Thursday, April 30, 2015

Good vs. Evil on STAR TREK

I've been watching the third season of the original STAR TREK, which includes many of the weakest episodes and also a few that have intriguing ideas combined with cringe-making lapses. "The Cloud Minders" isn't bad, but when Spock solemnly flirts with the cloud city ruler's daughter, she mentions the seven-year mating cycle as if it were common knowledge. "Amok Time" (second season) makes it clear that not only is pon farr kept secret from other species, the Vulcans don't even discuss it among themselves. We might assume that after the near-disaster with Spock, the Starfleet medical department might have been informed of the risks involved in sending Vulcan crew members on long voyages, but surely the topic wouldn't have been made public. "Turnabout Intruder" has the fascinating premise that a woman who envies Kirk's command position switches bodies with him. But when the female antagonist in Kirk's body spews out her anger over her failed career, Kirk makes no attempt to deny that her gender, rather than her unstable personality, kept her from commanding a starship. And how do the other officers, who don't share Spock's mind meld ability, become convinced of the false Captain's identity? Because "he" throws tantrums and hysterical fits!

I've just re-watched "The Savage Curtain," wherein a Sufficiently Advanced Alien (in TVTropes terminology) kidnaps Kirk and Spock in order to make them participate in a contest to determine which of their culture's "philosophies of Good and Evil" is superior. The first problem with this episode is the infuriating notion that Evil is a "philosophy." It isn't, except in the works of outliers such as the Marquis de Sade, whose characters really do boast of committing evil deeds as a matter of principle. As C. S. Lewis mentions in the intro to reprint editions of THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, in real life people (and presumably demons, as in his book) commit villainous acts for pleasure, revenge, profit, or some other pragmatic motive, not in disinterested service to an abstraction called "Evil." Another weakness of "The Savage Curtain," as the alien points out after Kirk and Spock destroy their foes, is that "Good" and "Evil" use the same methods (aside from Surak, who refuses to commit violence). Kirk replies with the accurate rebuttal that the alien dictated the conditions of the contest.

Furthermore, the choice of characters to represent the evil side is rather disappointing. Kirk and Spock have Abraham Lincoln and the great Vulcan philosopher Surak as their allies on the "good" side. Of the four proponents of "evil," three are ad-hoc fictional characters never mentioned in the series before. The only villain from Earth's history is Ghengis Khan. The ultimate incarnation of Evil from all of humanity? Hardly. (According to Wikipedia, he was vilified for his brutality, but he also had some positive accomplishments.) Even if the writers wanted to avoid recent history and the obvious choices, Hitler and Stalin, they could surely have picked a better representative of human evil. How about Nero or Caligula? Vlad the Impaler? Elisabeth Bathory? Gilles de Rais?

Which two or three historical figures (from among powerful persons like those in the TV episode, not mad loner serial killers) would you pick to represent human "Evil"?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Index To Depiction Series by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Index To Depiction Series
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

This post will be referenced by posts in series on other skills, and added to as future parts on Depiction are posted.

You can find the Index Posts to the Tuesday writing craft series by searching on Index. 

The series on Depiction is:

Part 10 of Depiction is about Trinocular Vision.

Part 11 is about depicting complex battle fields.

Part 12 of Depiction - Depicting Rational Fury

Part 13 is about Depicting Wisdom

Part 14 of Depiction is about depicting the generation gap, and using that depiction to create verisimilitude. It discusses older fiction where the good guy wins because he's good.

Part 15 is about Depicting Culture via unconscious assumptions nobody can question

Part 16 is Reviews 26

Part 17 is about Depicting an Alien Economy and refers to Part 16 and C. J. Cherryh's FOREIGNER series.

Part 18 - Interstellar Commerce, discusses blending theme, plot, character and story into a seamless whole.

Part 19 - Depicting the Married Hunk With Children (especially daughters) (Testosterone effect)

Part 20 - Depicting Recent Wealth (a scientific study about High Heels)

Part 21 - Depicting Alien History (Testosterone revisited)

Part 22 - Depicting Alien Nostalgia With Symbolism (Dean Martin song Memories Are Made Of This used in a Video of nostalgic images, perfectly composed and compiled)

Part 23 - Depicting Relationships, a Guest Post by Carol Buchanan

Part 24 - Depicting A Villain by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 25 - Depicting Hatred by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 26 - Depicting Humanity

Part 27 - Depicting Love

 Part 28 - Depicting A Grifter And His Mark

Part 29 - Depicting the Global Village

Part 30 - Depicting Royalty

Part 31 - Depicting Random Luck (sheer dumb luck)

Part 32 - Depicting Brain To Computer Links -- Online Bullying Prevention

Part 33 - Depicting Privacy

Part 34 - Depicting Prophecy

Part 35 - Depicting Marriage (this is about convincing readers the HEA is possible)

Part 36 - Depicting Dreams: Male or Female
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Some useful links from this week

The USPTO has been discussing "orphan" works, or “Facilitating the Development of the Online Licensing Environment for Copyrighted Works.” 

There are already ways for would-be exploiters of copyrighted works to locate and seek permission from rights holders, but Google and others would rather enjoy an "opt-out" system where authors' and songwriters' must proactively search out every would-be exploiter and actively opt out of being exploited.

I resorted to Wikipedia for this (below), having seen a news item about a new interactive gaming app that appears to exploit the likeness and final hours of a young man who died in a manner that made national headlines.

The discussion by Cyberguy did not clarify whether the bereaved family sold the rights, or whether they are being ripped off. 

The right of publicity, often called personality rights, is the right of an individual to control the commercial use of his or her name, image, likeness, or other unequivocal aspects of one's identity. It is generally considered a property right as opposed to a personal right, and as such, the validity of the right of publicity can survive the death of the individual (to varying degrees depending on the jurisdiction).
Personality rights are generally considered to consist of two types of rights: the right of publicity, or to keep one's image and likeness from being commercially exploited without permission or contractual compensation, which is similar to the use of a trademark; and the right to privacy, or the right to be left alone and not have one's personality represented publicly without permission. In common law jurisdictions, publicity rights fall into the realm of the tort of passing offUnited States jurisprudence has substantially extended this right.
A commonly cited justification for this doctrine, from a policy standpoint, is the notion of natural rights and the idea that every individual should have a right to control how, if at all, his or her "persona" is commercialized by third parties. Usually, the motivation to engage in such commercialization is to help propel sales or visibility for a product or service, which usually amounts to some form of commercial speech (which in turn receives the lowest level of judicial scrutiny).

