Thursday, September 26, 2013

Genetic Confusion

Does every cell in our body contain the identical genome we inherited from our parents at conception? Maybe not:

DNA Double Take

Chimeras—organisms with more than one genome—are now known to be more common than science used to believe. They can arise when the DNA of twins mingles in the womb. They don’t even have to be identical twins. The DNA of a fetus can migrate into the mother’s cells. Recipients of marrow donation have been found to have genetic traces of the donors in other parts of their bodies.

Mosaicism, in which mutations cause some cells to have different genomes from the rest of the body, can give rise to some diseases such as forms of cancer. However, it can also be harmless or beneficial.

Among other real-world implications, the NEW YORK TIMES article discusses how the presence of more than one genome in a single person could complicate the use of DNA profiling in criminal investigations.

Extrapolate to alien species, in which these phenomena might be normal and universal instead of anomalous, and we can imagine meeting “individuals” that are really two or more people in a single body.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Westercon 66 Con Report by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Westercon 66 Con Report by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Westercon 66 (2013) was held (as with most all Westercons) over the 4th of July weekend, the weekend of the big plane crash in San Francisco, and several other disruptive bits of news.

But my trip from Phoenix to Sacramento was absolutely nominal.

Except for the addition of the TSA checkpoint hassle, and the chisseling away of passenger seat and overhead space, the trip could have been typical of the 1970's (during which I did a lot of flying, so, yes, disruptions were less of a problem then.)

The plane was full the whole way, and the Phoenix airport (both ways) was absolutely jammed to capacity -- yet staff was on hand and the passengers moved smoothly through the airport.  My rides to and from the airport on both ends were likewise on time and on light traffic moments.

By the time I was on the way back home, the problem at the San Francisco airport was being resolved, and only 3 of the 5 flights on the board from Sacramento to San Francisco were still showing cancelled.  You have to admire the emergency crews that worked through the disruption.  We have so many great folks in this world! 

I got the feeling that the world is waking up at last from the doldrums of the last few years.

The convention was filled with laughter, high spirits, good parties, and busy, lively crowds with the usual level of knowledge one finds at science fiction conventions.

In fact, it was so boisterous that there were people who took refuge on the party floor during a very loud concert held on the ground floor! 

Westercon is a "regional" con that moves from city to city throughout the West USA, each site bidding for the convention as with Worldcon.

2014 Westercon is in Utah, and 2015 will be in San Diego, CA. 

So wherever it is held, most of the attendees are local residents, old friends who come to the con to see each other, party, and exchange songs and books (lots of songs!).  And there is always a scattering of folks from around the country, bringing lots of party with them.

I connected with a twitter-friend @Robynmcintyre and had a blast getting to know her in person. 

I met a few people new at the con, one an SF writer with a post-global-warming book out postulating a 200 foot rise in the ocean levels (max at the point where she is writing her story.)  I met her in the Green Room and talked for a couple hours with her, and a fellow doing an academic book on the state-of-the-art in research about Mars.

Also still sitting in the Green Room, I met the moderator of a panel I was on about Star Trek (with John and Bjo Trimble and David Gerrold).  Turns out the moderator is into videogames, and was delighted to hear of the story-driven RPG approach of the crew working on Ambrov X (the Sime~Gen Videogame).

Consensus among those attending their first science fiction convention seemed to be that entering a group of people who already know each other seems difficult, as they all get chattering to each other about things they experienced in common, somehow forgetting to include the new folks in the conversation.

I've found that typical in other organizations, too, and for the most part organizational leaders remind members to turn around and welcome the new folks into the conversation.  But it takes much reminding!

This issue didn't really prevail at the original Star Trek Conventions where hardly anyone knew anyone else -- except maybe having read something about them or by them in a printed 'zine.  So everyone being strangers (at first), they all connected with each other on the common ground of Trek.

Later, though, the group dynamic shifted to "everyone knows everyone" and the new person, alone in the crowd, had difficulty joining in. 

It seems it's a human behavior thing, not a group-specific characteristic, so I'm not surprised to find it at Westercon or any other con.  But I am gleeful to report that those who found a hard time connecting with people at Westercon 66 are willing to try other conventions.  They will soon be feeling at home. 

Friday morning, I did my stint in Adrienne Foster's Writing Workshop.  The format is that 3 professionals and 3 beginners and a moderator all read all 3 manuscripts by the beginning writers.  Then we sit around a table and each person gives their commentary and analysis of the manuscript.  You get both the beginning writer's input, and the professional input which always contrast starkly. 

The author of the manuscript has to keep SILENT (very hard but accomplished by these 3) during the commentaries, then gets a few minutes to ask clarification questions but NOT DEFEND.

Unusual at this workshop was that we all joined in many uproarious bursts of laughter.  The general spirit of the convention was just that high!  And when the sense of humor is engaged, learning is much easier.

It usually turns out the three pros all pretty much agree on the problems, but sometimes take a different approach to possible solutions.

That's what happened this time, and it provided an interesting discussion.

This time (I've done Adrienne's workshop a number of times), we had three manuscripts that each demonstrated a DIFFERENT skills dearth.  That's unusual.  Ordinarily, we see three manuscripts that lack conflict.

This time we had one that I saw as lacking in conflict which could be cured by bringing forward the COMMON THEME between two disparate viewpoint characters, and adding a third (a villain) opposing the main character's attempt to solve the problem.

And we had one that needed to find a different opening scene, and finally one that proved the most interesting as its only flaw lay in scene structure issues (which is the foundation of information feed).

That final manuscript became the subject of an additional 2 hour conversation between the author, the moderator and me.  And I expect that story to sell one day not so long from now. 

After the workshop, I connected with another long-time Sime~Gen fan-writer friend from the area, Mary Lou Mendum who has several Sime~Gen novel-length works posted on, and then in the evening more fans brought together the elements of a Sime~Gen party.

So that evening I sat around in a hotel room holding various conversations against a total roar of sound that ebbed and flowed.  The party was on the party floor, so party-hoppers kept coming in asking "what's this?" and getting (from the hostess Kaires) the explanation of what is Sime~Gen, and all about the latest development, the Sime~Gen Videogame.

Of course, I'd be remiss not to ask for your support on the Ambrov X Kickstarter which is running Sept 3 to Oct 4, 2013.  And that might seem out of place to Romance Writers -- but actually, no, it's not.  You will learn a lot about the dynamics of the marketplace in this new and evolving environment and pick up many clues about how to gain more respect for the Romance field by supporting this Kickstarter and watching the way it unfolds.

Remember, you "donate" to a Kickstarter (using your Amazon or Paypal account, sometimes other means, always easy), but your account does NOT GET CHARGED at all unless the Kickstarter makes it's goal.  So supporting doesn't cost you anything unless you actually get something for it -- each level of support carries with it some tangible reward, and for most products, a copy of the product itself.

People are using this method of capitalizing projects ranging from BOOKS (yes, print and/or e-book) to Web-TV series, and feature films. 

Crowdsourcing capital is changing the face of fiction. 

Kickstarter and the other crowd-sourcing features of our new world indicate a type of change going on that is at least as signficant as the invention of the printing press (before movable type). 

We'll have to go into that in more detail, but today we're talking about Westercon which was a landmark for Sime~Gen, the debut of Ambrov X.  The Facebook Page and website (where you can sign up for a free newsletter if you're not on Facebook) --

So Friday afternoon, I stopped in to the Gaming room and found a group intent on a board game.  I waved the first Ambrov X flyer at them and immediate interest arose.  The person running the gaming room examined the back of the flyer and then asked if she could POST IT.  I gave her a front and a back (a few of the copies didn't get printed on both sides, so they got used for wall-postings), and a couple for the table.

So as I said, the Sime~Gen Party at Westercon 66 was such a ROAR (a lot of happy people is a good sign for fiction sales in general!) that I'm not sure how much of the facts of the game actually sank into people's minds. 

And the rest of the weekend was non-stop conversation, so as usual I came home hoarse and wonderfully tired.  The hotel wasn't as huge as a Worldcon hotel/convention center setting, so my feet weren't as sore, but my voice was.

I did learn a lot talking to first-timers: #1 that there are people attending their FIRST SF con, #2 that a bunch of them are WRITERS, #3 that there is an appetite for something new, #4 SFRomance has what they're looking for, but they have no clue that it does! 

