news/relire-project-note-members).
Here is a direct link to the advanced search page: http://relire.bnf.fr/recherche-avancee. The search fields are Titre (Title), Auteur (Author), Editeur (Editor) and Date d'edition (Publication date). If you are aware of any works of yours that have ever been published in French, you are strongly advised to search under all of the first three fields, as the entries in the database have been found to have many typos. Please notify SFWA of any of your works that are found in the database, as that will be valuable information in our efforts to protest the program.
If you do find any novels, stories or any other works belonging to you in the database you may request to have them removed. Please note that at this time it appears as though you will need either a French identification card (only available to residents of France) or a valid passport to make the application. We are awaiting clarification on the question of whether any other forms of identification will be accepted. For detailed information on how to apply to have work removed, see this thread on the Discussion Forums: http://www.sfwa.org/forum/index.php?/topic/4875-instructions-for-opting-out-of-the-french-relire-program/ Questions may be posted on that thread or addressed to Canadian Regional Representative Matthew Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thanks to Aliette de Bodard, Lawrence Schimel, Michael Capobianco and Jim Fiscus for their help in researching and co-ordinating SFWA's response.
Targeting a Readership Part 7: Guest Post by Valerie Valdes
That post has links to previous posts in the Targeting A Readership series.
On a #scifichat one Friday, Valerie Valdes and I had a brief exchange like so:
JLichtenberg : To be a good springboard for a story, a science doesn't have to be "hard," just well known among intended readership #scifichat 12:32pm, Feb 22 from TweetChat
valerievaldes: @JLichtenberg I'd go so far as to coin a phrase and maybe call it an intentioned reader? You create interest, I create intent. #scifichat 12:35pm, Feb 22 from Web
JLichtenberg: @valerievaldes #scifichat I love that - "intentioned reader" - write a guest post on it for http://t.co/YR5WzTuuLF ?
So she wrote the following for us to ponder. She had not seen last week's post and I hadn't mentioned the post I was discussing last week in my post. This came out of the blue while #scifichat was discussing a definition for sociological science fiction.
A lot of writers worry about reaching a particular, intended audience with a work that may require specialized knowledge to be fully appreciated. We walk a fine line between trying to appeal to people who aren’t avid followers of the latest news in scientific advancements, or scholars of medieval animal husbandry, or whatever it is that drives us to obsession, and everyone else--a much larger group, to be sure.
Many times, though, we needn’t be so concerned about reaching that select, elusive clique of intelligentsia. Introducing something novel to a reader unfamiliar with the topic won’t necessarily shut them out. Instead of failing to target an intended reader, you may instead create an intentioned reader: one who is so intrigued by your subject that they intentionally educate themselves on it in order to better understand and enjoy your work.
This phenomenon isn’t restricted to any genre: a story may spark interest in history as easily as science or technology. For example, the slipstream works of Jo Walton encourage research into real history in order to better understand her modifications to the existing chronology and historical figures. As another example, Peter Watts’ interweaving of geothermal energy production, artificial intelligence and genetic engineering in Starfish may find a handful of readers knowledgeable about all three topics, but more likely will reach people interested or educated in one (or none!) but eager to learn more about the others.
As the movie quote goes, “If you build it, they will come.” The trick, of course, is to build something worth coming to, in a way that will spark the interest that creates an intentioned reader. A good story, not matter how obscure the topic, will never fail to find an audience.
------end Guest Post ------------
Don't just think about what Valerie has said here. Think hard about what it means THAT she just blurted this out in response to my invitation (in less than half an hour!).
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Revisiting Our Youth
Annette Funicello’s death reminded me of her Beach Party movie series with Frankie Avalon in the 1960s. (There was a reunion film, BACK TO THE BEACH, released in the 1980s. I’ve acquired a VHS copy but haven’t watched it yet.) Those were our dating movies. As teenagers, my future husband and I saw all of them—BEACH PARTY, BIKINI BEACH, BEACH BLANKET BINGO, and HOW TO STUFF A WILD BIKINI are the titles I remember. Wanting to revisit those memories, I ordered a DVD set of BEACH PARTY and BIKINI BEACH and recently watched the first one.
Good example of the difference between “classic” and “vintage”! Is this movie great art? Would I pay the theater ticket price to see it today? No. Is it still fun? Yes. Later films in the series had progressively wilder plots, sometimes incorporating fantastic details such as invisibility and a mermaid. BEACH PARTY (1963), however, doesn’t involve any events that couldn’t happen in the real world, or at least none that wouldn’t routinely happen in a romantic comedy with slapstick elements. Why did we enjoy those movies so much? (Well, I suspect my now-husband liked watching the girls in bikinis.) I remember liking them because they were sexy in an innocent teenage sort of way. They featured groups of scantily clad young people swimming, sunning, and surfing, with lots of sexual innuendo but on a level that would be considered squeaky clean nowadays. And they always focused on a love story.
