Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Targeting A Readership Part 6

Previous Parts in this series:

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).
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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.


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. 


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. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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