We have our work cut out for us showing not telling the world that well read, well educated people will find the entertainment they're looking for in Science Fiction Romance.  That may be the conundrum of the century.

by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Government Increases Support (albeit inadvertently) For Copyright Infringers

One of the few useful tools that authors and other copyright owners have if fighting the uphill battle to defend their copyrights is the WHOIS platform.

Often, owners of copyright-violating sites do not comply with the DMCA or Berne Treaties, and do not post the name and contact information of a copyright agent, whom copyright owners may contact in order to start the process of having copyrighted works removed from "sharing" sites.

Authors can visit WHOIS and discover either the information that should have been posted and wasn't, or else the contact information of the host of that site. Often, the host will take action and expedite matters.

Now, there is a proposal to deny access to WHOIS.

There may still be time to comment, for those who are interested.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Biological Possession

Twelve real parasites that control the life cycles and actions of their hosts:

Parasites That Control Their Hosts

Given these examples from earthly biology, maybe certain “puppet master” entities from science fiction don’t seem so far-fetched. The puppet masters in Heinlein’s novel of that title are essentially disembodied brains that attach themselves to the spinal columns of their victims and take control of the hosts’ bodies and brains. In STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION and DEEP SPACE NINE, we meet more benign symbionts from the Trill culture, which get surgically inserted into a humanoid body and merge their minds with those of their hosts. Joining with a symbiont is considered an honor. In this partnership, the personality of the host isn’t obliterated but blended with that of the possessing entity.

And then there’s THE HOST, by Stephenie Meyer. While I haven’t read it, it sounds very different from her Twilight series. The creatures that possess human hosts in this novel are disembodied intelligences, not physical entities like the other two species just mentioned. According to the blurb, the possessed protagonist doesn't lose her own personality as normally happens.

Most of the parasites listed in the article above infest invertebrates such as insects, worms, and snails. Imagine scaling up these phenomena to human size—producing, for example, a creature that uses us as incubators for its young and chemically inspires the human host with devoted love for the parasite babies. Willing human males become hosts for alien larvae in Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild,” but they aren’t mind-controlled. Butler’s characters accept this arrangement in a rational bargain; imagine pheromones that emotionally compel people to embrace the status of incubator. Would chemically induced love for the parasitic (or symbiotic) infants be “real love”?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Videogame As Fan Fiction by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Videogame As Fan Fiction
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

As most of you know by now, there is a KICKSTARTER running to fund a videogame RPG which takes my Sime~Gen Universe novels into the Sime~Gen Space Age.

The AMBROV X Kickstarter added a reward level called an ALL DIGITAL TIER - and everyone who donates at or above that level gets a BUNDLE of all the Sime~Gen Novels extant in e-book (lots of formats).

We haven't talked in depth yet about videogames, or gaming in general, as a fiction form.

But when the Videogame gets into the RPG (Role Playing Game) space, where the consumer gets to BECOME one of the characters in the fictional construct (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons ) you are getting into the world that I envisioned living in when I could barely read the three words under the picture.

As I've said many times on this blog, fiction is a necessity of human life.  We need our dreams and our daydreams to function rationally in our world.  But more than that, dreaming and daydreaming are magical acts, acts which form our world, that really change things (for better or worse). 

That's why Science Fiction (what science could do for us "if only...") and Romance (what life could be with the right person) are so vitally important to World Peace and other worthy causes.

I've been working on bringing together the various streams of fiction distribution for a long time.  I've talked often and at excruciating length on this blog about what I call The Fiction Distribution System, what it lacked (feedback from readers/viewers), and how the internet is curing that lack.

Here are some of my blog entries from 2006 and 2007:

And here is a book on Fan Fiction that I did not contribute to, but which mentions me a number of times.  Use the LOOK INSIDE feature and search for Lichtenberg to see those quotes.  (the list of quotes comes up on the left). 

They even mention my coinage of the term Intimate Adventure. 

If you haven't seen me talk about that on this blog, here is the original source on it:

As you can see, I've been entering this general topic of FICTION as a necessity in life, from every angle I can think of.

From the mentions in that book on Fan Fiction, I'm beginning to think I've actually made the point to some people.

Note the books that Amazon brings up in other suggestions when you go to the Fan Fiction book's page. 

I'm not saying I invented fanfic!!  It was old when I got into Science Fiction fandom when I was in 7th grade!  That's why it was already my native language when I first encountered STAR TREK (before any fanzine published fanfic in the Star Trek unvierse). 

I wrote Kraith as Star Trek fanfic, but I wrote Sime~Gen to allow others to write fanfic in it (and they have!  see

In 7th grade, it began to dawn on me what PUBLISHING lacked, and when I was in High School, I made a firm commitment to becoming a fiction writer because I knew I could make the field of fiction better if I could convince the right people that direct interaction between writers and readers, and between "readers/audience" and the direction and substance of the story was the missing ingredient in the industry.

That was long before computers brought GAMING to hand!

It was also long before Gene Roddenberry brought the Holodeck into existence.  That's where this is all headed, you know! 

Videogamers pioneered (with the shoot-em-all-dead approach to fun) the technology to make images REAL to you, and some were inspired by the Holodeck. 

Now they are pioneering the convergence of the characters who live inside your mind, your imaginary self that you strive to become, with the external conflicts of life, the problems set before you, using that interactive visual medium.

Here's another thing that's emerged to convince me that the world is accepting my point:

That's a for-profit university that trains people to create videogames.

Most of the people on the Loreful team creating the Sime~Gen Videogame (now in Kickstarter - go donate a few bucks and they'll send you more information) have come out of that university. 

The Sime~Gen game, though, isn't of the "win by killing everything that moves" variety, except insofar as BANG-BANG is necessary to sell into the marketplace. 

These folks have the ambition to create an RPG where you win more points (and perqs) by establishing a non-lethal relationship with the other characters, and making friends not foes even of those trying to destroy you and yours.  This game is envisioned with roles and options that allow Intimate Adventure!  (yes, the creators read that material I pointed you to). 

So far, the Sime~Gen Game is not ROMANCE per se, but if it's successful, that is a definite possibility for some of the future plot-threads or episodes.  You want to see a Romance based videogame?  Support this kickstarter, if not with money then by distributing the information on it.  It runs only to the beginning of October, 2013.

Remember Sime~Gen is the universe I created specifically to have a novel from every genre written in it -- (and it has TO KISS OR TO KILL by Jean Lorrah as a Romance) -- to prove that Science Fiction is not a genre at all, but Literature.

So, while I was digging into Amazon looking for the book on FAN FICTION that I do have a contribution in (due out Dec. 2013), I ran across the very academic one linked above, Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet, which only mentions me and Intimate Adventure (and Star Trek Lives! but they could only find the Corgi edition; the original edition is Bantam, 1975. 

Here's the book I wrote for (now available for pre-order, paper or ebook):

I didn't say this in my article in FIC -- it would have taken the whole book, and I'm certain I'll be returning to this topic on this blog when I find a better way to convey this notion:

Videogaming is in its infancy (still!).  It is the precursor of the HOLODECK, the fully interactive novel you walk into and become a character, and can do things that the author of the novel never thought of, never included -- you can live in a novel or a fictional universe and create your reality, just as you create your own real-life reality.

Somewhere along that line of development, you will begin to see exploration of seriously deep Relationship Driven Games.

And that has to include Romance (as the paramount relationship among all human relationships).

Since we are now working at the very beginning of that line of development, our smallest action will have huge effects decades from now.

We might discover that this videogame company that has contracted Sime~Gen is run by the "Steve Jobs" of the videogame industry.

And he took onboard a writer who remembered (with favor) reading Sime~Gen as she was growing up, then reread it all with the new books, too, and took notes.  She's a Star Trek/ Star Wars fan, too. 

If you're serious about solving the problem pointed up recently by Ann Aguirre's post on the blowback she's gotten for being a Science Fiction Romance writer:

You may find the best way to fix this problem that she and so many of those commenting on that blog post have encountered, using the least effort on your part, is to support Loreful's Kickstarter for Sime~Gen.  Just go post the URL around your contacts. 

Remember, the Sime~Gen novel Unto Zeor, Forever

has been called (in various blogs on the Internet) one of the first, if not the first, Science Fiction Romance novel (1978, my first Award Winner, before I won the Romantic Times Award for Dushau).  There were a lot of daring Science Fiction novels with this kind of sidewise edging into dangerous waters, and eventually it all gave rise to what we have today.