After I re-watched BEACH PARTY the other night, it occurred to me that the script follows a centuries-old pattern seen at least as far back as Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. The story includes a primary couple, a secondary couple, and a clown. The primary couple consists of two fresh, young, virginal lovers, Frankie and DeeDee (Annette’s character; Frankie keeps his real name, for some reason). Their plotline arises from the sexual conflict between them. They’ve planned a romantic weekend alone in a beach cottage, or so Frankie thinks, but DeeDee gets “cold feet” and secretly invites all their friends to join them. She later explains to her girlfriend that she doesn’t want to take the next step in intimacy until she becomes a wife, and furthermore, Frankie has never said outright that he loves her. The first subplot focuses on an anthropology professor, the “fish out of water” in this movie, who has spent his career studying primitive tribes all over the world and now wants to achieve fame by writing a book about the subculture and mating rites of American adolescents. With a hotel room full of viewing and recording equipment, he regards the teenagers as strange creatures equivalent to “savages.” We can see immediately that he has something he needs to learn, just as Frankie does. The Professor has a beautiful, blonde assistant whom he sees strictly as a colleague, while it’s obvious she’s in love with him. They comprise the second couple. The “clown,” the instigator of the other subplot, is Eric von Zipper, world’s dumbest and least scary motorcycle gang leader. His harassment of the teenagers in their hangout, where they dance to rock music in the evenings and wait for “the word” from a beatnik guru called Big Daddy (a cameo appearance by Vincent Price), generates the external threat and the slapstick scenes.
DeeDee provides the focal point that weaves together the three plotlines. Partly to retaliate for her frustrating his plans for the weekend—but even more to combat his own fear of betraying the teenage guy “union” rules by confessing he loves DeeDee—Frankie pursues a voluptuous waitress. When Eric von Zipper and his gang invade the place, Eric aggressively hits on DeeDee, and the Professor, who has come there to seek a “native” informant, rescues her. Partly to get back at Frankie and partly because she’s genuinely impressed by the chivalry of the “old guy,” she pretends to be falling in love with the Professor. By the end of the movie, as we would expect, Frankie and DeeDee untangle their insecurities and declare their love to each other. The Professor comes to see the teenagers as people rather than research subjects and discovers his love for his assistant, much more appropriate for him in age and experience than DeeDee. The sexually aggressive waitress Frankie was fooling around with (but she makes it clear he did “nothing,” to her exasperation) ends up riding off with Eric von Zipper, who hasn’t learned anything. Designed as a one-dimensional comic character, he reappears in every subsequent movie, as thickheaded and arrogant as ever.
A few moments in this teenage romance would make a present-day viewer wince, especially DeeDee’s wistful song to her mirror image about trying to win Frankie back by being “nice” and “kind” to him, as if his straying were her fault. And many contemporary teenagers might have trouble identifying with her determination to stay a virgin until marriage. Yet the core of the story exemplifies the romance genre’s central theme throughout its history: It’s about a woman’s choice, holding out for love on her own terms.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Targeting A Readership Part 6
Targeting Readership Part 1 is:
Part 2 is inside this post:
Part 3 is inside and woven into the following post in my Astrology Just For Writers series which by mistake has the same number as the previous part but is really Part 7:
Targeting a Readership Part 4 is:
Targeting a Readership Part 5 is:
Linnea Sinclair, one of the writers who posts on here Alien Romances, pointed out a blog post where I am mentioned and the Sime~Gen Novels are mentioned.
This is the new AMAZING STORIES where Chris Gerwel is puzzling over Science Fiction Romance .
The New Archetypes of Science Fiction Romance
Vampires, werewolves, witches, etc. have a significant legacy in Western culture, and are firmly entrenched in popular consciousness. Even the most culturally unaware understand the rules by which vampires operate (although Twilight’s sparkly vampires may erode this familiarity for the younger generations).
Vampires in one form or another span almost all cultures, and stories featuring them (and their psychosexual symbolism) date back thousands of years. The spaceships, aliens, psychic powers, and interstellar war featured in the works of Catherine Asaro, Heather Massey, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Jayne Ann Krentz, or Lois McMaster Bujold have a much shorter history: as archetypes go, they’ve only been around for most of the past century (with the original incarnation of Amazing Stories a major factor in their popularization).
And there is one other mention of me farther down in this (magnificent) essay.
As a writer, I have to disagree with Chris Gerwel. Maybe I don't really grasp the point here, or maybe this blog is actually discussing something I'm not equipped to discuss.
But if it is about MARKETS, and taste in entertainment, then it's definitely about what we've been discussing here on Alien Romance.
Note the Venn diagram in Chris's article showing a slight overlap of Romance genre and what is termed Speculative Fiction (a made up term of no meaning to me -- all fiction is by definition "speculative" because to write it, a writer must enter the mind of a character that the writer has just made up -- i.e. speculated about -- and that character must live in a world that the writer just makes up -- i.e. speculates about.
So the term itself has less meaning than any Genre name I've ever encountered -- editors and publishers know exactly what they mean by their Genre labels, even if the writers don't.
Genre is a marketing phenomenon, as I've discussed in many previous posts.
Paranormal Romance usually includes only elements that Science Fiction excludes because they are based on "Science" that is what was left in "Natural Philosophy" when "Science" split off from it -- ghosts, God, demons, angels, mythical creatures, dragons, and various forms of ESP.
There is the "Normal" that science studies, and the "Paranormal" that Magic studies. But they are actually the same thing -- the "world" we build inside our heads to connect us to the world that is outside our heads. That is our "Model of the Universe" or "Weltanshauung" or World View.
All fiction belongs to that category of "Our World View" or our "View of The World."
Fiction is about what it means to be alive, where we are, where we're going. And all fiction is speculative by its nature.