IMHO, Science Fiction, Horror, Romance, and other genre authors should beware of assuming that just because a game app developer does something, it is safe and above board to emulate. It may not be. Rights may be involved. Permissions and contracts may be necessary.
On the other hand, there was an interesting article in an Authors Guild newsletter last year about the difficulties in copyrighting aspects of historical fiction where different authors relied on the documented life of a real historical person, that is, when one accuses the other of plagiarism for using identical historical details and events.

As a bit of a copyright enthusiast (you noticed?) I am silently cheering The Turtles for their sterling work in going after exploiters of their copyrighted musical works. 
What I do not understand is why there isn't a class action suit involving all my favorite musicians and bands (living and deceased) from the 1950's, 1960's, and early 1970's who have not been paid any royalties at all by various subscription services. 

Big tech has taught us all to call copyrighted works "content"....  as puts it, it is not so much "the internet of things" as "the internet of other people's things."
Excellent quote from The Trichordist on copyright (where the British Green Party allegedly proposes to cut copyright protection to just 14 years, and redistribute authors', musicians', movie makers', photographers' and others' rights to Google:
Ask yourself this: Exactly how does technology make it any less expensive to write a novel?   Writing a novel is purely a work of intellectual labor.  I suppose it’s easier to spell check…,  the backspace key is more convenient than White-out and a brush…  But I’m not seeing any evidence it’s less expensive.   In fact I would argue that since the modern English author lives in a much richer society than Dickens, that the relative cost of his labor is much much higher. 

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Talking with Dolphins

The new issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (May 2015) has an article about dolphin intelligence and communication. The issue should still be on sale, or you can read the article here:

Dolphin Intelligence

Do dolphins have true language and a level of intelligence comparable to our own? If so, they arrived at this point along a totally different evolutionary path, because primates and cetaceans last shared a common ancestor 95 million years ago. Dolphins have large brains, not only in absolute terms but in relation to body size. They communicate over long distances, and one experiment at a research facility on an island near Honduras hints that a pair of dolphins may be able to coordinate actions by vocally sharing their intentions. It has recently been discovered that dolphins in the wild identify each other by "signature whistles." In other words, they have names—the only nonhuman species known to create symbolic labels for individuals.

John Lily, the neurophysiologist famous for his work on dolphin language and intelligence, eventually drifted so far out to the fringe that the whole subject became discredited for a while. Now, though, these questions are being taken seriously again. The article quotes one researcher as saying, "The question is not how smart are dolphins, but how ARE dolphins smart?" Measuring their intelligence by its similarity to ours may shortchange the other species.

In addition to evolving in a different environment—water instead of dry land and air—they don't have hands. That last difference alone must have a significant effect on how their minds work. Are manipulative organs necessary to the development of what we'd recognize as "our kind" of intelligence? I've often thought that elephants would be good candidates for evolution into sapience on some other planet or in an alternate timeline on our world. Like dolphins (and us), they have large brains, long lifespans, extended childhoods, a complex social structure, and the capacity for voluntary vocalization. Unlike dolphins, they have the additional advantage of manipulative organs (trunks instead of hands). Elaine Morgan, in THE DESCENT OF WOMAN and other books on the "Aquatic Ape Hypothesis," theorizes that the human species shares some of these traits, especially voluntary vocalization, with cetaceans and elephants because our prehuman ancestors did in fact have their development shaped by eons when they spent a lot of their time in water. Whether or not there's any truth to this hypothesis (and some scientists think there is), it makes a fascinating story.

The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC article calls dolphins "a kind of alien intelligence sharing our planet—watching them may be the closest we'll come to encountering ET."

Coincidentally, the same issue has an article on the crisis facing the honeybee population and the project to breed a "super bee" able to resist disease and parasites. That article says, "Honeybees are hive minds. Honeybees are linguistic networks." Maybe we don't have to wait until we travel beyond our solar system to communicate with "aliens."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 3 - Index To Monthly Aspectarian Review Columns

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 3
Index To Monthly Aspectarian Review Columns
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous entries in this 4-skills integration series are:

For 20 years, I did a monthly review column for a magazine published on paper.

You will find links to the relevant ones below. 

Paper magazines have a deadline that is absolute.  It is journalism.  What isn't done by this exact minute does not get printed.  Turning in your column has to be done in advance, in some cases 6 months in advance, of the "send to the printer" deadline.  And the columns must be of an exact (to the character) fixed length.

Over years, the amount of space alotted to your words may change as more advertising is necessary to pay the bills.  Yes, your words are filler between ads -- just as with fiction. 

The words are a commodity you sell by the column-inch. 

Over years, the space allotted to my column went down as the price of paper, printing, and trucking (the price of gasoline) went UP and the number of advertisers willing to pay to reach the readership went up.

So I got more money per word, but the crafting of the column became harder.

I went to doing series of columns, as I've been doing on this blog -- numbering the parts.

I resigned from that magazine when it changed ownership, figuring 20 years was enough.

The Magazine was slanted to the New Age Community, so all my columns address Seekers on the Path and compare spiritual lessons that can be gleaned from Science Fiction and Fantasy novel reading. 

Many of these columns, and the books they discuss, the ideas these sets of books have in common with one another, and especially the themes pertain to this series of columns on Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration. 

Here is a list of links to my Columns that I think are particularly relevant.

The main index page to all 20 years worth of monthly columns is

Click a year and scroll down that year-index to see the books reviewed by Month.  The title of the column reflects what those books have in common with each other, often a theme that the author probably was not aware of illustrating. 