It takes a lot of people to move the world.  Give this Kickstarter a nudge or two. 

As Sime~Gen moves into the galaxy, humans encounter aliens, and you KNOW what happens when humans encounter aliens.  After all, you read this blog regularly, don't you? 

by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Libraries and E-Books; New Release

While I don’t always agree with Cory Doctorow’s opinions, I think this essay is right on:

Libraries and E-Books

I already knew about one publisher’s outrageous policy of designing its e-book files for the library market to self-destruct after a limited number of borrowings, but I wasn’t aware of the other ways major publishers rip off libraries in e-book purchases.

On an unrelated topic: My new shapeshifter erotic romance novella from Ellora’s Cave, “Bear Hugs,” was published yesterday. As the title hints, the hero is a were-bear. Lured into his private realm, a pocket of enchanted forest in a magically enclosed space, the heroine learns that he hopes she can break the curse upon him—but not the type of curse you’d probably expect.

Bear Hugs

I feel a little uneasy about the release date, even though twelve years have passed. How much time goes by before the anniversary of a shattering event becomes one more date in history? I wouldn’t have the same feeling if the publisher released a book on December 7 or the anniversary of D-Day.

Long before the Internet age, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I wrote a short vampire tale called “Crimson Skies,” printed in chapbook format. Although I recently discovered (after an inquiry from a reader) that I have a few copies left, I’ll never feel free to sell them—because the story, which is fairly light in tone, involves a plane hijacking. Unlike the time when the story was written, post-9-11 the motif of “hijacking a plane to Cuba” can never be a joke or a mere plot device. Pearl Harbor and D-Day can form the background for adventurous or romantic novels and movies. When enough generations have passed since a catastrophic event, it can even be referenced in jokes. (“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”) I can’t imagine 9-11 reaching that point. A long-running TV series, HOGAN’S HEROES, turned a POW camp into a setting for comedy, but as far as I know, nobody has done that with the concentration camps of the same historical period.

Some authors have begun to transform 9-11 into art (Stephen King wrote a story called “The Things They Left Behind,” with a survivor as the protagonist), but that kind of work feels beyond my range.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Theme-Dialogue Integration - Part 2 - What's Eating Her by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Dialogue Integration
Part 2 
What's Eating Her
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here is Part 1 of this Theme-Dialogue series, What's Eating Him?

Last week, Loreful, the videogame company developing a Sime~Gen RPG style videogame taking Sime~Gen into the space age, pitting humanity against aliens in a galaxy spanning war, launched a Kickstarter to fund the first of the Sime~Gen episodes.

The fate of that project is now in the hands of "crowd-sourcing" -- a concept that just tickles my heart no end!  I have always been an advocate of associated groups of individuals banding together to do original work, to change the world.

I'm still, after all these years, totally dedicated to CHANGE -- we have just soooo mucked up!  We have to FIX THIS, I keep ranting.  And that means we have to change our entire idea of what the problem is, so we can solve it.

When I was about 5 years old, no actually more like 3, -- which I remember because we moved coast to coast when I was about 4 1/2, and this particular memory is from before that move -- I parsed the problems in my little world (this was during WW II when they kept preempting or interrupting THE LONE RANGER on the radio to insert war news), and I decided that all the problems in the world were caused by adults having missed one, tiny but salient point about the structure of reality.

Yes, such was my thinking before the age of 5.  Consider at that age I thought the reason the wind blew was that the trees waved their leaves.  I hadn't yet figured out the world, even when my Dad explained wind blew because of pressure differences.  I KNEW it was tree leave that did it. 

My ideas about how weather happens have changed -- markedly! 

My ideas about THE LONE RANGER have not changed, -- much.

Here's the thought that has persisted, and which is behind all my novels.

Fiction consumption is a life-function of the same level and magnitude of the 5 life signs, organization, metabolism, growth, irritability, and reproduction.  Respiration, mobility, etc. are often cited as well.   I've seen definitions that include adaptation, but I could dispute that as if it were TRUE, we would never have species die-outs. 

So as a 3 or 4 year old, I added FICTION to that list, which I hadn't yet learned.  It never occurred to me that animals and trees didn't imagine.  Boy do humans learn a lot in the first 10 years of life!

But my main fiction sources, The Lone Ranger, Superman, persisted into the TV era, and onwards, and my ideas about the vital necessity of imagination developed through my exploration of science fiction - then adult Fantasy, and I launched a career into the teeth of the prevailing winds, adding Romance to Science Fiction but hiding that so deep inside the fictional worlds I built that editors couldn't see it.  My first sale was the Sime~Gen story Operation High Time to Fred Pohl -- read some of his novels and see how anti-Fred Pohl SFR really is, and I sold him a Sime~Gen story!  It is so deeply disguised, he didn't notice.

Today, I still firmly believe fiction -- specifically The Lone Ranger, Superman, -- and yes, Sime~Gen -- is more important than war, more vital to staying alive than winning a war, because fiction of this type reaches and nourishes the parts of your spirit that make you want to live and enjoy life.

Remember the gusto and zest with which Captain Kirk on Star Trek tackled impossible odds? 

Given an incompatible First Officer who refused to acknowledge the importance of emotions, particularly hunches and "gut feelings" -- Kirk enjoyed associating with Spock so much that Spock changed his mind.

Spock watched Kirk surmount impossible odds --

The formula for a novel of any genre has 2 main plots -- which bespeak the very essence of STORY.

a) A likeable hero overcomes apparently insurmountable odds toward a worthwhile goal.

b) Johnny gets his fanny caught in a beartrap and has his adventures getting it out.

Memorize those two, (they are true for ROMANCE too!) and evaluate every story you see or read to see which one it is.  Some really great literature has both.  Look at your life, and you'll see yourself doing both, often simultaneously.

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels, ...

...which I've reviewed on this blog many times, is mostly a beartrap plotted series -- but the wider envelope which keeps these novels a strong series and got it onto TV as a short-run SciFi channel (before the channel name change to SyFy), is crafted from A) the Likeable Hero with a Worthwhile Goal. 

You will find that same combination in C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner novels that I rave and rave about here ...

Study this structure, it's the key to why FICTION is a life-necessity like air, water, food, shelter. 

Heroic fiction -- Westerns, Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy -- fiction with a real HERO whose mind and heart are revealed to you in a way that you can become that character -- is a necessity of LIFE, because it gives your spirit the strength to overcome obstacles, just as food gives your body the strength to overcome disease and heal and reproduce. 

In Occult practices, this principle is applied by "donning magical robes" or a "ring" or other symbolic garb, and becoming your best self, even if you are only pretending for the moment.  Do this pretense assiduously enough, persistently and repeatedly, and you do become what you pretend to be. 

That is part of the nature of humans: you become what you emulate.

There is another principle promulgated at the heart of Kaballah, that the entirety of existence is made from pure energy.  That's a principle of the occult studies, too, and was derided and scoffed almost to death by the early Scientists.  Now we have split the atom, and are examining quarks, bosons, and other phenomena that compose space and the stars.

We are made of pure energy, and that energy (says Kaballah) is God's Love breathed into the world and shaped by Words.  God recreates the entirety of creation millisecond by millisecond.

That's a principle -- our very existence depends on being recreated by Words in increments too small to perceive.

Science now scoffs at that -- and is desperately trying to explain all of human experience in terms of biochemistry and the electrochemistry of the brain. 

That is the science that science fiction is based on.

The recent dust-up over the SFWA Bulletin Cover and a blog by another person that erupted into a discussion of how the SF community is viciously rejecting women and SFR might be parsed into an example of how society is trying to reject the existence of the HAPPILY EVER AFTER "ending" - or "worthwhile goal" that we strive toward.

The Occult Studies -- particularly Tarot -- see the feminine principle as the masculine principle's aperture to "heaven."  See THE LOVERS card -- the male looks at the female on the material plane, and the female standing on the material plane looks upward at an angel.  The female connects the male "real world" to the ineffable.

Without that connection, goes the theory (which I didn't know at age 4), men behave in very brutal ways.