Not all fiction is either "paranormal" or "scientific" -- in fact, most general fiction partakes of both elements because real life includes both.
Science Fiction is fiction about science, about the way people who are trained to think scientifically view the world, about how scientific mental training presents problem solving possibilities that are not available to people who have not had that training.
Science Fiction, when well written, such as that by Robert Heinlein, is perfectly and totally accessible to people who have not had scientific mental problem solving training.
Star Trek continued that tradition of accessibility to the scientifically untrained.
Science Fiction by definition INSPIRES NON-TRAINED PEOPLE TO BECOME TRAINED.
If a novel does not inspire, ignite the lust for scientific knowledge, it is not science fiction at all.
So as Gene Roddenberry said, science fiction doesn't answer questions; it poses questions.
Roddenberry also grasped the essence of science is exploration - going where no "man" has gone before.
Yes, he sold STAR TREK as "Wagon Train To The Stars" (a Western in Space), just transposing the tropes of the popular TV shows of the time into a different setting.
But then he let that transposition pose question that could not be posed in the Olde West.
That's why he fought so hard to retain Spock as a character, going so far as to give up the female First Officer (who was objected to because no real man would take orders from a woman).
Now that brings us to my objection to the premise behind Chris's article.
The difference between the Science Fiction and/or Paranormal (there is no difference between these genres at all) -- readership and the "Pop Culture" Venn Diagram circle in Chris's article, lies not in the "accessibility" of archetypes, but in the deep, innate, inborn, attitude of the reader toward "accessibility."
Now, it's true, at different epochs in one's lifetime, one may have different attitudes toward barriers. But there are people who spend 90 years or more with the same attitude toward barriers.
"Accessibility" is the reverse of the concept "barrier." But "barrier" is what is being alluded to in this whole argument of "accessibility."
So here we enter into a discussion of the general nature of all humans. To target an audience, you have to define that audience, cut that audience out of the "general" audience, and create something that appeals to that sub-set.
Of course, if you're writing a blockbuster film script, you have to be ultra-careful not to cut any audience out -- you must include all audiences.
But if you're writing a novel, you narrow your audience in order to increase the appeal of your material to those specific people.
For a complete discussion of maximizing appeal to small audiences and at the same time hitting for a huge, broad audience, being both accessible and inaccessible at the same time, read all of my nonfiction book STAR TREK LIVES! --- it's hard to come by a copy, but Amazon usually has a few since it went 8 printings. The techniques of how to do this are outlined in that book.
Here we're discussing the thesis that science fiction and/or paranormal Romance might not be "accessible" because of the archetypes.
My contention is that the audience targeted by this spectrum of genres has nothing to do with the character archetypes (such as Vampire).
The specific audience targeted by both Science and the Paranormal is the audience that flat refuses to accept BARRIERS.
In life, and in fiction, in any activity whatsoever -- these are people who just WILL NOT let others define their reality.
These are people who live (or aspire to live) in an unlimited, (barrier-less), universe.
To this particular readership/audience -- any barrier you put in front of them is a red flag in front of a bull (o.k. bad analogy -- bulls are color blind). Any barrier you define, any time you put "Authorized Personnel Only" on a door in front of this audience, expect that door to be blown off its hinges forthwith.
Think about what Romance really is. It is an adventure. It is an adventure into the realm of the inside of someone else's head. It is an exploration of the inside of yourself, into places you never knew were there and which astonish you. It is an experience which is addictive.
Think about what exploring the stars (or the old West) is about -- it is an adventure. It is an adventure into the realm of the inside of alien heads (non-humans).
And it does not matter if the alien is evolved on another planet or a denizen of another dimension once thought to be demons by Earth creatures.
Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus.
In the BATTLE OF THE SEXES, we each see the other gender as "alien."
So establishing diplomatic or romantic relationships with aliens in outer space or aliens from another dimension, with or without telepathy and precognition, is exactly the same familiar and "accessible" archetype as in the Romance Plot Trope. It's the same approach/retreat dance.
Read Marion Zimmer Bradley's DARKOVER novels.
Now, it is true, READERS are about 5% of the total population -- readers who read fiction are set apart, perhaps by a brain structure that's either innate or developed, but it is RARE.
READING is not just the ability to decipher little black squiggles into words you can say aloud. READING is the ability to NOT SEE those little black squiggles, but rather to see the vast endless plains, the great depths of space, and feel the emotions of non-human beings deep in the nerves while doing nothing but sitting still staring at little black squiggles.
That is a very rare ability -- (hence the popularity of video-games and TV shows is much greater than that of little black squiggles) -- and only a very miniscule sub-set of that 5% have this even more rare attitude toward BARRIERS.
I have seen this 5% figure for the fiction reading population all my life in publishing, only 5% of people buy more than one novella year if that. Yes, many more will borrow from libraries, but still it's a very small percentage.
Look at the story-intricacy and content of TV and film. Shallow compared to novels, no?
It's that barrier thing -- what unites Science Fiction and Paranormal Fiction readers is that attitude toward barriers (perhaps best summed up as "You and what army?")
And that defiant attitude is what defines Romance Genre readers of all stripes.
I WILL NOT ALLOW ANYONE TO DENY ME ACCESS TO MY SOUL MATE.