Ideas (themes) come from "the air" -- from the Group Mind you are tied into.  Your Ideas also affect that Group Mind.  So it matters which Groups you choose to join.  A Group is your readership, bound together by an interest in a theme. 

Many of the column series I wrote run for 4-6 months in installments, so I'm giving the year index as the link.  Scroll down watching the books that appear under particular column titles. 

You can navigate years using the year links across the top of each page.  On each year-index page, there are links to the month-columns on the left. 

You can also find a month's column by clicking on the month-link in the left column of the table.  On many years, the title of the column is a link to the column.  Click on the books to find most of them on Amazon.  If Amazon fails, try Abe Books.

Oh, and yes, I have read every word (not skimmed) of every book discussed in these columns.  I did not review every book I read, but I read every book I reviewed.  That rule also pertains to the Review blogs I do here.

Review Column Links

All columns year-index

Years and Individual Columns pertaining to this 4-skill integration discussion.
This set of review columns focuses on explaining Neptune, Saturn and Mercury as used by fiction writers.  Scroll down the index to note the novels that illustrate that.
Note the series titled THE SOUL TIME HYPOTHESIS (about how the Soul enters the level we call Reality via the dimension of TIME) - and how that is handled in fiction.
Scroll down over the books in the columns titled Formulating Decisions
Also note the series indexed on this page titled Pluto: Melodrama Unleashed and note the books given as examples.

Here is a series on Government I wrote in 1994:
Art and Government
Television, Power and Government
Might, Right, Art And Government

And more on the topic of Government in October 2010
The Science of Magic, Part IV: Governing The City

The Science of Magic, Part V: Scalability

The Science of Magic: Part VI: Defining Peace

Poetic Justice: The Fragile Universe

Karma of World Prominence

Over the years, my focus and depth of knowledge on these topics has grown, changed, and moved -- and do keep in mind that magazine is for a narrow audience.

We will be drawing on this old material as the platform to develop some newer ideas.

Whole publishing imprints are constructed around narrow themes -- delivering to a very specific readership the exact discussion they are looking for.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 19, 2015

On "Maleficent"

I've always been intrigued by stories that take the traditional villain, and re-write the tale from his, or her, point of view. In my twenties, I rewrote the part of Homer's Odyssey dealing with the Cyclops, and wrote from the point of view of Polyphemus the landowner dealing with trespassers, cattle (or sheep) rustlers, and murderous home invaders.

In my forties, I discovered the writings of Vivian Vande Valde, and was especially enchanted by her collection of short stories wherein she told the tale of Rumplestiltskin four or five times, each time from the viewpoint of a different character: the King, Rumplestiltskin, the girl's father, and so forth. The Rumpelstiltskin Problem (apologies for the single link). What a fascinating exercise!

I was hopeful that Maleficent would follow in Vivian Vande Valde's vein. (Irresistible alliteration.) I enjoyed the spectacle, but was disappointed on a couple of technicalities.

Who suffers most?
Maleficent does. If you don't want to read any spoilers, stop here.

Who suffers first?

Who suffers most often?

Her first love --perhaps we should call him her first pash-- drugs her on their first date, and uses an iron chain to burn off her eagle-like wings, leaving her in crippling physical and emotional agony.

As is common with persons who wrong someone else, King Steffan subsequently treats his victim badly, not inviting Maleficent to his infant daughter's christening.... although he does invite other magical creatures. She is mocked, insulted, threatened. Later, her realm is attacked, many attempts are made to trap and kill her. It is Maleficent who suffers remorse and sheds tears of penitence and heartbreak

Who suffers most in your story?

That most tortured of your characters ought to be your POV character, at least for the scene in question if you are writing Third Person, Limited, Multiple POV.  I forgave Vivian Vande Valde, because there is no way that the Miller (father) could be any kind of hero. The Rumpelstiltskin Problem was an academic exercise.

Unlike many of the harshest critics of "Maleficent",  I don't mind about the departures from Disney "canon", after all, the preamble and colophon inform the delighted audience that the original account was the distorted view of prejudiced witnesses.

Let us tell an old story anew, and we will see how well you know it. Once upon a time, there were two kingdoms that were the worst of neighbors. So vast was the discord between them that it was said only a great hero or a terrible villain might bring them together. In one kingdom lived folk like you and me, with a vain and greedy king to rule over them. They were forever discontent, and envious of the wealth and beauty of their neighbors, For in the other kingdom, the Moors, lived every manner of strange and wonderful creature. And they needed neither king nor queen, but trusted in one another. In a great tree on a great cliff in the Moors lived one such spirit. You might take her for a girl, but she was not just any girl. She was a fairy. And her name was Maleficent.

I do mind that it was Aurora and not Maleficent telling us this. This intrusive editorialisation was not in character with Aurora who seems to be an intellectual lightweight... as most sheltered sixteen-year-olds are. Moreover, given that Aurora in this tale was brought up by idiot pixies in the woods, one wonders whether she would have used the Royal "We".

One word about casting; for me, it was jarring to see Dolores Umbridge (the child torturer of Hogwarts) entrusted with the infant Princess Aurora. Perhaps "Harry Potter" will be to Imelda Staunton what "The Sound of Music" was to Christopher Plummer.

The shapeshifter, Diavel, was the next most interesting character after that of Maleficent, and his scars were intriguing hints that there might have been some thought about the cost of magic (a convention one should respect: there should always be a serious price to be paid for the unfair advantages of sorcery.)

The movie was weak on logic and the quality of dramatic inevitability that a Cambridge professor used to call "thusness".... and,  at least for me, the ending fizzled.  Aurora and her prince appeared to inherit the flowering moorlands, but there was a hint of something interesting for Maleficent.

All things considered, I would recommend seeing "Maleficent". It was strong on spectacle, and therefore enjoyable. Moreover, for those considering a similar experiment --perhaps with a villain from a public domain work-- it might be instructive to also study the reviews. This movie aroused powerful feelings... and make a lot of money!