I suppose by now you've all forgotten the video images (that surfaced in June 2013) of a Syrian "opposition" fighter killing an Assad regime soldier and cutting out the man's heart and liver and eating them on camera.  That pretty much sums up in symbolism the "brutality" referred to in the theory.  The philosophy advocated by most of the factions trying to re-create the Middle East as a Caliphate are intransigently anti-woman. 

You might look at the way that society insists women be wholly covered in public and NOT LOOKED AT.  Thus, in public, no man sees a woman, and therefore is free of all contact with God (even though they publicly bow down to God repeatedly during the day, they do it without contact with the feminine principle.)  Sans femininity there is no way a male can connect with God.

That's what SOUL MATE is all about -- connecting our men to God on a soul level.

In Occult Studies, sex magic involves the public displays of feminine nudity, and even public sexual acts.  This practices releases a certain type of (very dangerous) power into the world, and especially  into the hands of the men involved in this practice.

Masculinity seeks power within the material world.  That is the nature of male-ness. 

Femininity seeks power within the spiritual world.  That is the nature of female-ness.

But "within every man is a woman; within every woman is a man" -- we are all composed of both.

The balance though is not (usually) equal within a human.

Occult studies maintain that Souls reincarnate sometimes as male sometimes as female.

Kaballah maintains that Souls reincarnate (if they do at all) always as the same gender because gender is a property of the Soul, not the body alone.

Sime~Gen uses the Occult theory - and in Sime~Gen Souls sometimes incarnate as male, sometimes as female, and sometimes as Sime and sometimes as Gen -- and even more confusing, Souls reincarnate as aliens.  That is humans can reincarnate as aliens of another species, and Souls that are now human may have been non-human prior to that.

This concept is reflected in Kaballah theory as the idea that some Souls occasionally incarnate as inanimate objects or insects or other animals, for the sake of completing some task.

The Kaballah based Chassidic school of thought maintains that Joy Breaks All Boundaries.

In other words, the "apparently insurmountable obstacles" between the Hero and the Worthwhile Goal are surmounted by tackling the problem with JOY.

Zest, verve, happiness, bright-eyed optimism, -- i.e. Captain Kirk asking Spock the odds -- is the spiritual fuel that causes success.

It works on beartraps too -- the beartrap is a "boundary."  The beartrap is the consequence of not having assessed the consequences of other people's actions (the trapper sets the trap and you step in it before the bear does).  Once it's snapped shut on you, you have been placed inside BOUNDARIES.

It is zest, joy, verve, happiness, that breaks out of the beartrap.  You must pry the jaws apart, taking whatever physical damage that costs you, but you will fail without HAPPINESS (or so the Kaballah based thought goes.)

We, as SFR writers, are looking to convince a gloomy public (that sees War as a solution rather than the problem) that there exists a HAPPILY EVER AFTER, an HEA.  It's real, and it's within your reach, except for the problem of the beartrap or the "apparently" insurmountable odds.

Where does a man get that zest, verve, joy, happiness that fuels a Captain Kirk approach to problems?

Note Captain Kirk is a "womanizer" -- i.e. is driven by sexual appetite.  And woman accept his advances readily.  That acceptance is one of his character traits, too.

There is a higher truth behind that formula.  Contact with the FEMALE PRINCIPLE fuels that sense of impervious JOY that romps happily over every obstacle.

In other words, that JOY that the Kaballah theory talks about comes from God via the female principle. 

The female principle is the nurturer, the astrological sign of Cancer, the 4th House of the Zodiac, and the other water signs, Scorpio, Pisces. 

So what do women get out of men? 

What is eating her?

Could it be war? 

Last week in:

We touched on the idea that Mars represents a fistfight, maybe road rage or a bar fight, but Pluto represents a War - probably a World War.

Right now, Pluto is transiting opposite the USA natal chart's Sun (energy source, sense of individuality).

The Sun rules the natural 5th House (Hollywood, and children, siblings).  Pluto stirs the unresolved conflicts of childhood (the much used defense of "I was an abused child, so I commit crimes now.").

The Nation's childhood was in the birth of the Constitution -- and I maintain that the USA has two valid natal charts because we are two countries interwoven -- based on two distinct philosophies which have traditionally been represented by the Democrat and Republican parties (what we now call "Left" and "Right" which I see as misnomers.)

The Sun rules Leo, the sign of Sovereignty. 

Note how Astrology indicates that Entertainment (fiction), children (sex for reproduction, a life function), and siblings (bonding) are the selfsame identical energy.  Opposite the 5th house is FAME, the 11th House, Aquarius ruled by Uranus, freedom.  Think about the implications of the binding and intermingling of these concepts usually treated as separate and incompatible things.

You have the same kind of situation between the 1st House (Aries, ruled by Mars) and the 7th House (Libra, ruled by Venus).  (these are the "Natural" Houses; the personal Natal chart indicate the same forces, but place them in different signs depending on the time and place of birth)

1st House is your personal, individual Identity (your sense of self that develops at puberty with a sudden, inexplicable, need for privacy, especially privacy from parents, and today privacy from the Nanny State.)

7th House is the OTHER, family, spouse, foreigners, strangers, groups, and allies, partners, even enemies!  When there is a 7th House malfunction, you get xenophobia. 

With Pluto transiting the National natal 7th, we have publicly espoused inclusive group principles, the public refusal to "discriminate" and reject people from our groups on various grounds.  We rejected the principle that we should deny people loans on the basis of their financial condition.  When Pluto finished the 7th House transit and hit the 8th House cusp of the USA Natal chart (exactly to the day) we had the financial meltdown known as the Housing Crisis, where the mortgage and thus banking industry collapsed.

Now Pluto is transiting the National 8th Capricorn, (natural 8th is Scorpio ruled by Pluto; USA natal 8th is Capricorn ruled by Saturn).  The Nation has a stellium (complicated conjunction) in the Natal Second House which is ruled by Cancer. 

Which brings us back to the feminine principle (nurturing, home building, Cancer ruled by the Moon) vs. the masculine principle, imposing human will on material reality, (career building, success, Capricorn, ruled by Saturn.)

Whatever it is that is "eating her" nationally, is very likely to erupt full blown into national consciousness over the next couple years as Pluto transits opposite the national Sun.

The National Sun is in Cancer (in both national natal charts), Mother, Home and Apple Pie. 

This eruption of complaints about how women are treated in Science Fiction communities is all connected to the national conversation about "the place of women" in the world, and in life.

There are those arguing that women should be kept inside the home and never seen in public. 

There are those arguing that women are absolutely no different from men.

What's eating her is that society is using force and coercion to KEEP HER WITHIN BOUNDARIES.

What's eating him is that society is "including" her in public life, eroding the boundaries men have created.

The solution - magically and kaballistically speaking - is JOY. 

The Kaballah maintains that there is an intrinsic difference between masculine and feminine functions in the matrix of reality.  A very deep, abstract study of this philosophy reveals that the difference that Kaballah fingers as the distinction between men and women is very,  VERY different from the difference that society (historical and modern) has tried to impose.

In other words, we have parsed the problem incorrectly, which is why we can't solve it.

It's very possible we don't understand Kaballah at all, really -- as it has traditionally been interpreted by men only.  Today many female scholars are tackling the climb up the Tree of Life into the rarified reaches of Kaballah.  So things might change drastically in the very near future.

What seems clear to me, and has always seemed clear since I can remember even thinking a thought, is that FICTION is the tool for solving this problem.

Fiction does two things:

a) it BREAKS BOUNDARIES constraining the imagination, allowing you to concieve and try out various descriptions of the problem and of the solution.

b) it INJECTS JOY into your life as you experience triumph together with your avatar in the story, and that lets you break the very real boundaries that constrain you in your everyday life

Which brings us back to Sime~Gen, and the space war that Loreful wants to present to the world.

Sime~Gen solves the problem of the way humanity has artificially imposed "boundaries" on each gender and thus created The War Between The Sexes -- which I maintained is a scam here:

Sime~Gen postulates that humanity mutates into Sime and Gen.  There are male Simes and female Simes and male Gens and female Gens.  Simes Kill Gens to live, to survive. 

Thus the difference between Sime and Gen preempts, overshadows and wipes out the significance of the differences between male and female.  But it replaces it with an even bigger difference, a lethal difference.  Men and Women still find their Soul Mates, reproduce, and live Happily Ever After, and in fact it's those men and women who eventually solve the problem of half of humanity needing to Kill the other half.