That's the bottom line for Romance readers -- I'm going to get what this world has stashed behind a barrier and nobody is going to stop me! What woman gives up her man just because he's "inaccessible?" How many Romance stories have you read where a woman goes after a Prince, or vice-versa, and lands him? Romeo and Juliet? "Inaccessible" is irrelevant.
So "accessibility" of the archetypes isn't what keeps people from reading Science Fiction or the Paranormal. (Marketing could have something to do with it, though.)
"Inaccessibility" is what attracts readers to these genres, and striving to gain access is what builds character strength and changes lives. That strength gained by becoming expert in the details of a fantasy realm is what defines the "geek."
People read fiction to change their lives, to make themselves emotionally stronger and more prepared by resting from a fruitless struggle, stepping back and gaining a new perspective on the barriers keeping them penned into an unsatisfying life.
But very few can or will read fiction. Many more will access that same mental state via images. But ultimately, it is an emotional state that is sought. We have to talk in depth about the relationship between emotional states and intellectual states, but that's another topic.
There is no such thing as an inaccessible archetype. By definition, all archetypes are accessible -- that's what makes them archetypes.
An archetype is the pattern behind the manifestation. They exist on the astral plane (Yesod -- which is why it's called Foundation; it's the foundation of the world). How can that which rests upon a foundation find the foundation "inaccessible?"
You don't "access" an archetype. The archetype accesses you, or this plane of existence. The archetype is the source of you and the world.
Archetypes are the substance of what you are made of. Adam Kadmon is the first archetype, the first man God made and Adam wasn't a "man." (to understand that gender issue you have to understand how Hebrew uses gender nouns). Adam, made from clay with the Spirit of God blown into his nostrils, was both male and female, or neither male nor female -- in the image of God, without gender. Later, gender was created by dividing that ARCHETYPE into two. Very mystical stuff there and a source of the Sime~Gen Premise.
Chris, in this article, is fumbling around the edges of a very profound idea that Jean Lorrah and I discovered some years ago.
I had long been discussing my theory that the kind of story I write is not of any genre known, and that in fact Science Fiction itself is NOT A GENRE.
You can literally write any other GENRE in Science Fiction. We've almost got them all written in the 12 Sime~Gen novels and are about to launch a Sime~Gen Videogame set in the Space Age with a really huge Galactic War. Watch for more of that in July.
So Jean and I kicked this idea around and worked on it writing Romance in Sime~Gen -- all my novels contain a Love Story, not all are actually Romance Genre like Dushau or Those of My Blood or Dreamspy.
And Jean (being a Professor of English by trade) realized that what we had was not a new genre.
I called my genre The Hidden Genre because I found it in all other genres.
Jean realized it isn't THE HIDDEN GENRE, but is actually a PLOT ARCHETYPE.
Not a character archetype (like The Mother or The Vampire) but a PLOT ARCHETYPE like THE HERO'S JOURNEY.
We don't have that thesis written up completely yet, but you can read a lot about it and puzzle over it here:
Note particularly the comment by Ronald D. Moore (of Battlestar Galactica) linked on that page.
So Sime~Gen is Intimate Adventure and has as much in common with movies such as THE AFRICAN QUEEN as it does with STAR TREK. (BTW Gene Roddenberry was much enamoured of exploring Africa! Exploration of Africa was the primary inspiration for Star Trek, not The Western.)
So if you want to rocket to the top of the Romance Novel charts - target the readership that won't take no for an answer. Target the readership that says, "Don't tread on me," and makes it stick. Target the readership that is the most inexorable force in this universe.
We are not the "sheep" who "look up." We are not herdable. We are the intractable, the incorrigible, the inexorable, the indominable. We are the ones who see that sign "authorized personnel only" and authorize ourselves, push the door open and take a look.
We don't obey rules, and we don't make rules for others to obey. We think for ourselves.
We are not leaders, and not in search of a leader and wouldn't let anyone follow us or lead us.
We have only one trait in common with one another, other than that quirk of seeing pictures instead of squiggles on the page of a novel. We don't understand the concept "inaccessible." We go where no man or woman has gone before.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
A Digital Archive of One's Own
The January 2013 issue of PMLA (the journal of the Modern Language Association) includes several articles about new reading technologies, mainly e-books and audiobooks. Contrary to what one might stereotypically expect from English professors, these authors don’t pronounce stuffily conservative messages viewing the new technology with alarm, but deliver some refreshing and provocative insights. I was particularly interested in “Reading, in a Digital Archive of One’s Own,” by Jim Collins, obviously an allusion to Virginia Wolfe’s “A Room of One’s Own.” (I’m still waiting for that room of my own as well as the guaranteed annual income Wolfe says every woman writer needs. Does Social Security count?)
Collins mentions the view-with-alarm commentators who worry about “the future of reading” and points out that what they’re talking about is a specific kind of reading, what they consider real reading—as opposed to whatever people do with e-books. Reading, says Collins, “is no longer a uniquely solitary practice—it is alternately solitary and social.” He seems to be thinking partly of sites such as Goodreads, which another article in this issue discusses in depth.
Some passages that especially struck me:
“If Bradbury’s firemen did suddenly turn up to do their evil work, they would be thrown into existential panic about what to burn since so many ‘book people’ are reading novels on their screen of choice. . . . but the discourse on e-books has been limited either to dire pronouncements about the final victory of digital culture over traditional print culture or to bombastic celebrations of how fast they’ve been adopted.”