Good night,
All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Complications of Sex Differences

Two articles illustrating the fact that "sexual characteristics exist on a spectrum—not as a binary":

Sex Isn't Chromosomes

Sex identity is far from a simple binary among some "lower" animals, such as fish that change sex during their lifetimes (like Robert Heinlein's Martians). Another example: A male platypus has ten sex chromosomes! Among human beings, there exist XXY men and XYY men. The article discusses science historian Sarah Richardson's SEX ITSELF, which traces the development of scientists' determination (erroneous, she declares) to attribute all distinctions between the sexes to X and Y chromosomes. It's estimated that about one percent of people fall into the intersex range, with chromosomes, hormones, and/or genital anatomy that don't "match." The assumption that simple, binary sexual dimorphism between male and female covers everybody doesn't correlate with the realities of human biology.

Sex Redefined

This article delves more deeply into issues of gender identity in intersex people and also explores chimaerism and mosaicism, in which some of an individual's cells contain DNA of the opposite sex.

These biological phenomena can contribute to speculation about alien sexual biology—will it necessarily follow the "binary" pattern we're used to? Suppose the various functions "normally" divided between male and female among terrestrial mammals—producing sperm or ova, gestating the fetus, feeding infants—are distributed differently in an alien species. Sperm-producing males might get pregnant (like seahorses or the men in the TV series ALIEN NATION) or lactate; three or more sexes might be needed for fertilization (again as in ALIEN NATION); there might even be multiple sexes dividing those functions among themselves.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 2: Creating The Iconic Vision by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 2
Creating The Iconic Vision
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Last week (April 7, 2015) we examined what a writer can learn from a Lego Set:

Remember, in this Tuesday blog series, we are in hot-pursuit of the reasons why Romance Genre is not given the respect it deserves as Literature and Art. 

Two features (or Beats in SAVE THE CAT! lingo) we identified as definitions of Romance are the "Love At First Sight" moment (sometimes manifesting as Hate At First Sight) and the HEA.  At some future time we'll examine the more complex "Boy Next Door" scenario, and "Second Time Around." 

In this 4-Skills Integration series, we're looking at "where you get those crazy ideas" and abstractions (such as why bother to be a writer at all?) made concrete and visible to others -- the process generally termed Art (Icons are Art).  You can say things with Art that can not be stated or conveyed in Words.  Since Words are our medium, we are combining skills to create Art that goes beyond Words, to create Icons.  Some word-icons are one-liners such as the Deepak Chopra quote above. 

You want to learn to write in such a way that quotes like that will be excerpted and danced around the internet over your byline. 

The March 31, 2015 entry was about Binocular Vision, coining the term Trinocular Vision.

Binocular Vision is seeing the 3 or 4 dimensional world we live in, our concrete reality, in three dimensions with our eyes gathering data and our minds interpreting that data.

Our animal bodies evolved to use that eyeball-brain binocular data-gathering to spot food, mates, etc. and attain necessities for survival  -- as well as avoid being eaten and other concrete hazards. 

If you include time, it's 4 dimensions that we "see."  We see in YouTube videos -- movement in space over time, mostly chopped into short-sequences (look both ways before you cross the street then watch where you put your feet). 

The space-time continuum (which is actually discontinuous but our eyeballs/brain can't resolve the definition at that level) is an illusion of our binocular vision. 

Trinocular vision would then be the binocular image with the "third eye" (the spiritual eye) open and adding a "dimension" to what we see with our binocular vision. 

Trinocular vision is not squinting the two-eyes shut to see only with the Third Eye -- but seeing with all three at once while going about working, shopping, cooking, driving carpool, painting the house, unplugging a drain. 

We are binocular creatures who occasionally, sometimes only once or twice in a lifetime, "see" with trinocular vision.  We can, for a moment, look at our regular 3-D world and "see" (apperceive) the Hand of God producing that 3-D image we think of as "reality."

Such glimpses of another dimension rounding out reality generally "change" people.  The person has the same Natal Chart, the same personality, the same memories and life-experiences from which lessons and conclusions and coping behaviors are derived.  It's the same person before and after that glimpse. 

But that person, post-glimpse, now either understands the world in a different way, or merely knows that they do not have a clue what's "really going on" but that there is a Higher Power doing all this.

That pivot point in Character is where you focus your PLOT -- where you find "the story of this character's life." 

Failing to find that "moment" in a character's lifespan is what leads writers to choose the wrong Point of View character(s) for a particular novel.  That pivot point is the maelstrom of CONFLICT -- the defining point of change in a character-arc that signals the presence of "story" and "plot" explicating one, clear, "theme" which is pertinent to that one, singular World in which the characters live, the world you build around them, termed the Setting. 

The story-beat Deepak Chopra pinpointed is usually termed "epiphany" -- an AHA! moment.  Or Revelation.

Writers, especially Romance Writers, deal specifically in that epiphany or revelation moment, the "Love At First Sight" moment.

That moment is the moment in a lifetime (a once in a lifetime moment) when the Third Eye is open, and another Person is seen to exist in yet another dimension - the dimension of Soul - and that Other Soul is recognized as one's own Soul's other half. 

Conflict, in Romance, is usually a conflict between bodies, between Lifestyle, Jobs, Careers, Aspirations, Self-images, but not between Souls. 

In Romance, the Souls slam together like two pieces of magnets, forming a seamless whole, and the real-lives and bodies erupt in frantic objection.  In the vortex of that Trinocular Vision Moment, that conflict is joined.  The Trinocular glimpse may have faded away by the time the HEA is reached.  Inside that vortext, the plot hammers the characters with Events that re-shape their lives.

That moment (usually available under a Neptune Transit), is a personal experience that is a flash of spirituality penetrating the veil of religion.

You no longer "believe" in Souls.  You know. 

You become the three-eyed-woman in the land of the two-eyed.  And there's no way you can explain what you have seen.  But having experienced the flash of  Vision, you are now convinced.  Maybe you don't know what you're convinced of -- but you know that what you see is not what you get when it comes to a Significant Other. 