Then with that problem solved, they dissolve the Territory Boundaries they created between Sime and Gen so each could survive, and they create an interstellar space drive that requires cooperation between Sime and Gen to work.

They venture into the galaxy, and run smack into an existing interstellar civilization. 

The result is War.  (that was planned into the Sime~Gen series premise, and the stories I want to write lie on the other side of that war, so I was happy to license Loreful to create me a space war, and so was Jean Lorrah, my co-author on Sime~Gen.)

Even at the age of 4, I knew that war was WRONG because it interfered with fiction imbibing.  And I still stand by that assessment.

Fiction imbibing is a necessity of life -- war is all about death. 

Remember Conflict is the Essence of Story.

Life vs. Death makes a good conflict to generate a fabulous plot. 

I actually adore World War II movies -- the Hollywood version of war, not the real thing.  Real thing is to be avoided - which is the message of all good fiction.  NO WAR!!! 

War is the result of the failure of diplomacy, which is a form of warfare. 

War conflicts with the necessities of Life, and Sime~Gen is all about LIFE - about living, not dying, about the glories and joys of life (but, yes, there are some barriers to overcome to get there).

So the Simes and Gens who have hammered their way to Unity will now hit another barrier, one that will try very hard (Pluto hard) to shatter that Unity. 

This game is going to be FUN - and it will spread much JOY into this world that is so sorely in need of JOY. 

What's eating both him and her is BARRIERS -- walls around us that keep us from communicating.

Play this game, take home some joy, target your communications with others, see if that breaks or surmounts any of the barriers in your life -- especially the barrier to getting your own fiction published!

by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Jacqueline Lichtenberg will be Rowena's guest on Crazy Tuesday internet radio

     The Sime~Gen novels by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and Jean Lorrah are being turned into a video role-playing game, taking the series off Earth and into space. In this episode of EPIC award winner (Friend of E-Publishing) Rowena Cherry's radio show, Rowena  interviews Jacqueline about this fascinating process, as well as worldbuilding science fiction. Tune in for more about Sime~Gen and the new story-driven game, Ambrov X.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Rating Fallacies

After watching the French movie AMOUR, I gave it a rating of 4 on Netflix. It’s a quiet yet stunning drama about the way a retired couple’s life disintegrates after a stroke disables the wife. It held me completely riveted, but I would never watch it again. The emotionally crushing effect is augmented by the claustrophobic dimness of the set in many scenes and the complete absence of background music. If you fall into the age range of the characters or have close relatives in that phase of life, you’ll probably find this movie as powerful as I did; just be prepared to be depressed.

Anyway, Netflix will probably respond to the 4 rating (unusually high for me; I give most movies a 3) by recommending a batch of other depressing foreign films for my viewing pleasure. In general, I have little interest in depressing foreign films or, in fact, any hyper-realistic drama or fiction. The high rating results from the selection process that leads me to rent very few such movies. I wouldn’t watch one unless I had good reason to believe (from reviews or word of mouth) that it was outstanding. So of course the ratings will be skewed high.

In my favorite genres, however—fantasy, horror, and light science fiction—I rent lots of movies. I judge them more stringently, partly because I know those genres better and partly because of course a larger sample group will include fewer brilliant standouts. Therefore, my ratings aren’t a reliable guide to my tastes, because on the whole I’ve given fewer high scores to movies in my favorite categories than to those in my least favorite, paradoxical as that track record might sound.

Now, I won’t say Netflix’s algorithms are totally off base. Its recommendations in fantasy, SF, and animation make sense. However, the rows labeled “Dark romantic British dramas based on books” and “Emotional period pieces based on classic literature” range all over the place in their relevance to my tastes. Not to mention the miscellaneous grouping classified as “Critically acclaimed movies”—a category that includes both AMOUR and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS boggles the mind.

Amazon recommendations sometimes show similar weirdness. They know what books I’ve liked in the past, but they have no way of knowing WHY I bought a particular book. For example, I'm a devoted fan of S. M. Stirling's Emberverse series (DIES THE FIRE and its sequels.) Some equally fervent fans of that universe love the military strategy and battle scenes, which I skim over to get back to what I consider the essence of the story, while others dislike the neo-pagan culture of one of the story's societies and the overall rebirth of magic, which are my favorite aspects of Stirling's post-apocalyptic world. Supposedly readers will eventually be able to fine-tune their responses in such a way that the online store’s computer mind will target their likes and dislikes with unerring accuracy.

On the other hand, sometimes those recommendations do lead me to a book or movie I enjoy and might never have noticed otherwise.

In case you’d like to find out more about the film AMOUR, Suzy McKee Charnas has written an in-depth review of it. (Spoilers included. Reading this review is what inspired me to watch the movie, since I don’t mind being “spoiled.”)

Suzy Says

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Theme-Dialogue Integration - Part 1 - What's Eating Him? by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Dialogue Integration - Part 1 - What's Eating Him? by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

---------But first a long commercial -----------

That is part of the LOREFUL Development Team
Today is the kickoff of the KICKSTARTER for the Sime~Gen science fiction RPG to be published by Loreful which will bring the humanity you've met in the Sime~Gen novels into first contact with aliens-from-outer-space. 

Here is an article about Aharon Cagle, the fellow whose brand new company, Loreful, has licensed Sime~Gen for a Galactic Adventure.  He's the one holding the green light-saber in the photo above.

People have given me blank looks when I say KICKSTARTER, so let me explain how this works.

In our old world, people who wanted to start a business had to find venture capital from rich people, so all the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, and only rich people got any choices.

Today, us not-so-rich and even somewhat poor folks have a chance to gamble on brand new businesses. 

OK, you don't get "dividends" if the business succeeds, but you get something (depending on how much you contribute, the list is on the side of the page). 

What you do get that we've never gotten before is a SAY-SO about what products reach the market.

If you want SFR, you don't have to beg "editors" or "publishers" in Manhattan and be mad if they won't publish SFR.  There's a new process that puts all the power in your hands. 

This new process is CROWD-SOURCING and there are a lot of websites that do it, with various rules.

KICKSTARTER was one of the first, and its deal is you don't pay anything unless and until the project makes its stated goal.  They collect money by billing your AMAZON account, or your PAYPAL account, (you choose) but the bill only goes through if the stated goal is met.  Then the company is obligated to keep you informed (by email) and to deliver the perq they promised. 

So AMBROV X the Sime~Gen RPG is doing a Kickstarter.

A kickstarter project only lasts a few weeks, so either chip in now, or the window of opportunity to choose will be gone.

I know where the people behind this game are "coming from" -- they want to see a balanced weave of story and plot, and they want very much to have some characters and some threads through the Game that are essentially Science Fiction Romance. 

You can play a character of either gender and partner with either gender.  Given enough funding, they can make every combination of choice available.  It's a "vision" they have now -- you can make it real not just for yourself, but for the world by contributing a bit of money right now. 

This is the game that might change the perception of SFR where it matters most, and lead to more change. 

After all, Sime~Gen is credited with having opened a crack in the Science Fiction genre-wall to let in huge amounts of "Relationship."  There have already been some successful Games with broad streaks of Romance.  This Dev Team for Loreful has some unique ideas for broadening those streaks.

--------------------END COMMERCIAL-----------

OK, so last week we thought a lot about Dialogue:

Links to previous posts on Dialogue are at the top of that Part 6 post.

The gist of the matter is that we have looked at how to write LIAR dialogue,

and last week, we examined the difference between liar dialogue and bullshit dialogue with a side-trip into hate speech, relevant to the SFWA controversy, and to internet posts and comments.

All that theory stuff is just fine, but to get a conversation going between two (or more!) characters, they have to have something to talk about and something to say about it.

Those are really two different SKILLS -- giving your character something to talk about AND something to say about it.

"to talk about" is the topic of the story, the THEME

"to say about it" is the character's own personal, sometimes emotional, opinion about that theme.

In addition, there's a third skill in dialogue called "off the nose" in screenwriting.

It means you don't mean what you say, but your meaning is obvious to the other character, and to the audience.

The best example of "off the nose" is sarcasm.  You say a thing is WONDERFUL, meaning clearly it's horrible and you are not surprised, but still shocked.  Or you can say many other things with tone of voice using that single word, WONDERFUL.  Alternatively, you can actually mean wonderful when you say wonderful -- but will the character hearing that understand it?