”How does the existence of this kind of portable media archive completely redefine what we mean by reading? Personal libraries have been around for centuries, and the idea that we are a product of our libraries has been part of the humanist education project all along.” In other words, we are what we read, a concept Collins compares to the MP3 player slogan “You Are Your Playlist.”
Collins reassures us, “Changing the material form of the book does not necessarily result in a domino effect whereby close reading and extended narrative inevitably disappear.” He sharply summarizes the fears of the view-with-alarmers: “Change the object that is the book, and suddenly attention spans shorten, long-form narrative shrinks into sound bites, deep reading is no longer necessary, and literature departments are obsolete. According to this scenario, reading literary fiction on an e-reader is a gateway drug that leads to the hard stuff of digital culture—become psychologically dependent on that e-reader, and you’ll find yourself in an alley somewhere with a cell-phone novel written by promiscuous Japanese teenagers sticking out of your arm.” He sensibly refers us to changes in the long-form narrative throughout its history, including television series that extend their story arcs over several seasons, demanding deep engagement from viewers. This modern form of storytelling can exist only because of new technology such as home viewing devices that allow us to shelve archives of a TV program in our own houses and “view it novelistically, chapter by chapter at [our] own pace.”
As far as the “inevitable” replacement of long narratives by sound bites is concerned, that prediction is already disproved by the freedom e-books allow for publishers to produce longer novels at no greater cost than shorter ones, giving authors a flexibility in word counts never before enjoyed. And as for the fear that the typical reader will balk at tackling a very long work, fanfic seems to refute that assumption. For example, over the past year I’ve read a serialized DARK SHADOWS fanfic comprising over forty installments of fifteen chapters each, and I’m sure it’s far from unique or the longest continuous fan novel out there.
Remember, philosophers in Plato’s time were suspicious of written culture in itself because they feared depending on it would ruin people’s memories. To some extent that may be true, but would we choose the ability to memorize the entire ILIAD if we had to give up literacy for it? Each new cultural development has its losses and gains.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Settings Part 3 - Dreamspy in E-book
If you're writing for a Western market, your Setting has to have horses, wagons, Sheriffs, rattlesnakes, guns, desperadoes, muddy streets, maybe a herd of cattle. The Western Romance was a growing sub-genre at the time Those of My Blood and Dreamspy were first published.
About three years before Those of My Blood came out, the first novel in my Dushau Trilogy won the Romantic Times Award for Best Science Fiction. That was so long ago that the credit for it is not on their website! I still have the trophy, though.
Dushau is science fiction romance without Vampires.
If you can sell Western Romance, why not Science Fiction Romance? They just couldn't encompass the concept. Editors were convinced "mixed genre" just could not be sold -- and the evidence before their eyes confirmed that resoundingly. They had just begun computerizing sales data, and they believed the computer printouts.
A writer may know, absolutely, that there are readers who want the kind of story they have to tell, and they may be correct, but if marketers don't know "where" to reach those readers, they won't try to reach them. And the marketers are right about that.
I've seen, lately, several self-publishing writers wailing on Google+ and Twitter about how they can't sell copies of their books - even giving them away, or charging only 99cents, they can not sell books that the few who've read those books rave about.
Writing books and pleasing readers is one thing --- selling books is something else.
Here's a tweet from twitter:
twliterary 10:42am via Web (Literary Agent who has nearly 5k followers)
Author whose submission was rejected just EM that book pubbed to nice review. Truly happy for you, even w/ gratuitous "nyah nyah" note.
LESSON: don't crow when you score against the establishment, just bank the check.
So how does a market change? First comes the publication of a daring new genre, or mix of genres, or an exploration of a Setting (Ancient Egypt? Victorian England? The Moon?). The mix-mixing of a new setting with a type of characer who doesn't belong there (as far as marketers know) has to start with a few books that are marketing failures. Those novels have to get good reviews, even though they don't sell.
Then comes an imitation or two, and there's a pre-built tiny market. Then "word" goes viral, and the new genre gets a name and an identifyable market to publicize to. Then big bucks get spent on "marketing" another new item designed to appeal to that market, and that's when you hear about this new item.
This creation of a genre is a slow, tedious process, but the e-book is speeding things up.
To find out how to achieve this result, study how it happened in the past, change the parameters that technology and social networking has changed, and launch a project into that new non-market. Become a market maker.
Those of My Blood and Dreamspy are good examples. Original first printing Those of My Blood has sold for $400-$500 in collector-quality condition (that means unread). Now you can get Those of My Blood for $3.19 and Dreamspy for $3.99 (I don't control the price, the publisher does.)
So how do you think of what to mix up with what to create something "new?" Or something you haven't ever encountered before?
Think about popular SETTING, and inject a character that doesn't belong there, living through a story that's familiar from a different setting.
The same old worn-out Western story can be told in Science Fiction if the Setting has Stars, Space, Spaceships, spacedrives, and space-type hazards to take the place of rattlesnakes, guns and desperadoes. To be good science fiction, the story needs hazards that aren't now possible. The characters have to solve problems that can't possibly exist by getting over their notion that the problem does not exist.