That three-eyed, trinocular woman, is the definition of what a Woman is -- what female-ness is -- in the Kabbalistic traditions.  The Feminine tends to hold onto the ability to apperceive the world with three-eyes-at-once more tenaciously than the Masculine.  (keep in mind that masculine and feminine exist in both human genders, one dominating the other, but both available as necessary)

This is one reason the Kabbalists insist husbands must listen to their wives.  The Feminine is endowed with the ability to apperceive their child's Potential.  A Mother's trinocular gaze upon a child can reveal whether their deeds will be famous or infamous.  The Feminine third eye sees souls struggling to inhabit the physical body.  That interface of conflict is always complex.  But such gazes are usually just glimpses, like Love at First Sight, and can fade and be replaced by binocular perceptions. 

Deepak Chopra is not a Kabbalist, but there is a Kabbalistic explanation of that Love At First Sight moment.  It's a long, complex, and powerful explanation because it also explains
a) why there is a Happily Ever After and
b) why most readers don't believe such an ending can be "real." 

The Love At First Sight leading to the Happily Ever After "ending" is the Character change from "religion" to "spirituality" that Chopra's quote nails.

Of course there are further life lessons that lead from mere spirituality to walking in the ways of the Creator of the Universe.  Those further life-lessons may (or may not) come with the birth of children, or with seeing the eventual Great Deeds of your children (or the Nefarious Deeds of your children).  Or grandchildren. 

So last week we discussed that shift in perception from binocular to trinocular.

And that built on the previous post on Depiction Part 10, Binocular Vision.

In that post, I wrote:
Why does about half of the world believe the HEA is nonsense?  Even in the face of factual evidence to the contrary?  Is that "scientific thinking" or "superstition?"
----------end quote----------

Here's some factual evidence to the contrary:  If The HEA Is Implausible, How Come It Happens?

That "It Is Implausible" contention about the HEA is what we're up against when trying to convince the world that Romance Genre is worthy of the highest possible respect -- that the HEA is real, perhaps even common.

The central question behind the HEA is, "What is Happiness?" 

Where does it come from?  How do you get it?  How do you know you've maximized your Happiness?  How do you stabilize at the peak of Happiness? 

If you can't answer these questions, how can you figure out if you, or another couple you know, are in fact living "Happily Ever After?"  How do you recognize an HEA?

We'll work on defining "ever after" some other time.  Right now, we're doing 4-skill-integration.  "Ever After" needs a few more artistic skills. 

The artist's job is to make concrete and visible (Iconic) that which the Trinocular Glimpse reveals.  Art is about telling others that you know what they know, and therefore what they know is true and real -- and realistic -- even if nobody else they know believes it. 

Concrete and Real require icons, arrays of symbols that depict the Trinocular Glimpse.

The series on Depiction is here:

And Part 10 of Depiction is about Trinocular Vision.

To get to an iconic "The Same But Different" vision, an image, a show-don't-tell, we need a theme to form the central core for integrating Plot-Character-Worldbuilding into a seamless whole.  "Happy" is the kind of abstraction that forms the cornerstone of Theme.

So how do you tell if you're HAPPY??? 

"Happy" is a character trait, however transient. 

"What is the nature of Happiness?" is a theme (big enough for a series.) 

"Happiness is Harmony between Soul and Body" is a theme which is novel size. 

Take the Theme, create the Character who lacks Harmony between Soul and Body at the beginning of the Plot, and then attains Harmony at the End, because of the impact of Events (Plot) on Character(s). 

Character Has Epiphany And Sees That Happiness Is Harmony Between Soul And Body -- is a story.  The Series of Events (connected on a Because-Line) triggering the epiphany is the plot.


Mary Finch sets out to prove to her Mafia Dad that she's the best Hitman the Family has, gets away with Murder/Assassination several times, bids on and gets the job of Assassinating a US President, then finds she can't make herself do it.  Mary Informs on her Family, goes into Witness Protection,  applies for and gets a job as a security officer in WitSec itself, Meets her Soul-Mate, and feels Happiness for the first time.  --- that is a Plot. 

Of course there's a sequel where it is revealed to WitSec that she's a former contract killer - a minor detail that didn't come out at the trials because her father is loyal to her?

But how will the Reader/Viewer know Mary Finch is digging herself deeper and deeper into Misery with her successful Hits? 

How will the reader/viewer know that in Witness Protection she's found true Happiness?  What does a HAPPY PERSON do differently from a miserable one?

The Huffington Post published this article for New Year's 2014/2015.

Here's the headline list:
You don’t sweat the small stuff...
...In fact, you appreciate the little things.
You’re proud of other people’s successes.
Living in the moment is very important to you.
here's a TEDTalk on happiness living in the moment:
You’re in a healthy relationship (and not just with your significant other).
When something is stressing you out, you know how to calm down.
You’ve gotten your “affluenza” shot. (not too caught up in seeking material wealth)
You’re constantly adopting a glass-half-full mentality.
You have a sister.
Making new friends seems to come easy for you.
You’ve reached a goal (and you have more you want to accomplish).
You say cheese. (you tend to smile for a camera)
There’s nothing keeping you tossing and turning at night.

So, we started out with a THEME ELEMENT (Happiness), created whole cloth a definition of Happiness that is a theme (Happiness is Harmony between Soul and Body), used that theme statement to create a character, used the character to create a story, used the story to create a plot -- ended with the outline (remember last week, I pointed you to the items on OUTLINE at the end of the long post full of links) -- we ended with the outline for a series of novels, and maybe a TV series if we detail Mary Finch's hits while working for her Dad.  And there's all her lovers along the way -- no stable relationships, until the end.

We built her entire world with a single word in that outline -- Mafia.  (Finch?  Mafia? Interesting story about how a Finch got involved with an Italian family?)

The word "Mafia" is an Icon - it stands for a tight-knit Family which provides financial and operational Security.  It is safe to be a member in good standing, and very unsafe outside.

Mary Finch's Happiness comes when she moves outside of the Mafia, into danger, into where it's not safe.  What does that tell you about her Character?

We could create a longer, deeper and richer work of art if we challenged the Theme.

"What if there is no such thing as an Immortal Soul, and therefore there is no such thing as Happiness?" 