Writing great dialogue is about communicating the character's opinion on the topic of the theme to the audience, without saying that opinion in "so many words." 

"Off The Nose" dialogue requires applying a "show don't tell" technique to your choice of words your character will use. 

Before you can choose those words, (then trim them down for brevity, punch, impact, pacing, characterization, etc.) your character has to have:

a) something to say
b) a reason for saying it
c) a character to say it to
d) a good reason to believe the other character will understand what's being said

Take those 4 together, and it amounts to SOMETHING HAS TO BE EATING HIM/HER.

That something is probably related to the CONFLICT that's driving the plot, but in the deep psychological way in which we redirect or misdirect our emotional energy at some proximate petty annoyance rather than at the real problem.

For example, take a man whose marriage is falling apart, and maybe he just got fired from his job, or his business is going bankrupt.  Yeah, business going bankrupt is a good one.

These two kinds of "my life is falling apart" generally come when Saturn (which has a 29 year cycle and builds what you normally think of as your life) hits a sensitive point in the horoscope testing how strong the structure you have built actually is, and/or Pluto slams into a different sensitive point at the same time -- powering the Build/Restrict action of Saturn with the dramatic magnification of Pluto. 

This is an example of how to apply my ASTROLOGY JUST FOR WRITERS posts to creating integrated-techniques such as we are talking about now in these advanced posts.

Astrology just for writers posts are collected here:

Once you've determined what sort of position in life your main characters are in, then you can figure at what age the kind of events you plan to hurl at them would happen.

For example, the fellow who stepped forward as a whistle-blower on the NSA scandal is 29, and his decision to do this is entirely typical of 29-year-olds.  That's a sink-or-swim year for everyone because it is your first Saturn Return (where Saturn gets back to where it was when you were born).  It is the point at which the strictures of Saturn become the freedom to choose what to do next. 

29 is the age of divorce and re-marriage, or perhaps of taking the insane risk of having your first child.  It is the year of car accidents, of getting injured in war and having your whole future reset into a different direction because of it.  It is finishing a Medical School internship etc -- it is either the fruits of past labors or the freedom after failing.

Each of the planets produces such a cycle, so that very specific types of dramatic challenges are tied to very specific ages.  You don't need astrology to figure this out.  Just read a pile of biographies. 

So what there is about a specific situation that is eating your character from the inside out and causing his OUTBURSTS of dialogue, will characterize that character because what bothers people about things is very much age-specific.  Where the irritation will find a target in the environment is also age-specific.  Choosing what is bugging your character, and what he targets with his annoyance, will SHOW DON'T TELL his characterization.

Back to the fellow whose marriage is falling apart (7th House) and business is going bankrupt (10th House).  So OK, he has a dust-up fight with his wife over breakfast, directs "hate speech" at her, she retaliates with lies (technical terms there!  Read those books discussed in Dialogue posts), he storms out and just makes it to the Bank to see if he got the loan he needs, and bull shits the bank into giving him the loan.

He gets to his business location and finds OSHA agents padlocking the doors, his employees standing around the parking lot.  (OSHA administers the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. )

His FAILURE AT EVERYTHING boils over and he decks the hapless clerk who's padlocking the door and plastering big orange signs on it.

Next scene, he's sitting in jail and a public defender arrives.  "Where's my lawyer?"  "Said you owe him too much money and he's not working for you anymore." 

Now what does this guy SAY? 

Do you think he'll say something precisely (on the nose) relevant to the current situation?

Or will he explode, spewing out emotion pent up from all the PRIOR MISTAKES that have led to this?

Is he so mad at his wife he decks the public defender and ends up in psych hold? 

Does he see his fate as the consequence of his actions?

Does he see his fate as the consequence of what other people (who hate him?) do? 

Or is the Public Defender the Soul Mate he's really been looking for?  Is SHE in such need of having her career saved by his case that he HELPS HER, thus cementing a new course for his life?

If the Public Defender (you are watching SUITS aren't you?)

is his soul mate, why does she turn up at this moment?  Have they met before?  Does either have a drinking problem?  What does each one believe about the direction their world is going in, what effect their actions have on that direction, and the ultimate destiny of the world as a whole? 

Does either one know anything about HISTORY? 

Say, for example, this small business owner whose life is in the tank (rather literally), is a descendant of someone hugely famous, and thus is "being eaten" inside by a need to live up to his heritage and become famous, too, he might respond in a very specific way to the "LEGALLY BLONDE" type Public Defender.

If he knew her before, say in college?, and knew she is from a hugely famous family, he might respond a different way to her replacing the attorney he can't pay (only he can because he's got that bank loan in his pocket -- or does he? Is he thinking the loan will be retracted because of OHSA?)

What if the gorgeous lawyer woman waltzes into his cell with all kinds of supercilious body language, maybe a reminder of his wife that morning, and he roars to his feet and DECKS HER!? 

Punching someone out is actually "dialogue" though not spoken words.  So is sex.  Actions can constitute silent conversation - an exchange of meaning the audience can follow even though there are no words, has the content of "dialogue."  The same kind of thinking goes behind choosing those action-interchanges.

So let's say the two of them met in college, say in a History course, they desperately had to pass, so they helped each other (maybe they helped each other cheat?)

Let's say this is the content of the course they had in college, and what I quote Ed Wilson as explaining below is some of the historical knowledge and attitude they have in common with each other -- that this hapless failure of a man does not have in common with his wife?

Ancient Pre-History

On Allan Cole's World on Facebook, Frank Gessel gave us this provocative link:

--------quote about Procopius ------
Definition: Procopius was a Byzantine official and historian best known for his unofficial, gossipy, secret history of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora.

Born in Palestine, in Caesarea, Procopius lived from c. A.D. 500 probably to some time after 562. He served as legal advisor and secretary to Justinian's military talent Belisarius whom he accompanied on campaigns. In 527 they were in Mesopotamia; in 533, in Africa; and in 536, in Italy. He lived in Constantinople from 542, perhaps becoming prefect twenty years later, in 562, if he was still alive then.
-----------end quote------------

-------------quote Ed Wilson on Allan Cole's World on Facebook -----

Edward Wilson Jeff: Yes “Re-Conquer” is a good word here, after all that part of the world had conquered the part that was re-conquering it some time ago. Sort of like what happened in 1940 – 45 when America “re-took” the UK.

Read the excellent "Belisarius Series" by David Drake and Eric Flint for the action leading up to 535.

I have set the beginning of my story “Ride Byfrost Bridge” in the early part (Georgian calendar that wouldn’t be around for another 1000 years yet but…) of 535 because on 535 Feb. 8 the Sundia Straight volcano blew, and gave us the straight – and a major major injection of dust into the stratosphere. It was followed in 540 by a major at Ilopango in what is now El Salvador.

What this / these eruptions did was open the Sahara desert to the crossing by flees, and that brought the black death to Alexandria (still the heart of the grain trade) and thence to Constantinople (Justinian caught it), and thence via the pear trade to Glastonbury (where it decimated the Latin descendents population (Author’s people) resulting in the fall of Author two years later to the Anglo-Saxons (who later adopted Author as their ancestor).

It returned Scotland to the horror’s of 1635 – 1595 BC, and did much other major damage in history (breaking the great dam in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the second time – and I know men with their names in the third dam).

It may have been that there were two VEI 8’s in close succession, and that ended Justinian’s plans. I await the results from the newly re-discovered Irish chronology to tell us which of these two good candidate years for a VEI 7 or 8 is authoritative, but it is a mess.

I'm cramming on the SV presentation for Westercon so goodbye for now

----------------------end quote of Ed Wilson-------------------

Yeah, FLEAS redistributed by Super-volcanoes.  We're talking serious worldbuilding here. 

If these two share this perspective/understanding of how their world got to be as it is today, a very unusual view of the world and its dynamics, it could be the wedge of intimacy between them.

It's a kind of Geek-bonding.  They speak the same language.

Now the writer's challenge becomes SHOW DON'T TELL the nature of that bond, of that perspective on how our fragile civilization has us embedded within it, facing these huge cosmic forces. 

From that, one can evolve an entire philosophy of life.  How does that view of how BIG the forces facing us are translate into decking an OSHA agent?

Is the government seen as a wildcatting super-volcano destroying civilization on Earth? 

If they BOTH see OSHA as an unstoppable force, and themselves as fleas, do they know this bit of History that Ed Wilson put together and the exchange goes something like:

"Fleas brought the Black Death and changed the politics of Europe.  Surely a Lawyer and a Businessman can deflect the wrath of a mere government department?"

I discussed this non-fiction book about a historic LOVE STORY (complete with Romeo and Juliet tragedy) here:

Queen of the Air:

The book Queen of the Air is about a woman circus performer who eventually marries (among many marriages for each) the man who perfected the Triple and first accomplished the 3 1/2 on the flying trapeze, Codona.  The book also features some of the personal biographies and interactions with the Flying Wallendas (who really were not flying trapeze artists, but high wire specialists). 

Did I mention the several times I've talked about this biography of the circus that the author started as a journalist, as did Allan Cole?  And Marion Zimmer Bradley also put in her stint in journalism and magazine editing.  As you are considering your career path, remember the biographical points of writers - journalism and travel are big commonalities among the best.

The Wallendas are still producing kids with the trick genes that give them superb balance, and here is an item about a recent stunt, with obvious publicity ramifications.

Nik Wallenda in Sarasota Florida

That is a snatch of REAL LIFE history which illustrates my point about Saturn and Pluto.

Noel Tyl, the famous Astrologer, pinpointed a set of Natal Chart conditions which are the signature of people FAMOUS like these circus people whose lives and bigger-than-life LOVES are revealed in that book.

One of the components of that sort of FAME is a natal aspect of Pluto to one of the inner planets.  With that natal aspect, the ordinary person's Saturn cycle turns into HUGE ups and HUGE downs, and batterings and beatings by the Fates.

Note particularly at the end of Queen of the Air, how the divorce proceeding particulars are determined by Codona's previous (and now gone) fame.  If he takes the Queen of the Air to divorce court, the press will eat it up, in his moment of utter failure.

Now suppose our Businessman with the disaffected wife and the business closed by OSHA (probably because his wife did something that had prevented him from getting the loan to fix whatever violation he was closed down for) -- has been beset by the Media because his family is FAMOUS (maybe for some very progressive stances on stuff like workplace safety?), and his jailing is already being noticed.

Suppose he has a philosophical angst problem eating him.  Maybe this particular problem is a "ript from the headlines" type thing -- something which would be MAGNIFIED by a Pluto transit.

Pluto is called the Upper Octave of Mars -- Mars the god of war, Mars is the planet that is associated with that fit-of-temper response such as decking the OSHA agent represents.

Pluto is Mars Writ Large -- Mars is a fistfight, Pluto is a World War.  Mars is a volcano.  Pluto is a Super-volcano. 

Pluto transits bring up "whats eating you" from the subconscious in a major event, an eruption of raw energy.

Pluto transits time the trigger for emotionally striking out as an adult at the torments of childhood.

In Queen of the Air, we see how both these people had difficult, near-starvation, child-labor, abused childhoods.  And we see how, in that final divorce proceeding, that moment crystalized everything that had happened in childhood into a violent confrontation, writ large.

How does a writer use a piece of non-fiction like this?

Marion Zimmer Bradley used this same research, but not this book, by re-inventing the Circus and the Circus world of that time, and the history of the Triple Sommersault in The Catch Trap.  She used the Catholic background of many of the European circus families -- the non-fiction book doesn't really emphasize that Religion element, but Marion fearlessly told it like it was.  Catholicism dominated that world in a very orthodox way.

That RELIGION element added serious fire to her circus story of two gay guys.

Today, the public discourse on religion is shifting and changing, so looking over the Headlines for an item of religion to add fire to the Businessman, OSHA and the Lawyer story, I found a really explosive little item that could fuel this example Romance.

Suppose our Businessman scion of a famous (say) Catholic family had recently converted to Islam?

Suppose what's eating him is a philosophical conviction that this world is evil beyond all words, and he's either planning to do something about it, or toying with the idea of planning to do something about it.  The evidence of his leanings, and thinking (maybe cell phone call destination data, computer searches) is inside the business location now under OSHA lock? 

A great deal of the reason why he decked the OSHA agent would then have had to do with his RELIGIOUS SCHISM with his family -- with their HATE SPEECH against his new religion, and maybe against him because of his embracing a religion he sees as the one and only religion of peace. 

And into his cell walks this blonde lawyer shrink-wrapped in a tight white dress with a V neckline down to here.  He knows her from his college days (one would expect he'd slept with her at least once) when she rescued him from failing a History course by teaching him about Fleas and Super-volcanoes.  In that history lesson (if you check what Ed said above) you will see a great deal of information about the rise and fall of Islam in the Middle East. 

As a writer, you can pluck out the bits that would illustrate your theme, maybe rewrite or dramatize other bits of that history of Black Plague, fleas, the Sahara, etc.  This Businessman would have developed ( using selective amnesia) a whole take on the world based on the Black Plague, peace and justice.  His dialogue would then be based on that "take on the world" -- and if you keep it "off the nose" the audience will figure out his take on the world from what he says so you never, ever, have to tell your audience what he's thinking.

For a twist -- maybe the lawyer who won't work for him because he doesn't pay on time is his wife (soon to be ex)?  Or maybe the lawyer who walks into his cell is his wife of the moment?

The point is that his new Lawyer is the perfect symbol of everything he's come to revile about this current world, while at the same time (conflict is the essence of story) she arouses all that very primal, college age, sexuality. 

Perhaps his violent but throttled reaction to his wife's hate-speech that morning comes out at his new Lawyer and he decks her?  Or does it verbally?

Maybe her career is at a point where, if this client refuses her services, she'll be fired from the Public Defender's office, and given her previous record, might never be hired anywhere again (anywhere legal, that is).

See what you can do with conflict?

OK, so what can we extract from Businessman's tussle with Islam that could fuel this story in the same way that Catholicism fueled Marion Zimmer Bradley's circus novel?

Catholicism rejects gay guys, and MZB wrote about two gay Catholic guys in a Fame-driven profession (circus stars).

What does Islam reject as firmly as Catholicism rejects gays?

Here are two historical perspective summaries of the schism within Islam that has manifested in the sporadic violent attacks on symbols of Western culture -- we're looking for a symbol of Western Culture that is the core of this businessman's heart (as gayness was at the core of MZB's characters hearts) that is rejected by Islam.

-------------article 1------------
This one is from the New York Times

quote from the essay:  To anyone who has looked closely enough, Al Qaeda and its sister organizations plainly enjoy yet another strength, arguably the greatest strength of all, something truly imposing -- though in the Western press this final strength has received very little attention. Bin Laden is a Saudi plutocrat with Yemeni ancestors, and most of the suicide warriors of Sept. 11 were likewise Saudis, and the provenance of those people has focused everyone's attention on the Arabian peninsula. But Al Qaeda has broader roots. The organization was created in the late 1980's by an affiliation of three armed factions -- bin Laden's circle of ''Afghan'' Arabs, together with two factions from Egypt, the Islamic Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the latter led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's top theoretician. The Egyptian factions emerged from an older current, a school of thought from within Egypt's fundamentalist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the 1950's and 60's. And at the heart of that single school of thought stood, until his execution in 1966, a philosopher named Sayyid Qutb -- the intellectual hero of every one of the groups that eventually went into Al Qaeda, their Karl Marx (to put it that way), their guide.
Qutb (pronounced KUH-tahb) wrote a book called ''Milestones,'' and that book was cited at his trial, which gave it immense publicity, especially after its author was hanged. ''Milestones'' became a classic manifesto of the terrorist wing of Islamic fundamentalism.
But Sayyid Qutb stayed put and paid dearly for his stubbornness. Nasser jailed him in 1954, briefly released him, jailed him again for 10 years, released him for a few months and finally hanged him in 1966. Conditions during the first years of prison were especially bad. Qutb was tortured. Even in better times, according to his followers, he was locked in a ward with 40 people, most of them criminals, with a tape recorder broadcasting the speeches of Nasser 20 hours a day. Still, by smuggling papers in and out of jail, he managed to continue with his writings, no longer in the ''Western tinged'' vein of his early, literary days but now as a full-fledged Islamist revolutionary. And somehow, he produced his ''In the Shade of the Qur'an,'' this gigantic study, which must surely count as one of the most remarkable works of prison literature ever produced.
The NYTimes essay is from a book by the author of the essay.
Paul Berman has written for the magazine about Vaclav Havel, Vicente Fox and other subjects. He is the author of the coming ''Terror and Liberalism'' (W.W. Norton), from which this essay is adapted.

-----------end article 1----------

---------article 2-------------
From The Jerusalem Post:

The Region: Islamism: Back to the sources

It’s easy to see why Qaradawi is the leading Sunni Islamist thinker in the world today.

excerpted quote:
To read Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s 1984 book Islamic Education and Hasan al-Bana is to get an Islamic education. Nobody should be allowed to talk about Islam or political Islamism without having read this or similar texts. Just as with Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” the Islamists, too, disdain to conceal their aims. Yet those who don’t read their actual texts, speeches and debates but only their public relations misinformation know nothing.

It’s easy to see why Qaradawi is the leading Sunni Islamist thinker in the world today, the spiritual guide behind Egypt’s Islamist revolution. He knows how to express his ideas clearly and persuasively.

Here is his depiction of the Muslim world before the rise of revolutionary Islamism to power and prominence: “The condition of the Muslim nation was like a wasteland in the middle of the [mid-19th century]....

Blind imitation of self-made Western laws and appreciation of foreign values had set over the lives of Muslims... whose names were no doubt Islamic but [whose] brains were West-bred.”

Notice his different angle on what for the Western author would be a tale of Western imperialism and the technological and organizational backwardness of Muslim peoples. Qaradawi does not put the emphasis on Western strength or even injustice but on Muslim weakness.

----------end article 2-----------

---------article 3--------------
From CNN

The brother of al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri is proposing to mediate a peace deal between the West and Islamists.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, Mohamed al Zawahiri unveiled his proposal for the first time, saying he is in a unique position to help end the violence and that both sides need to make concessions.

As the al Qaeda leader's brother, he says they are ideologically inseparable, and that if anyone can talk his brother out of violence it's him.

He is like so many former prisoners I've met -- calm, collected, focused and utterly convinced by long held views examined, tested and re-forged in incarceration.

----------end article 3------------

So, suppose our Businessman is on a path of conversion to Islam attracted by it's core dedication to peace.  He's got to choose somehow between Shia and Sunni, and/or between Al Qaeda, Hezbolah, and Hamas, The Muslim Brotherhood, the Bathist, the Saudi wahhabism and on and on.

He comes from a Catholic background.  His notion of Christian is that there is only ONE - Catholicism is still pretty monolithic.  Protestants and Jews are used to thinking in terms of shades of gray, this ism and that ist.  Catholics might consider the Greek Orthodox in the same breath with the Pope, but not very often.

So he's looking for that certainty and clarity in Islam and not finding it.

He's probably thinking that the only way to settle this world to be friendly to business is to adopt Sharia Law, to forcibly eliminate Usury, and make the punishments so severe nobody would ever consider violating the law.

What is his secret?  What is he "in the closet" about?  What is his secret from himself?  What is he trying to pretend to be that there is no way he can be?

These great, sweeping movements that change world society - like the fleas haplessly migrating on people and animals replete with diseases - mash people like our Businessman and his lovely new Lawyer to a smear on History's Highway, or they create Great Men of History out of someone with a strategically placed Natal Pluto and a current Saturn transit.

Note that the authors of these Muslim philosophical texts wrote while in jail, as did Hitler and The Rebbe.  Lots of men hailed as "Great" because of their philosophical message's resonance with a population wrote the key work of their philosophy while in isolation, or brooded years in the solitude of a cave, wandering in the wilderness.

ISOLATION seems to have something to do with releasing these messages into the world.  Remember the fleas were released when a barrier was removed by a volcano erupting.  The release of something of great significance is often explosive in nature.

Perhaps our Businessman has grasped this pattern and has been praying to become one of those Historic Figures who releases a new philosophy into the world?

Perhaps, shocked and surprised by finding himself in jail, utterly infuriated that his long-time lawyer has deserted him, totally dismayed by who his new lawyer turns out to be (an old flame?), he suddenly realizes he is in jail.  Just as he prayed to be.

Wanting to be famous like his family always expected him to be, he suddenly sees the Divine Finger writing on his jail wall.  He belongs here because it's going to make him famous once he writes his manifesto about Islam taking over the world.  (besides, it'll sell like hotcakes, and he'll make a pile of dough, right? Business is business.)

So he wants to stay in jail.

OK, so what is his line of dialogue to his new Lawyer.

"What the hell are you doing here?  I don't want a lawyer!"

"Get the hell out of my jail cell?"

"What do you think you're doing?  I meant to cream that bastard."

"You're fired!"

"Get me an iPad!  I've got work to do."

None of those will work.  The right line of dialogue for him at that moment will reveal whatever it is that he's hiding from his new co-religionists.   It has to bespeak exactly what is eating him.

Islam has nothing against fame and glory.  Of course, they have this hierarchy with sheiks (a version of a King with power of life and death over their subjects, ruling by divine right).  Since he doesn't have the credentials to interpret the Koran, maybe (I know virtually nothing about Islam) it's somehow wrong of him to think of himself that way.  Or perhaps it's wrong of him to want to make money off what ought to be holy work?

What if he has had a sex change operation?  Would Islam still consider him female?

Or what if he is female (and his new lawyer male?), and wants to oust the all-male Islamic clergy?

Maybe the business he runs is a strip club with illegal gambling in the back room?

What is the most egregious symbol of Western life that Islamists hate?  That's the business he runs?

What could he instruct his lawyer to do that would guarantee OSHA would see to it he spent years in jail?

Maybe he's been using the strip club/gambling operation to launder money for Islamist causes, and that is what he confesses to his Lawyer and instructs her to point the investigation of his business to the evidence of what he's been doing.

That would draw out the entire proceeding and get him jailed for years, and make him a newspaper headline.  He'd have plenty of time to write the manifesto he intends to make him famous (and rich) like the rest of his family, but in such a shameful pursuit it would serve his family right for pressuring him?

Deciding to confess to money laundering would be the sort of thing done at age 29, a grand gesture and a way of striking back at those seen as causing his failure.

So the line of dialogue we're looking for is, as the shock on his face at seeing his old flame walk in, "Have I got a case for you!"

And that would be the final line of the book.  But the audience would understand all the nuances by then.

The book would be structured in two main story-lines - working toward converging in this final moment: Businessman/Religious convert and Woman Lawyer.

As you work out the details of Businessman's story, Woman Lawyer's story is generated as the obverse of his story, but at that final line of dialogue, we see her ambition fulfilled.

THEME: Fame vs. Notoriety, or maybe just World Prominence

The story is all about that inner conflict Businessman has with his famous family, and his feeling of failure and inadequacy because of it.

Note how the Jerusalem Post article (2 above) says:

Notice his different angle on what for the Western author would be a tale of Western imperialism and the technological and organizational backwardness of Muslim peoples. Qaradawi does not put the emphasis on Western strength or even injustice but on Muslim weakness.

So this story would be about how that "failure is caused by our shameful weakness" (meaning weakness in applying the tenets of Islam to daily life?) is so very attractive to this Businessman being eaten alive by his inner sense of failure.

Qaradawi's prescription for curing that sense of weakness would have a certain appeal.

But our Businessman is smart as well as hot-tempered.  He's convinced he can do better than Qawadari and Sayyid Qutb put together.  Once he's gotten himself into jail, he realizes the stuff he's been thinking and maybe even writing or blogging about can change the world.

Nothing in his life makes sense to him until New Lawyer walks into his jail cell.  Then all the pieces come together.  He gives her the story of a lifetime, and he becomes rich and famous and changes the world - makes his mark on history more indelible than the mark made by those migrating fleas.

What he sees and why will be the substance of the Lawyer's half of this story.  She has the ambition, and she has the connections.  She can get him into jail and out of it again, and she will because it fulfills her greatest ambition (a REALLY big case, one that makes Legal History, maybe international Legal History). 

So the THEME comes together in one line of DIALOGUE, a final line of the novel or film, "Have I got a case for you!" 

Find yourself a group of topics such as mentioned throughout this article, and compile them into a story.  Then do it again, and again, until you can't look at a random blog post comment and NOT see a whole novel pop up before your eyes. 

Writers look at the world from a different perspective than audiences do.  That's how you can tell if you are a writer -- or not.

by Jacqueline Lichtenberg