A Vampire on the Moon, in Those of My Blood -- that is just such an "impossible" problem. The Vampire is Fantasy element injected into a Science Fiction Setting, then twisted from the Horror Genre into Romance -- another genre where Vampires don't belong (according to marketers in the 1980's).
So when venturing to innovate where marketers fear to go, mix-and-match Settings and Characters.
So suppose instead of a Western, you had a Romance with International Intrigue and Vampires. But you set the story in the midst of a Galactic War. The Setting becomes Space, but the Romance drives the plot.
There was a time the marketers didn't know what to do with such a novel.
I wrote two such orphan-genre novels (Science Fiction Romance) for the St. Martin's Press hardcover SF line in the 1980's.
Both got marvelous reviews, but St. Martins withdrew all advertising efforts from their Science Fiction line for strategic reasons. The strategy was to publish the hardcover just to distribute to newspapers and magazines for review (because at that time, certain widely read venues would not review a paperback original).
So they printed only a couple thousand hardcover copies (hence the collector price) and never distributed to bookstores. You could buy (the month Those of My Blood was published) several hardcover and new paperback Vampire novels by very big name writers who got award attention for their novels.
But Those of My Blood, a brand new hardcover hailed as my breakout novel, was not on any store bookshelves (except the Independents) the month it was published. Where Independents special ordered it for those who knew it was forthcoming, they ordered only for the customer who wanted it and didn't put any on the shelves.
And then neither Those of My Blood or Dreamspy ever made it into Mass Market.
Eventually, another publisher picked them up, and they did pretty well, getting reprinted several times but only in trade paperback, and finally going out of print.
Then Wildside Press picked them up and now both novels are available in trade paperback and e-book editions.
There are no sex scenes the way you'd expect now, but at that time sex scenes were not allowed in Science Fiction. Marion Zimmer Bradley and Ursula LeGuinn changed that, but notice how their sex scenes differ from today's.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Hannibal Lecter on TV
Did anyone else watch the premiere of the TV series HANNIBAL? As a devoted fan of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (both the book and the movie), I was eagerly looking forward to it. This program, written as a prequel to RED DRAGON, updates the story to the present, doubtless to avoid confusing viewers with a recent-past setting as well as to showcase the latest cool crime-solving technology. Will Graham, as a special investigator for the FBI, solves serial killer cases with the help of the profiling expertise of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, at this point still a highly respected psychiatrist rather than a convicted murderer. So far, I’m favorably impressed.
This series faces a quandary similar to what we find in shows such as FOREVER KNIGHT and VOYAGER. If the central problem posed at the beginning, which gives the program its main interest for the viewer, is solved, the series has to end. If Nick Knight got cured of his vampirism or Voyager made it back to Earth, the series would have been over (was over, in the case of VOYAGER). So Will can never find out Dr. Lecter is a cannibal serial killer (unless the show is eventually scheduled to be canceled and the writers want to wind it up decisively). Unless plotted as essentially a miniseries with a defined conclusion, the story arc can never progress to the threshold of RED DRAGON. Therefore, the scripts will have to continually tease the audience with hints and near misses wherein Graham almost finds out Lecter's secret and then fails to do so. That could get frustrating.
(OTOH, as we’ve already seen in the pilot, there's potential for pleasurable irony in the viewer's knowledge of what Lecter really is while watching Graham obliviously continue their collaborative investigations.)
I believe this is an example of what Jacqueline calls the “hung hero” dilemma.
BTW, yesterday I was interviewed on Amber Skyze’s blog:Amber Skyze
And on April 12, Ellora’s Cave will release a “Naughty Nooner” (e-book short story) by me called “Weird Wedding Guest.” This is a sequel to my humorous Lovecraftian erotic romance novella “Tentacles of Love”:Weird Wedding Guest
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Settings Part 2
Considering this blog focuses on Science Fiction and Fantasy both -- with a plot based on Romance -- we have spent a lot of time focused on Worldbuilding, i.e. creating the setting from scratch.
You can go to any planet, any universe, any reality, any time -- it's a lot. You start with an amorphous nothing -- just like in Genesis it says In The Beginning a void.
When we start to write, we are in a void, with darkness on the face of our very deep minds.
And we have to create and cast a light into that darkness, form solid ground for ourselves.
We have started with worldbuilding, but each World you Build has many Settings in which you may place your story.
In our excursion into Worldbuilding we also covered Theme-Plot Integration and within that topic we examined a number of political issues.
The strange thing with politics is how it controls everything in the worlds we build -- we just don't have to deal with it by name.
However, we have an opportunity coming up in 2016 when the USA will once again have an "open" election -- without an incumbent President, so debate will be furious.
This is an opportunity to market a novel with a Political setting, and I think I've found one you can exploit to the good of the Romance market.
We all live in an Internet dominated environment, and the e-book is the least of it all. Romance is all about Relationships, and mobile devices are bringing Relationship a whole new meaning.
Here are a couple of links to articles related to decisions being made "behind the scenes" in your world, decisions that affect you, and could affect you and your Mate in different ways causing conflict and story to happen.
Here's one that's probably NOT TRUE -- nevermind, we're building a fictional world, so ignore the plausibility of this extremely dubious source.
Here is an article (rivaling some of my longest posts here) digging into every detail behind this one about Obama's nomination for CIA chief, and there are at least 5 novels worth of international intrigue material buried inside this extremely well documented examination of the accuser's background and the accused -- and others involved peripherally.