Well, it is unacceptable that there be no such thing as Happiness.  Even the anti-Romance faction believes in Happily For Now (HFN).

But there is another view that "happiness" is just an electro-chemical brain-stimulus to the pleasure center, which proves that humans are just a physical body. 

In fact, that article from the Huffington Post is predicated on the assumption that God does not exist, that your Happiness is up to you to craft with your own two hands, and there is only the Body that has to be Happy.  The Happiness definition lurking un-articulated behind that list of signs you are happy excludes the issue of Harmonizing body and soul.

Take two Characters - one with a mostly-open Third Eye, and one blind in the Third Eye (reasons could be interesting details to Depict) - set them into a Soul-Mate Situation, add Setting, Theme and let the Conflict unfold.

Live Long and Prosper,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Crime, Retribution And Punishment (in SF/SFR)

How does a convicted criminal pay "their debt" to society... in our world, or in imagined alien worlds whether they are utopian or dystopian?

"Justice" has several possible purposes, some only subtly different: Revenge, Restitution, Retribution,  Rehabilitation, Incapacitation (or preventing a recurrence),  Deterrence, Social Engineering.

1.  Revenge may be intended to be cathartic, depending on the involvement of the victims, but a civilized society may make the process so relatively "humane" and long-drawn-out and expensive that a death penalty, for instance, most likely fails to provide satisfaction for society or for the victims.

2. Similarly, a lengthy incarceration might cost taxpayers a great deal, but prevent the evil-doer from earning the wherewithal to make financial restitution to his or her victims.

Solon of the ancient Greek world, suggested that persons who could not pay their debts could be sold into slavery, which might be a profitable form of incarceration with hard labor.

Some criminals would be too dangerous to be slaves, and there are reports that ancient Roman homes included safety measures to ensure that house slaves did not murder their masters in the night.  Possibly, some of the most dangerous "debtors" could have been sold into gladiatorial schools, assuming that the barbaric public would pay to watch gladiators' entertaining deaths.

3. Rehabilitation, IMHO, is a bit of a non-starter in fiction. One has to have gross institutionalized unfairness, or an underdog anti-hero is not sympathetic; and if there is no fighting/conflict, it's hard to write a page-turner. Most science fiction convicts are unjustly accused good guys, such as Kirk, Starbuck, Buck Rogers, Spock etc. And, if one was not guilty in the first place, one cannot be rehabilitated.

4. Incapacitation (or preventing repeated crimes) is vividly demonstrated in One Flew Over A Cuckoo's Nest (not SF). Many SF examples of incapacitation are not successful by design, such as the Superman villains Zod, Non, and Ursa (??) who were entombed alive, to float in space forever... until they were rescued.  A similar incapacitation method was tried in V, also with Merlin --trapped inside a tree--, also with the villain in EPIC who.... spoiler alert... was engulfed in a tree wart.

Historical and futuristic versions of incapacitation might be some of the more extreme versions of exile, to prison islands, prison planets, prison ships, prison spaceships as seen in The Chronicles of Riddick, in Star Trek, etc.

5. Deterrence (and Social Engineering) may not necessarily involve a convicted evil-doer at all, as in Hunger Games where a society is repressed and eternally punished for a rebellion, while also providing an elaborate, entertaining, and possibly profitable spectacle.

Horrific and barbaric public executions also serve to deter would-be troublemakers, but we don't see a lot of that in Romance or Science Fiction. It's the stuff of the Horror genre.

Random and spontaneous executions (Flash Gordon, Star Wars) probably are not as psychologically successful for deterrence, judging by the rebellions they inspire.

And then, there's LEXX.
Criminals and rebels had their useful organs harvested (by machines, without anaesthetic, on a conveyor system), and the rest of the bodies were processed as food for the LEXX. However, since the LEXX was a sentient dragonfly-machine that destroyed planets, it is not easy to categorize the thinking behind justice system. I was too revolted to watch enough of the series to understand whether the harvested organs were transplanted into good members of society.

Please enlighten me!

Science Fiction (and Science Fiction Romance) deals with advanced technology and issues of alternative or shifting morality. Did the civilized Star Trek society send Kirk to a prison planet so that he could fight to the death or be assassinated out of sight, because it would be uncivilized to kill him directly?

If technology means that we can print off new organs or body parts, or create a personalized chemical cocktail to replace blood, then we don't need to use criminals as perpetual blood donors, or one-time heart donors, and cannot use expediency as moral justification. What happens to the motivation of futuristic good vampires, if there is no reason for them to drink blood from a human?

Let me know what you think.

Rowena Cherry

PS  Some interesting resources:

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: ...

Crime and Punishment - The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Sci-Fi on Trial: A Survey of Crime and Punishment in the ...

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Cloning Mammoths

A geneticist at Harvard has successfully inserted woolly mammoth DNA into elephant cells:

Mammoth DNA

The experiment didn't recreate the entire mammoth genome but singled out particular "mammoth-like characteristics," such as ear size and the woolly coat. Although there are still several steps to go before a live mammoth-like animal could be produced, the transformed elephant cells are functioning properly, so it could happen. This is only one of three teams worldwide working on such a project.

Naturally, some people have ethical qualms about the whole idea. One zoologist is quoted as objecting that it doesn't make sense to lavish money and time on reviving an extinct species while present-day elephants are endangered. That argument doesn't seem completely logical to me. Why should the two projects be mutually exclusive? Can't we have both genetically engineered mammoths and campaigns to save elephants? Also, as the article points out, work with extinct pachyderms could raise the profile of modern elephants, thus contributing to their preservation.

Doesn't this kind of research have legitimate value beyond "let's do it because we can"? If we could recreate a living woolly mammoth, couldn't we study that species in far more depth than we can from prehistoric, dead specimens? And isn't knowledge in itself a Good Thing? (Even if it can be misused. We have plenty of cautionary SF tales to warn us about What Not to Do; nobody is likely to set up a Jurassic Park devoid of safeguards in real life.)

Speaking of the negative side of reviving prehistoric species, Peter Watt's SF novel BLINDSIGHT has an accompanying website designed as a multimedia publicity release from a fictional research corporation in the novel. That company has recreated an extinct vampire race through genetic engineering (in the story itself, a vampire commands a spaceship tasked with a first-contact mission). Check out this very detailed and graphic account of the vampire project. It takes a while to watch, but it's fascinating. How could you beat the slogan "Taming Yesterday's Nightmares for a Better Tomorrow"? The deadpan humor—delivered absolutely "straight" by the earnest voice-over commentator—is especially effective.

Blindsight Vampires

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 1: The Writers Lego Set

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 1
The Writers Lego Set
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The writer's Lego set is bigger than Lego's Sandcrawler set that has 75059 pieces and costs nearly $400. 

A writer needs many more than 8,000 "pieces" or skills, or skill-sets to turn out novel after story after novel.  Thankfully, most of these skills are acquired and honed in early childhood and function subconsciously.  Most writers have no idea "how" they do it, they just do it naturally.  Others have to read the directions. 

We have done post series on integrating two elements.  Here we go diving into 4-element integration, two-elements combined with two-elements, with theme in common.

In this case we'll focus on Theme-Plot and Worldbuilding-Character combinations and cross-terms with the mix changing every chapter or even every scene. 

This first post in 4-skill-integration points to the ingredients we have previously explored, so it is mostly a list of previous posts and index posts. 

Yes, a writer must multi-task, but first one must learn to do each task separately, then two at a time. 

Many writers can integrate two skills, but have no idea how they do it, so they don't know what to do when they see their Manuscript veer off track.  The story somehow seems wrong, but they can't figure out where it went wrong or how to fix it other than to gallop after runaway characters and hope they lead somewhere salable. 

So there are three types of writers -- maybe 6 -- who can benefit from gnawing their way through these long, tedious sets of posts: Beginning, Intermediate, and advanced, each in Amateur or Professional parts of their lives. 

Writing craft is not only about knowing what to do, but also about knowing how you did it (when you just did it by accident).

If you know what happened inside your subconscious, you can undo-and-redo with alacrity, rewrite to editorial spec, or you can disconnect your Lego pieces and make something different out of them.

We've done several series on two-skill Integration so far.  Here are index posts listing some of them.
Actually, the Dialogue index contains more than 4 parts.  (has links to previous parts)  (has links to previous parts)

And here are some relevant to Character:

Notice how the "home-base" or foundation task in each of these sets of posts is theme.

Theme is the main ingredient in Story, Plot, Character, Dialogue, Setting, -- but it is crucial to Worldbuilding. 

Most of a writer's worldbuilding is the creation of a Setting that includes things like creating a Star and a Planet from physics, to creating the kind of Life that evolves on that planet from biology, to creating the philosophies of all the Ancient Civilizations on that planet from comparative theology, to creating the current Civilization of Aliens by extrapolating from their Ancient Civilizations to the present when your humans will meet up with the Aliens.

You also have to create things such as a stardrive your ships use, how they locate vital resources (water, hydrocarbons, high-energy-particles.)   

It's the same process Gamers, especially videogamers but also board gamers, use to create the environment in which the conflict will happen.  It's being a Dungeon Master.

The choices a Game creator makes (Games are stories, multi-writer stories sometimes) are rooted in Theme. 

Theme is the sieve you pour the real-world through to sift out the bits that showcase your art.  You use theme to select just the pieces of the real world that bespeak your theme, that let your readers see the world in a whole new light. 

The resulting World that is Built by worldbuilding will be coherent or not depending on how Theme is handled.  The resulting world, the "Setting" for a novel, will have artistic integrity or not depending on how the ingredient of Theme is handled.

The resulting novel will reach certain audiences depending on how the Theme the writer uses "resonates" (seems real, realistic, valid, mistaken, or maybe "off the wall") to the reader/viewer. 

In other words, the way theme is handled during creation of the setting determines the commercial viability of the piece both as a Work of Art and as a money-maker.

Think about the Lego set for the Star Wars Sandcrawler.  Just ponder that image.  That single image, together with all its associations you have absorbed from watching the films and reading the books, explicates the overall Theme of Star Wars.  Look what's included in this Lego kit. 
----------from Amazon --------------
Includes 7 : Luke Skywalker, Uncle Owen, C-3PO and 4 Jawas, plus R2-D2, R2 unit,R1-series Droid,Gonk Droid,R5-D4,Treadwell Droid
Weapons include a light saber for Luke Skywalker,Also includes stock for old droids and droid parts
Sell droids to Luke and his Uncle! Keep your droids well maintained! Pretend to suck R2-D2 up into the Sand crawler - just like in the movie!
Relive classic moments from Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope! Own your own iconic vehicle from the classic Star Wars universe
----------end Amazon quote----------

Do you see that?  "Iconic" -- the entire visual array you saw in the films was deliberately fabricated from THEME.  That's what Iconic essentially means - an image that represents a thematic statement.

We discussed some of the aspects of writing iconic images:

Is a prime example

And this

That is a single static image that makes a Statement about a Situation, just as the Sandcrawler and its surrounding figures makes a statement about the Situation in the Galaxy. 

Situation is a component that straddles the Plot/Story division line.  Situation resides in the action-sequence as well as the character's flaw that is being discussed in the narrative.  Why is this happening to this Character?  Where does the Character start and where does that initial action eventually lead the Character?  The Ending is the New Situation.  Personally, I favor Situations that are Predicaments.  Sometimes the HEA is, itself, a predicament.

Most writers make these Worldbuilding choices unconsciously, at least at first.  On second or seventh draft, ferreting out inconsistencies and logical contradictions, revealing character motivations using "Show Don't Tell" methods, the writer may be led into narrowing and focusing the underlying thematic statement.

The precision of the thematic statement at the foundation of the worldbuilding often determines the saleability of the manuscript, especially for a writer's first excursion into professional publication.

Look back at the posts on structure and note how plot, story, scene structure, character creation, character-integration, and the basic tools of Description, Dialogue, Narrative, and Exposition (yes, the deadly Exposition that kills story momentum is a legitimate but difficult task to master) are each items to study separately, then in combination.