And here's one that obliquely relates to the CIA Chief choice:
That is a story on how, due to technical issues of having old hardware running our current Mexican border sensor-net, we can't replace the worn out sensors handily because the new technology doesn't match the old. (just think of when you get a new computer -- you need a new modem, a new router -- and then you need new "devices" that can use your new router). In five years, your equipment is so old you can not replace it piecemeal and expect good performance.
Here's a quote from the article:
According to CBP, it hasn’t been canceled outright — but it has been delayed for much, if not most, of 2013. The problem: The sensors can’t talk to the rest of the tech along the border. “We’ve determined that we need to resolve issues with saturated radio frequencies, limited bandwidth and system integration with the existing CBP infrastructure,” Jenny Burke, a public affairs officer with CBP, tells Danger Room. The agency will try again to replace its aging sensors “within the next six to nine months.”
OK, now one of your protagonists works for the CIA directly under this new Chief who has just been appointed and has no clue what's going on (or worse, is convinced of things that are in fact not true), and the other is a Border Security officer who really understands the Situation.
According to the article, on the Border, officers are in harm's way because of the false-positives thrown by the worn out sensors. Harm's way? Hmmm, definitely plot material in there.
What do you suppose happens next?
What if one of your protagonists becomes a Ghost? Or what if one of them is telepathic? What if the "border" in question divides our everyday reality from a magical realm?
Which brings up the issue of Communication.
Communications is only a technological problem limited by science, right?
Available "Official" and "Civilian" communications is entirely political -- 100% political. You can get only what your politicians "let" you have. Unless you break some laws, or use a loophole in the law hardly anyone knows about or knows how to exploit.
Right now, the reason you can't have your landline phone number hooked up to your cell phone so that you only pay for the landline and your cell phone is an extension handset to your landline (not call forwarding, a single line) -- is there is a law against that. And that law was rammed through by lobbyists funded by the companies involved, not by citizens who want just one phone number.
To keep people from telling other people things you don't want them to know, you just make a Law.
In fact, the technique that's always worked since the Middle Ages is to make a bewildering maze of tangled Laws, and then allow bureaucrats to selectively enforce the ones that deliver the bureaucrat's own enemies into their hands (think Inquisition -- selecting certain "Witches" to be burned, but not others.)
If you need some Setting ideas, watch some old Cold War Movies about the USSR. Nobody trusted the Press which was government run, so they relied upon "rumor" which oddly was much more factual than the Press. In fact, the government used rumor to ferret out dissidents and convict them of breaking whichever law that carried whichever penalty the Official wanted to inflict. Watch a bunch of spy movies and you'll get a lot of ideas.
The essence of Romance is Conflict. The conflict you are looking for is inside the Setting. The Setting is a section of the World you have Built. Politics is a Setting. In our contemporary world Politics is a place, State Capital or Washington D. C. -- in your Fantasy world it might be a Castle, or a Border Guardpost.
Make enough conflicting laws (or in a Guardpost, make Regulations for the local villagers) and you can always convict your enemy of breaking a law requiring the penalty of greatest advantage to you.
If you have enough laws, there's no such thing as an "innocent" person -- everyone is guilty of something that carries a penalty. Most people are guilty of so many things, officials who find that person inconvenient just pick a penalty, then nab the person and convict them of violating that law.
People attribute this strategy to the Communists, but actually it has been a tried and true method of Rule since Kings were invented.
You can use it, even in contemporary Romance, but it works really well in Urban Fantasy.
Consider the Internet carefully -- we attribute the magic pictures that appear on our desk screens (and handheld devices) to science and technology. But a well magicked looking glass or crystal ball would work just as well.
Study our contemporary world and how communications are being controlled politically, then try to apply that to Magic in your Urban Fantasy -- or use Magic to get around the political blocks in Internet access.
For an example of Magic controlled by Government, see the TV Series Merlin --
a King Arthur rewrite that changes just about everything about the Legend.
Romance is all about Relationships. Relationships require communication. If you want to run a civilization wide eugenics program, you can create or prevent Romantic Relationships by controlling communications. You can also use communications to control who lives where by making certain places attractive to certain kinds of people -- walling others off.
Here is a Video -- it runs about 25 minutes. It is an interview with the author of a non-fiction book about our real world. But if you listen carefully without letting your understanding of our real world get in your way, you will see a clear, stark illustration of two ways to use Government to control Relationships and population migration. Pay attention and you will find ways to create your Protagonist and Antagonist to challenge, fight, and win against the World you have Built for them. The Setting for this story is Politics, high-stakes Moneyed Politics. Add in the two articles cited above, and you've got a nuclear explosion of a Romance.
This Video is a good description of a problem coupled to a lazy grab for a solution to that problem by using government as a hammer to force misbehaving people to behave "properly."
There is no mention in it that the price we pay for internet is elevated by hidden tax structures - so this video says the problem outlined is caused by government, and government is the solution. Lots of logic holes in this argument for your Romance Novel protagonists to find and exploit.
Pay attention, then write the story you see inside this Video, and in 4 years, you should have a political novel in print to take advantage of the election craze.
Thursday, April 04, 2013
Guide to Writing a Series
One of my favorite writing manuals of all time is Karen S. Wiesner’s FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS. Since I’m a dedicated outliner, this outline-focused, step-by-step advice book fits perfectly with my preferred plotting style and noticeably improved my writing efficiency and speed. Karen also wrote a follow-up book, FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL. Now she’s about to release a book called WRITING THE FICTION SERIES, for which I was one of many authors interviewed.
Here’s the book’s page. It will be published on May 30:Writing the Fiction Series
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Guest Post by J. H. Bogran - Settings Part 1
I ran into J. H. Bogran on #scifichat and without having read any novels under that byline, decided that I'd found someone so intrinsically interesting that all my readers need to hear his Voice.
Unable to get marketing to work for SF/F published in Spanish, Bogran took the bold step of writing in English, in order to reach -- well, YOU!
Anyone who gravitates to #scifichat on twitter is going to be intrinsically interesting, but to find a writer I can talk to every week -- who lives in Honduras? Honduras! and on that same chat, we have people from England, from both coasts of the USA and the middle, too.
Watching these diverse people interact gives one a new perspective on where novels come from, so when I invited him to do a guest post for you, I just left the subject open.
And so, here's a discussion on a topic we haven't yet tackled on this blog, SETTINGS.
Choice of setting is intricately tied to character and theme, but the first consideration in choosing setting is genre. By changing the setting, you can change the genre.
That's the lesson we've seen worked out with Star Trek, which was first sold as "Wagon Train To The Stars" (pitched using one of the most popular and long-running TV Series t the time, Wagon Train.) In fact, most all genuine SF at that time was the typical Western adventure story set in space -- same story, same characters, transported to space and given knowledge of technology and science.
Well, knowledge of technology and science was also vital to the survival in the Old West -- one had to know how to repair a saddle, cast bullets, doctor a horse, build a wagon wheel, and avoid rattlers.
And the same is true in The Hobbit -- Bilbo had to learn fast on his adventure.
The same is true of the TV Series Scarecrow and Mrs. King, where "Mrs. King" learns fast to be a secret agent with a double life, but applies the housewife&mother skill set to international intrigue -- changing the "setting" from "Brady Bunch" or "The Waltons" to "International Murder and Mayhem."
So to find the genre market you can sell into, consider setting carefully. The story you're trying to write might be unsellable if written in one setting, but sell big time if transposed to another. You can tell the same story about the same character with the same conflicts and even very similar tools of his/her trade in various settings.
But take care because though the character can affect the setting, the setting also affects the character. If you do not bring that interaction to the surface in your composition, the story will seem ludicrous to those who know the setting and the people native to it.
Without further ado, here's J. H. Bogran:
A Study on Settings
By J. H. Bogran
There I was, thrilled to be a special guest at #scifichat—my first, by the way—when out of the blue came an invitation to post on this blog. I agreed wholeheartedly, and so, here I am!
Regardless of genre, “location” for any work of fiction is important enough that, when done properly, the setting becomes an integral part of the tale. Think of The Hunchback of Notredame, The Fall of the House of Usher, Pillars of the Earth, Dune, The Dark Tower, or Star Trek.
With works in genres as varied as thrillers and fantasy, it is not surprising that I use different methods to find, research, and select locations for my stories. Let’s deal with thrillers first, as the genre has the marginal advantage of settings being found in our world.
My debut novel, Treasure Hunt, is a suspense thriller about a thief hired to rescue some money stolen twenty years before. The action is set in 1998 because that’s when I began the first draft; little I knew that it’d be published until 2011 where the era might be considered historical. Anyway, for Treasure Hunt, I used locations found on planet Earth: London, New York, a Federal penitentiary, and a fictional Caribbean country named Istmo. Istmo turned out to be a pretty stylized version of Honduras, with honest politicians, cleaner cities, really low violence levels; you can say it is Honduras 2.0.
Choosing the setting for a novel in a foreign country can be tough, but not impossible to research via internet, interviewing people who have been there, studying maps. The introductory chapter of The Falcon, a thief who rents out his skills, is set in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Great, nobody resists a tour of the Big Apple, right? Except, at the time I had never set foot there. After a couple of hour-long phone interviews with a couple of friends who’d lived there I was able to paint a decent enough picture. So good in fact, that during the novel’s launch party, a person came up to me and congratulated me for transporting him back to the city of his youth!
The opposite side of the spectrum, in fantasy, the locations are not found on Earth (most of the times), reducing the amount of research to a minimum. Not! For Deeds of a Master Archer—a portal fantasy short story of two modern-day men trapped in a world where they become a village’s last line of defense against a pack of dragons—I had to create a world, believable enough to feel real, even when populated with creatures that had never existed. Okay, I may have cheated a little as the villages all conveniently speak English, and the place is very akin to medieval Europe; except for the dragons, of course.
In building new worlds, with their culture, religion, languages and all of accompanying prerequisites, the writer must spend considerable time because, if these places don’t exist, they still must make sense. At least, sense enough to suspend a reader’s disbelief for the duration of the story.
So, what if Alderan never really existed? What if the lead character always catches the bad guy, stops the atomic bomb from going off, and kisses the girl? What if the Doctor will never lend you his sonic screwdriver? Who cares! You enjoyed the trip, and that’s what count!
Author Bio and links:
J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator.
Website at: http://www.jhbogran.com
Treasure Hunt trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEaG5CjDmG8
Direct links to books:
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Next week Settings Part 2