Look at the Reviews posts to find novels and non-fiction that illustrates these skills, both in high expertise and fumbling beginner levels.

I don't review books here at random, but rather these books are chosen because I am driving at a point, either a point I've made recently or a point I intend to make and these books illustrate those points.

If you want to see all my reviews:

Or 20 years of monthly reviews columns (paid for by a paper publication in the New Age Field) are here:

ReReadable Books went from 1993 to 2013 and focused on books worth reading more than once. 

These writing craft posts enumerate a lot of tasks and their component skills designed to create a book worth reading, and then worth re-reading, and even passing on to your grandchildren.  Any beginner would be wise to just boggle at the list and maybe think about not bothering to learn it all.  After all, why bother trying to write a classic that stays in print for 20 years like my novel, House of Zeor. 

It has been said that professional writers are people who simply can't do anything else.  There can be many reasons for this. 

Usually it is just that the person simply spends so much time writing that other life-building tasks don't get done.  But also there is the point in any life when all the doors slam in your face, and you still need a way to earn a living.  If "life" is preventing you from holding down a job, writing is an alternative.

Today some writers blog and social network to get hits in order to get paid for Google ads. (this blog) is a co-blog with professional writers contributing on assigned days of the week.  I do Tuesdays, and my posts are keyworded with Tuesday so you can find them by search.  Because this is a co-blog, we don't go for income (because how would be split it?) so we post on the right margin clues about where you can find our work if you want to know more about the author of a blog post.

Some beginning writers self-publish with great success -- and I foresee a lot more of that coming.  Whole industries are forming around writers driven to write for a living.

Some just dive into trying to sell their writing without more than having read a few books on the craft, perhaps way back in their teens.  Others take courses.  Others go to Romance Writers conventions and take seminars or acquire a mentor.  Some sign up at to try to get Patrons (a kind of Kickstarter for artists).

Those posts are indexes to posts about the Business Model of the professional writer.  They don't cover things like income tax, incorporation, Agents, amortization of equipment, and other issues covered extensively in any number of books how on how to set up a small business, sole-proprietorship.

That's what a writer is - a small business sole-proprietorship (or sometimes a partnership).

You have to think about yourself as a business with a product to sell.

Then put all that on a shelf in your mind and concentrate on producing that product.

The difference between a professional writer and an amateur writer (fanfic writer maybe) is not just that the professional has the life-goal of making a living from royalties, but also that the professional writes what sells.

Sometimes, the professional takes any work-for-hire job that comes along (Journalists do work-for-hire, as do screenwriters) and in their spare time they write just what they want to write, just for the fun of it. 

That's what amateurs do -- work a day job for income and write on the side, writing what they want to write, sharing it maybe on fanfic sites or self-publishing, getting joy as the only payback.

The difference between professional and amateur is not skills but goals.

After you've done a few million words for amateur purposes, you may get bored with writing, or you may decide to acquire more skill, perfect skills, or perfect integration of skills.  You may raise the bar of your own expectations of your product.

These are the people who will benefit most from these multiple-integration posts.  Professional or amateur, with or without experience, polishing skills creates joy. 

When you get right down to the core of storytelling, (writing, verbal, speech-making, journalism, whatever form), the product being produced is sought and consumed for the ultimate purpose of JOY.

If you don't put JOY into your work, your client won't get JOY out of it.

Fiction is a JOY-DELIVERY-PRODUCT.  Non-fiction succeeds best when it contains that element of relish that transmits JOY, too.

Relish, zest, admiration, love, romance, appreciation, intimacy -- these are components of JOY.  They make life worth living.

I have had a large number of readers of my novels come to me privately and say with immense gratitude that reading this or that novel of mine gave them a new lease on life, either from the brink of suicidal thoughts or just from despair and depression. 

Star Trek had that effect on people, too -- and to a large extent, I learned to do it by studying how Star Trek did it.  The rest of what I know, I learned from studying older writers I grew up reading, meeting them, asking questions, and in some instances being directly mentored by them.  I also learned a lot from my editors.

That Part 7 has links to the previous parts on What Exactly Is Editing.

Note how bits, pieces, and parts of the components we are assembling in this 4-skills sequence have turned up under various topics previously.

Everything is connected to everything -- and in the world of Art, there is no such thing as a "topic" or a "subject" to keep to.

Everything is actually everything -- one, single, indivisible Whole.  Any division we impose on our Vision of Reality (our World that we Build) is an artifact, a Fallacy.

We've dealt with some common Fallacies and how a writer can leverage the existence of these Fallacies among readers - how holding to a particular Fallacy can define a Market which is hungry for re-enforcement of that Fallacy as well as markets determined to stamp out that Fallacy.  Hold vs Stamp Out defines a Conflict, so the subject of Fallacy integrates Theme with Conflict while Conflict is illustrated in Plot and Story.
On misnomers and how to use them in fiction construction.

A few on Fallacy and its usefulness to a writer:

This Tuesday writing craft blog series has been posted weekly since 6/16/2006.

We have covered a lot of ground, ranged over a lot of subjects, gathered inspiration from historical sources, current events Headlines, and disparate sources ranging from Atheist to Devout (Pagan to Monotheist), from Mainstream to far-out-Fringe (I mean, I even mentioned Glenn Beck). 

A writer knows no bounds in where to search for material, and questions must be asked boldly, audaciously, and without limitations.

Once gathered, the raw material of a story has to be winnowed, distilled, focused, isolated and clearly stated.  Some writers complete two or three drafts before attempting to distill a Theme, then do another re-write to discard everything that does not explicate the chosen Theme.

Prolific professional writers who make a living on volume output rather than Best Sellers often hammer out a method of distilling theme before first draft -- that method often involves the dreaded Outline.  We've discussed Outlining.

So, assuming you've practiced and mastered all these various techniques and given deep thought to all the issues, conflicts, misnomers and fallacies that define your intended readership, we will go on to doing 4 things at once.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg