Sunday, January 31, 2016

No Digital First Sale Rights For Now

I am pleased to report that authors' incomes will not--for the time being--be further decimated by "First Sale Doctrine" being applied to e-books.

A report issued today by the U.S. Department of Commerce recommends amendments to copyright law that would provide courts with both more guidance and greater flexibility in awarding statutory damages.
In its "White Paper on Remixes, First Sale, and Statutory Damages," the Department’s Internet Policy Task Force (IPTF) sets forth its conclusions on three important copyright topics in the digital age: (1) the legal framework for the creation of remixes; (2) the relevance and scope of the “first sale doctrine;” and (3) the appropriate calibration of statutory damages in the contexts of individual file sharers and secondary liability for large-scale infringement. 
The White Paper recommends amending the Copyright Act to incorporate a list of factors for courts and juries to consider when determining the amount of a statutory damages award. In addition, it advises changes to remove a bar to eligibility for the Act’s “innocent infringer” provision, and to lessen the risk of excessive statutory damages in the context of non-willful secondary liability for online service providers. 
With respect to remixes and the first sale doctrine in the digital environment, the report concludes that the evidence has not established a need for changes to the Copyright Act at this time. The Task Force makes several recommendations, however, to make it easier for remixers to understand when a use is fair and to obtain licenses when they wish to do so. It also recommends the development of best practices by stakeholders to improve consumers’ understanding of the terms of online transactions involving creative works. Finally it notes the need to continue to monitor legal and marketplace developments to ensure that library lending and preservation concerns are addressed.
In making its recommendations, the Task Force was mindful of the need to protect copyrights effectively while also promoting innovation on the Internet.
This new report follows up on issues first discussed in a 2013 IPTF Green Paper, "Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy," and is the product of two sets of written comments and five public meetings and roundtables conducted through the following year.
The IPTF is made up of representatives from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and other Commerce Department agencies. 
The White Paper and additional background information can be found online at:

Thursday, January 28, 2016


"Snow-Bound," by nineteenth-century New England Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier, was my mother's favorite long poem. (Her favorite short poem was Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." Notice a theme?) "The sun that brief December day, Rose cheerless over hills of gray...."


Any East Coast readers here? How did you fare during the blizzard? Record inches of snowfall accumulated in this area. Our supermarket was predictably thronged on Friday, as if people expected to be stuck in the house for weeks instead of two or three days at most. (I was there because Friday is my regular grocery day, and I knew going on Thursday instead would have been as bad if not worse.) The stereotypical supplies of bread, milk, and toilet paper weren't noticeably depleted. Kitty litter (presumably bought by people who neglected to stock up on snow-melt powder ahead of time—luckily our cats were NOT in danger of running out this week) and bottled water, however, were stripped from the shelves. And there seemed to have been inexplicable demand for a few strange products, e.g. green onions and plain yogurt. (I managed to get enough of each from the small amounts remaining.) We were very fortunate to escape a power outage. Years ago, we lost electricity for a full 48 hours after an ice storm while the temperature stayed in the twenties (Fahrenheit) the whole time. I never want to do that again. By the time the power came back on, the interior and exterior temperatures had equalized. Pipes froze, but happily they didn't crack. Without electricity, we have no running water because our neighborhood gets its water from wells, not the public system.

And how about the familiar lore of statistical "baby bumps" nine months after a major weather event? I've always thought that was baloney, an urban legend based, if it ever held any truth, on birth patterns in preindustrial societies. It turns out, according to an article I saw a day or two ago, that there's some truth in it. This pattern, if it exists, makes no sense to me. Okay, so couples have unexpected leisure and few options for entertainment. Getting stuck in the house without electricity makes them suddenly forget how to use birth control? Enough people just happen to run out of condoms or contraceptive prescriptions during a snowstorm or hurricane to generate more than a tiny blip in the numbers?

During the present crisis, there have been relatively few highway accidents locally, because citizens paid attention to the mayor's and county executive's pleas to stay off the roads. With 29 inches of snow and drifts piling much higher, by Saturday most people couldn't have left their houses anyhow. We certainly couldn't have. We were snowbound with our computers, televisions, and other modern luxuries. Also with the chore of walking the dog several times a day in snow too deep for my boots; being a St. Bernard, she loved it and seemed baffled that I wouldn't take her any farther than the edge of the front walk.

Whittier's poem, at its heart, is more about nostalgic memories of his childhood and family members who've passed away than about the snowfall itself. In addition, though, the poem does include lots of vivid details about daily life in rural New England in the midst of coping with a blizzard that confined the family to the house for most of a week. It has often occurred to me that people in that kind of environment would have gotten along better during a major winter storm than twenty-first century people deprived of electric power in a similar situation. Whittier's characters already depended on fireplaces, wood stoves, candles, and oil lamps. They would presumably have stocked plenty of fuel for all these. Their wells, unlike ours, didn't rely on electric pumps. In the absence of a medical emergency, a farm family wouldn't need to go anywhere, so impassable roads were only an inconvenience. If they had to leave home for some urgent reason, "The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh..." and a smart horse would refuse to budge if the "white and drifting snow" got too deep. Cars have no judgment (not yet, anyway). The computers, televisions, telephones, etc., that we urgently miss when they fail weren't a factor for our pre-electronic-age ancestors. In "Snow-Bound" the storm causes only one major change in the household routine, the chore of digging a path to the barn to care for the animals. Whittier does mention the ominous gloom of the wintry sky and the fierceness of the blizzard, but once the family gathers inside around the fire, they are cozy and contented. After the storm, people greet with joy the teamsters coming through to clear the road, as we might cheer for the county snowplow. They're happy to receive newspapers after their days of isolation and don't seem upset that the news is a week old.

On one of Michael Longcor's filk albums, he discusses dealing with a power failure after a big winter storm. Because his household was prepared, they were living in the nineteenth century, as he puts it, while most of their neighbors were living in the tenth century. I'm reminded of DIES THE FIRE, the first book in S. M. Stirling's "Emberverse" series, in which all advanced technology ceases to function instantaneously and permanently. (Spoiler: The gods did it to keep humanity from annihilating itself.) My favorite aspect of that book is the vivid, detailed account of how the survivors cope with the reversion to a preindustrial world. I especially enjoy reading about Juniper MacKenzie's Pagan community, which embraces a lifestyle of harmony with the cycles of the seasons. And unlike many post-apocalyptic novels, DIES THE FIRE ends on a note of hope and promise. In the "next generation" stories that follow the first three books of the series, only the elders clearly remember any other way of life.

Nevertheless, I agree with Longcor—I'd much rather read it than live it. I'm very attached to my central heating, running water, electricity, and modern communications.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reviews 21 - Douglas Adams and Doctor Who by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Reviews 21
Douglas Adams and Doctor Who
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Today we'll look at a novel made out of a Doctor Who script, which is perhaps one of the most famous Doctor Who episodes, CITY OF DEATH.  It is wry-serious-science-fiction humor, accidentally written by Douglas Adams when he was script editor on the TV Series.

Does any woman, teen to elderly, know any figure more "romantic" than The Doctor?

In most all his incarnations, The Doctor has it all.

I seriously doubt the originators of this kiddie Radio/TV Series (complete with no budget, cardboard sets, and actors knowing they were playing to a kid-audience) had any intention to create a Heart-throb.

Yet most women who watch a few episodes (for me, it's Tom Baker's Doctor) want to become a Companion.

We would be willing to fly away through time and space with The Doctor.

Maybe the best Mary Sue Companion is Romana.

For those who don't know, The Doctor is a Time Lord (not human) and Romana is a young, female (just over 100 years old, hardly an adolescent) genius Time Lady.  The Doctor is fascinated by Earth's humans and does his best to defend us, often picking up Companions to travel with him away from Earth, then bringing them back to their own time and place.

When The Doctor dies, he "reincarnates" -- comes alive again in a changed body (because they change actors, they invented this gimmick and now they're stuck with it.)

Reincarnating is one of the most fascinating attributes of the Time Lords.

So not only do most of the really great actors want to land the part of The Doctor, but the best of the writers gravitate to this program.

At one point in his early career, Douglas Adams (yes, that writer) was Doctor Who's script editor, and when the script, CITY OF DEATH was being developed, all chaos broke loose (as usual in TV), and the script editor saved the day by writing the actual script for CITY OF DEATH.

This story is told in the author's afterword, and the author is James Goss, who converted a version of the script (pre-broadcast version) into a book that is very readable.

It is full of The Doctor's famous scarf (Tom Baker's signature), Romana's famous immature and innocent genius, and situations threatening all human history.

Yes, this was a kiddie show, but the kiddies grew up and so did the show right along with them.  Much of the humor is adult, not a lot of sexual innuendo, but many allusions to issues pertaining to adult life (such as an unhappy marriage).

This particular series of episodes presented in this book are set in the city of Paris, 1979, with running commentary on famous features of that city.

It has all the pacing hallmarks of great episodes of Doctor Who -- chase scenes, plot-twists, developments that bewilder the doctor, moments when he catches on faster than others, and moments when Romana is ahead.

The narrative ranges over several points of view, and the points are in the plot.  The dialogue is important (to me) and James Goss who converted the screenplay format into narrative did an excellent job blending action and dialogue with inner thinking, showing how people figure things out when they are looking at them.

This book is a fun read -- breezy, quick, and you just smile your way through it, whether you've memorized the broadcast episode or not.

You can buy the DVD, or find it in various forms.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on this serial:

It was the second serial (Doctor Who is broadcast in half hour segments, with longer story arcs of several or many episodes.

This book contains the entire story arc of the second serial of the 17th season.

It has no Romance, but it strips the Gorgeous Hunk template down to the barest outlines.  If you want to write novels that contain an implicity rather than explicit answer to the question, "What does she see in him," read and analyse this book, which differs a little from the broadcast version.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Are Wars Inevitable? (In worldbuilding)

Discover Magazine, in June 2012, published an excerpt from "The Social Conquest Of Earth" by Edward O. Wilson, who is one of the world's leading biologists. That was long before the march of Syrian refugees and a certain Presidential candidate's outspokenness about the immigrant invasion of an America with porous borders.

"Population can be controlled by predators, pathogens, or wars." However the ultimate limiting factor on any population of any life form is the food supply. If there is an abundance of nutrients, life forms will multiply. If there is a dearth, life forms will die off (or down), until sustainability is achieved.

If Wilson's analysis is correct, humans, chimpanzees, wolves, lions, birds will never welcome an influx of competitors for their (never limitless) natural resources. Perhaps, though Wilson does not say this, the Eurozone is an unnatural construct which will eventually fail.

Assuming that most science fiction is based on humans, (with human DNA and instincts inherited from Paleolithic ancestors), it is reasonable to build worlds and civilizations that either fight or succumb to pathogens, predators, and warfare.

Could there ever be a society that does not swing from one extreme to another? The citizens would either have to have tremendous self control, or they would have to lack some of the senses we enjoy.  For instance, beings without taste buds might not enjoy eating. The food supply would last longer if no one ate more than absolutely necessary to avoid hunger pangs. But, that wouldn't stop over-breeding. Even when there is famine, people continue to breed (unlike rabbits.)

Preventing females from enjoying sex doesn't stop over-breeding. Assuming that reproduction is sexual, the stronger, more physically dominant gender would have to dislike sex, or at least be indifferent to it. That rules out romance in science fiction!

In "The Sparrow" there were strict rules, and third sons were not allowed to have sex, unless with other males or genetically incompatible other species.  In "The Gods Themselves", it took three individuals to breed. Now, that's a better solution. It makes breeding more logistically challenging, which ought to slow the process, without necessarily banning romance, and yet providing more opportunities for sexual tension and conflict.

I've not said much about pathogens and predators. Mankind is pretty much the apex predator, at least on land, and mankindly ingenuity is constantly at work to conquer pathogens. Which means, wars are probably inevitable.


Friday, January 22, 2016

A Quick Announcement

New Audiobook Release

On Amazon, you can find the audiobook on the main page for this novel, with Kindle, Trade Paperback, and links to an assortment of previous editions. Audible is offering this book free with a new subscription.

Here is the Audible page:

Mahogany Trinrose Audiobook

Mahogany Trinrose: Sime~Gen, Book 4

Written by: Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Narrated by: Christine Rogerson
Length: 10 hrs and 48 mins

Series: Sime-Gen, Book 4
Unabridged Audiobook

Mahogany Trinrose: Sime~Gen, Book 4

Written by: Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Narrated by: Christine Rogerson

Length: 10 hrs and 48 mins

Series: Sime-Gen, Book 4

Unabridged Audiobook

The ancient and dangerous secret of the Sime~Gen Mutation threatens to topple the ruling dynasty of the House of Zeor. How much torment can one teen girl take before the fate of the world doesn't matter to her anymore? How much psychic power can one young woman handle? What options can she create when she has no options left? And - can love truly conquer all? As the great SF writer Andre Norton said of this book: "Imaginative and outstanding. It captures the reader and won't let go."

Read more

Publisher's Summary

The ancient and dangerous secret of the Sime~Gen Mutation threatens to topple the ruling dynasty of the House of Zeor. How much torment can one teen girl take before the fate of the world doesn't matter to her anymore? How much psychic power can one young woman handle? What options can she create when she has no options left? And - can love truly conquer all? As the great SF writer Andre Norton said of this book: "Imaginative and outstanding. It captures the reader and won't let go."

©1981, 2011 Sime~Gen, Inc. (P)2016 Wildside Press, LLC

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Animal Friends

Have you read about Amur, the Siberian tiger who made friends with a goat offered to him as a meal?

Tiger and Goat Are Still Friends

The goat was introduced into Amur's pen in November, and instead of eating him, the tiger became friendly with him. As of early January, this relationship continues. (Amur still eats live prey, but not goats; the keepers give him rabbits instead.) They play hide-and-seek and butt heads together for fun. You can watch them frolicking in a video clip on the website. It sounds like the Old Testament prophecy of the kingdom of God, a future paradise in which the lion will lie down with the lamb and the leopard with the kid. As C. S. Lewis remarks, the prediction that the lion will eat straw like the ox would probably sound to the lion like hell, not heaven. So what explains this Siberian tiger's odd behavior? The theory is that Amur didn't eat his offered prey because the goat didn't show any fear. This mind-blowing reaction "freaked out" the tiger, who therefore didn't see the goat as a potential victim. Reminds you of Simes and Gens, doesn't it?

As a vampire fan and writer, I love this story because it shows that predators and prey can overcome their instincts and develop affection for each other. Now I have a rebuttal for critics who scoff at the idea that immortal blood-drinkers might feel friendship, even love, for inferior creatures the immortals should regard as mere food sources.

In other news, an experiment with chimpanzees suggests that they practice "trust" in their social contacts, and they trust their friends more than non-friends:

Chimpanzees Trust Their Friends

Scientists observed which chimps were best friends on the basis of time spent hanging out together, grooming, etc. An experiment with food-sharing demonstrated that the chimps were more likely to trust their friends to share special treats than just any random group member.

It seems more and more plausible that animals really do experience affection for each other. Concepts of "love" and "friendship" that would have been dismissed as mushy sentimentality in the past are now being substantiated by hard-headed science. Some philosophers would claim these phenomena demonstrate that human beings have no better claim to "souls" than "lower" animals do. I prefer to view it from the opposite angle—maybe some species of animals do have "souls" in a sense. Not that anyone has yet come up with a universally satisfactory definition of "soul"!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Theme-Symbolism Integration Part 5 - How To Create Using SHOW DON'T TELL

Theme-Symbolism Integration
 Part 5
How To Create Using SHOW DON'T TELL
 Jacqueline Lichtenberg  

Here is the article, published August 2015, that we'll discuss today.  It contains the clue to solving a fiction writer's income problem.

Here are the previous posts on use of theme.  Keep all these points on THEME in mind while reading about the comparison of Trump and Reagan in that article.  (yes, it's a far right website, but this particular article reveals a truth writers need to absorb and use to crack the income problem.)

Foundation Posts on Use of Theme:
-- on structuring nested Themes into a novel.
-- defining the terminology I use in these posts to distinguish plot from story and why they are indistinguishable.
-- compares use of Theme in a movie with the use in a Novel.
-- explains something arcane about how to create a symbol to explain a truly Alien Civilization to modern Human readers.

Remember, I pointed out that fiction writers in general do not even make minimum wage if you consider the hours spent vs the income over the years.  You need to get up to where they are making blockbuster movies from your books to have a decent wage, and when that happens at the end of your  career, they tax your income as if you always made that amount and always will.

They cancelled the provision in the tax code that writers always depended on to allow them to recoup the losses on time invested.

It was called Income Averaging, and allowed you to pay taxes on your average income over the previous 5 years, not on the "windfall" that comes through when your publisher suddenly decides (probably because of a writer's organization audit) to pay what they've owed you for 10 years.

As a result, fiction writers are trapped in pauper status virtually forever.

To smooth out income and make up the difference, most fiction writers do something else to earn a living.

One way out of the trap is to write non-fiction as a "work-for-hire" which earns you current income as wages, not royalties.

Here is where I discuss that:

Here is the point that article makes that applies to fiction writing, and how to create using SHOW DON'T TELL.  It also ILLUSTRATES (shows without telling) exactly why fiction writers must master this technique.

Someone else had a talent for doing this. Ronald Reagan. (heads up, if you accuse me of saying Trump is another Reagan I swear by the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress that I will ban you)

From Hedrick Smith’s epic and under-appreciated 1987 book The Power Game: How Washington Works.
This is the set up. CBS News’ Lesley Stahl was convinced that Ronald Reagan is an empty suit. A nincompoop. Someone who was skating along on imagery and who was pretty shallow and inconsequential. So during the 1984 campaign they took advantage of Reagan’s visit to a flag factory to use that as a metaphor for just how bad Reagan was. This is some of the text from the television report (what follows are jpgs via Google Books because I don’t have access to my library right now).

---------------end quote----------

Here are the png images included in that article excerpted from Google Books.  I recommend you look up this book on Google Books or Kindle or whatever.  It was a best seller for a reason.  You can make your fortune using your fiction skills to write books like this one.  Here are the 3 excerpts the article writer chose to include, without the comments interpolated between.  I recommend you read the actual article on (nevermind, just read it.  It won't kill you to read it.)

----------excerpts from Google Books----------------

-----------end excerpts----------------

-------QUOTE from article-------------

The reason Stahl had to rely on those visuals for her hit piece was because Reagan and his staff carefully stage managed the visual aspect of all of his appearances. They knew, as Scott Adams says up top, that the visual is about 10 : 1 in impact when compared to the verbal. No matter what Reagan said, the imagery was going to be what the television viewer remembered.

This is what people are failing to understand about Trump. The political class thinks he is a buffoon (a buffoon who could buy and sell his critics by the truckload, mind you) because he refuses to play by the traditional rules. As Leon pointed out, he is operating so far outside the political experience of the rest of the field that no one is even sure how to attack or criticize him. The media can criticize Trump for tossing this Ramos character but to do it they have to show the video. Once they show the video, no one hears what they say because Trump dominates the imagery and the conversation.

The way Trump handled Ramos should be the way all of our candidates handle the mindless gotcha questions like those that characterized the first GOP debate.

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

I remember reading The Power Game: How Washington Works, full of "Aha!" moments.

This one, however, did not surface in my mind until I saw this article flick by me on where I collect items on various topics of interest to fiction writers:

So here's the point.  Mastering SHOW DON'T TELL, mastering what screenwriters call "story in pictures" -- mastering the non-verbal arts -- is the real key to communication.

will save your butt as a writer.

I can't emphasize that enough. It's a series on screenwriting but it is the key to novel writing, for exactly the reasons sited in this article.

Words,  vocabulary, spelling and grammar, lexicon, all of that matters.  It matters vitally.  It makes all the difference.  But "difference" from what?

The difference from confusion, mixed messages, which vitiate the effect of your Conflict and Resolution.

The visuals you select, all of them without exception, must precisely and exactly illustrate and depict your theme -- the theme and the images must say the same thing, or you get the effect described in The Power Game: How Washington Works, and the effect Donald Trump produced evicting a reporter from his press conference.

People, readers, accept and believe the images and ignore the denotation of the words.

First comes the visuals.  They penetrate the mind, connect to the autonomic nervous system, elevate and activate and communicate with the animal brain.  After that point, the only words that are "heard" are the ones that agree with, expound upon, and adorn the image.

Yes, words are mere decoration wrapped around visuals.

There are animals with far superior vision to humans, but most of them are predators with fairly small brains and one focus, hunting.

Humans are multi-purpose creatures, flexible -- which is why we survived the last Ice Age and can survive the coming Global Warming whatever the reasons for the shift in conditions.  (we can, but will we? -- that's the question fiction writers play with: "Will we?"  "Will we?" is all about politics.)

So what do our multi-purpose eyes and brains glean from images?

What element of a novel does the basic-animal-brain extract from a wall of type, an impenetrable page of fiction in words?

There's a linkage, a series of synapses, that young people either develop -- or not -- at a certain age when they can learn languages and reading.

Pretty much by age 7 or so, the ability to create these synapses begins to wane -- and it's fairly gone by age 10.

With vast effort, such things can be learned later, but the effort is vast so the reward has to be obvious.

Watching someone staring at pages in a book, (or an e-reader) for hours and snarling at interruptions does not convey the magnitude of the reward.

What happens when you read print?

You interpret.

The brain cells involved in grasping the words hand off the "meaning" extracted from the black squiggles on the page to other parts of the brain.  The synapse we're talking about here is the hand-off of language to images.

When people who love to read fiction immerse in a book, they SEE the images, smell the smells, feel the velvet tingles -- senses engage.

Words translate into the activation of other senses.  It isn't strong as if you were actually seeing the image.  It's a bit "removed" so it is easier to read about something ugly or repellent, and still feel as you would if you had actually seen it -- just not so strong you have to run vomit.


Using the words that tickle the visual cortex for the reader is what a writer does for a living.

Symbolism is all about visuals.

If a word becomes a symbol, then it is stylized -- you use a special font to register a trademarked word.  You can't trademark a lexicon word, but you can trademark the image of a word.

The IMAGE triggers the associations to the company or product, but the lexicon word does not.

That is the nature of humans.  Writers are artists who know how to use that nature.

The images you choose to evoke with your words are the "symbolism" component of your romance story and your romance plot.

What the symbols mean and why you need them in your novel is called the "Theme" component of your work of art.

You don't TELL the theme; you SHOW the theme in symbolic images.  If you tell the theme and say THIS IS WHAT I MEAN! but the images say something different, the images will be believed and the words ignored.

The symbolism is more compelling than any word, just as with the Reagan/Trump comparison in this article from

Donald Trump is a businessman, a graduate of a premier business school.  I'm fairly sure they don't teach the art of fiction writing to such Business Majors.

But they do teach THE ART OF THE DEAL.  That's the famous book Donald Trump wrote that you should read to learn how to write dialogue scenes.

Here it is in Kindle.

Donald Trump's book is as popular and informative as The Power Game: How Washington Works.

Put the two together, you have a Romance Novel of gigantic proportions - sex and politics, power and fame.

Dealing, negotiating, is an art.

You don't get what you deserve.  You get what you negotiate.

Everyone knows this truth, but few think about it consciously or articulate it.  It is stored in memory as the dejected posture of the loser walking away from a meeting, being fired from a cushy job, or being rejected by a lover.  

Therefore, you as a fiction writer can use negotiating in scene structure.  And you the non-fiction writer can use negotiating in speech writing.

Speech writing is akin to writing a sex scene.  Think about that.  Listen to some famous speeches and graph the emotional peaks and valleys, overlay that graph on a graph of a famous sex scene and see how they match exactly.  It's called wooing an audience for a reason.

If you are writing a dialogue scene, the Characters are negotiating -- i.e. they are at war, they are in Conflict, they are at cross-purposes, they are communicating in words, but they will each be understanding what is really happening via imagery-symbols.

They call that, in theatrical stage writing, "business."

"Business" is actions that have nothing to do with what is being said, but everything to do with what is meant.

An old fashioned example of "Business" is how famous, sexy actors and actresses added sexual innuendo and power-talk to dull dialogue scenes by lighting a cigarette then mashing it out on the floor, punctuating the end of the scene.  Today, they play with their smartphones.

Negotiations turn on actions, and the visual impact of actions within the cultural context of the Characters.

When Trump just quietly nodded to his Security guy to remove the fractious reporter, that was a visual symbol of power.  It was an actor using "Business" to convey meaning without words.  It was the entire theme of his campaign in one tiny movement of his head - power, greatness, decisiveness.  When he immediately announced he'd be bringing that reporter back to get his turn at asking questions, and then did that with great aplomb, he used show-don't-tell to illustrate the theme of reasonableness and compassion.  At the end of the exchange, when the reporter admitted that Donald Trump was correct in one assertion, Trump praised that reporter for his honesty and invited him to lunch.

Most observers agree, it was not scripted but spontaneous on Trump's part.  But screenwriters recognized the underlying "scene structure" template, and all viewers saw (visually) Trump in the role of the Main Character, even maybe the Hero or possibly the Villain depending on what other visuals they had absorbed.  Trump knew what to do and how to "play" that scene just as Reagan did -- because he'd played that scene many times before.  That's why he did it so smoothly.

There was another such scene that deserves consideration as you learn how to create using show don't tell.  It is the famous one when a shoe was thrown at President Bush during a press conference in Iraq in 2008.

To the USA audience, it was a stupid act of aggression of no meaning except to illustrate the boorishness of the uncivilized people.  To the Iraqi audience to whom turning the sole of a shoe toward someone is an unforgivable insult, Bush's reaction showed them that the USA culture is stupid and weak, without moral fiber.

Both audiences saw the same IMAGE -- each extracted a different THEME.

You can do that between a human from Earth and an Alien from Elsewhere if you create the Alien civilization using theme-symbolism integration to the point where you can show-don't-tell the meaning on a non-verbal level.

Your Alien may "play the scene" out of practiced habit, and your human can totally miss the point, causing the human to take actions that cause the Alien a lot of trouble at home.

Here is another neuroscience article from August 2015 to consider.  We know how images affect people, but we don't know all the mechanism behind that.  So when creating your alien species, mull over some of the research like this:

Theme-symbolism integration is the secret to getting a reader of a page of text to burst out laughing or melt down sobbing.  It's just words -- but the meaning blossoms into parts of the brain that have no words.  That's the most powerful part of the brain, the real decision making part.  Most of the time, words just "rationalize" the decision the "gut" has already made.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 17, 2016


Opinions of interest.

Are there any biographers among us? Any future biographers? If so, I'd like to recommend the article by T.J. Stiles entitled "Fighting for the Digital Future", which is here
 "The world's wealthiest corporations may take your work in its entirity for their own profit. They do not have to ask you for permission, let alone pay you...." it begins.
The provides a weekly copyright issues wrap up, search here

Honestly, their sidebar is more interesting than this past week's articles, for instance, the thoughtful article about rampant piracy on Facebook (and how Facebook profits from it, while the copyright owners lose more and more.)

Now for something a bit more personal.
In my opinion, this is a pirate site. In my opinion, if you "register" with these folks, you deserve to have your identity stolen, and that "small fee" they expect you to pay to multiply like proverbial rabbits.

The site seems to be called "Sinsbury's" but on other pages, it calls itself "Sainsbury's". The latter is a reputable British department store chain. It is doubtful that they'd not proofread their own pages.
It calls itself a Library, but you never have to return the books, and the books you download never disappear from your device. That's not a library. Moreover, the site claims not to host anything but only to redirect paying visitors to other sites. Pirate sites, no doubt.

Here's another one that I suggest you don't take seriously:

Certainly don't download or buy it. It is probably another example of a scam site designed to score identities and credit cards, but what it looks like is one of those illegal, unauthorized "libraries" that conscienceless EBayers sell to other EBayers again and again, over and over. There's probably malware embedded in some of the books, and almost all of the books are in-copyright, and the copyright owners are not getting paid for this illegal duplication and publication and sale of their works.

One major problem with EBay is that, if an author tries to take down any of the illegally sold ebooks from EBay when a buyer uploads them somewhere else, the uploader is likely to be indignant, and to respond to a DMCA notice to his host platform with a DMCA counter notice, and once that happens, the illegal, copyright infringing book is put back permanently and only a very expensive court order can have it removed.

As one of the more reputable op ed authors has written, it's the Wild West out there.

Happy days!
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cybernetic Slavery in the New Republic

Are the droids in the Star Wars series effectively slaves? Here's a writer who thinks so:

Are Droids Slaves?

He's also a major proponent of the thesis that the Empire's rulers are really the good guys and the Jedi are villains, but he does have a point about the droids. He highlights the difference between the sapient droids who appear as actual characters and the apparently mindless robots sometimes found scooting around ships and stations. Droids such as C-3PO definitely have not only intelligence but self-awareness and emotions. It's harder to be sure of the latter with R2-D2, since we can't understand his communications; we have to depend on other characters' interpretations of his beeps. But he does appear to have a personality. As Jonathan Last, writer of that essay, mentions, C-3PO and R2-D2 certainly seem eager to escape from the Jawa "slave traders" and have been fitted with restraining bolts to keep them under control. So they have desires and, apparently, free will.

My first reaction was that the droids are human-made machines, subject to their programming. On Earth, human slaves aren't the manufactured products of their "masters," so the two situations aren't the same. Last doesn't address this point directly. He does, however, seem to maintain that, even though they're machines, the droids transcend their programming, as in his comment on the torture scene in THE RETURN OF THE JEDI: "Again, if they did not have free will and sentience they would not need to be taught 'respect.' It could simply be programmed." Somehow they've developed self-awareness and the power of choice. All droids? Or only the few that we meet as characters? It's worth noting that in the Clone Wars cartoon series, military droids seem as free-willed (and prone to error) as any humanoid soldier.

Were the sapient droids deliberately programmed to have free will? If so, how can it be "free"? If not, did they evolve this quality on their own somehow? In Heinlein's THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, the moon colony's ruling computer complex acquired so many connections through its Luna-wide network that it reached critical mass and awoke as a self-aware person, Mike. This method of becoming sapient can't apply to the Star Wars droids, whose brains aren't nearly large enough. Maybe in the Star Wars universe the original design of advanced models included the ability to make decisions and choices in order to carry out their duties without constant supervision, and this feature grew into self-awareness.

Could a computer or a robot in our world eventually become a true AI and develop consciousness and free will? Of course, classical behaviorists would have claimed human beings don't have free will, either. Nowadays, some psychologists and neurologists theorize that consciousness is an illusion. (An idea that doesn't make sense to me—if consciousness in the sense we commonly understand it doesn't exist, who is experiencing the "illusion"?) Last validly points out that if robots act self-aware—the only way we can confirm that other human beings have consciousness, either, in the absence of telepathy—they're people and shouldn't be enslaved.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Theme-Symbolism Integration Part 4 How To Use Candles As Symbolism by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Symbolism Integration
Part 4
 How To Use Candles As Symbolism
 Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

The previous parts of the Theme-Symbolism Integration series are:

Foundation Posts on Use of Theme: -- on structuring nested Themes into a novel.  -- defining the terminology I use in these posts to distinguish plot from story and why they are indistinguishable.  -- compares use of Theme in a movie with the use in a Novel.

The posts with "Integration" in the title are advanced posts about blending two, three, and four of these components into such a seamless whole that no reader will ever be able to see the seams -- but writers can and do see those seams.

Previous parts in this Theme-Symbolism Integration series are:

PART 1 of integrating Symbolism with Theme is You Can't Fight City Hall -- about the romance inherent in Politics and Power (or Power Politics)

PART 2 Why Do We Cry At Weddings?

PART 3 Why Do We Cry At Weddings - part 2

Part 1 of this series ended with:

The most passionate Romance is all about the Powerless vs. the Powerful.  The winner is always the Strong Character with a vividly defined set of values, sense of right and wrong, and unbending pursuit of the ethical and moral path.  Find your epoch in the cycle of Pluto, then find the symbols in that epoch to bespeak your theme.
---------END QUOTE---------

This is Part 4 on the candle as a symbol.  By examining how and why a Candle is a symbol, what it is a symbol of, and why it is used to evoke tears (as in Why We Cry At Weddings), and other emotions, we may learn how to invent the symbols of a truly non-human civilization that modern human readers can comprehend on a non-verbal level.

The objective is to create symbols modern humans react to, and even recognize, but see as non-human.

So we need to look at the symbols that evoke emotional responses for us to find where those symbols have their roots in the objective, true-for-non-human-civilizations too, reality.

The nature of objective reality -- and even the issue of whether there is such a thing at all -- is the the "warp" of the fabric of the Theme.  The "woof" might be the existence of the Soul -- woven into theme at "right angles" to the "warp" of objectivity.

Weave these component elements into a fabric in such a way that your reader only sees the pattern or picture on the fabric, not the individual threads.

That is the difference between reading and writing -- a reader sees the pattern, a writer works with individual spools of multi-colored thread and a loom to weave them on.

That reader/writer difference in perspective may also be the difference between the Living Creature view of "reality" vs. that of the Creator of that Reality -- (again the existence of a Creator is a Thematic thread the writer uses, that the reader does not see.)

The reader sees Karma working out in Poetic Justice, but the writer created that effect from the axioms and postulates, "warp and woof" of the worldbuilding.  The reader sees the picture; the writer works with colored threads.

When a Romance Novel fails with a reader, what the reader is seeing is incoherence in the warp/woof blending of those threads.  The reader sees "broken threads" (e.g. in reality, there is no such thing as an HEA, and in this worldbuilding there is an HEA but it comes out of nowhere for no reason.)

The reader sees a philosophical premise (the HEA), but nothing to indicate how this invented World differs from their everyday Reality in such a way that this invented World must necessarily permit an HEA .

To read, and convince, such readers, writers work hard with the "warp and woof" of the cloth of their theme.

Suspension of disbelief pivots on Theme as the foundation of story and the foundation of plot.

Story and Plot must be cut from the cloth made by the threads of Theme, and sewn together into a garment that fits the reader.  

So let's study the Candle as a symbol,  and how, as a Romance Writer, you can learn to use that symbol and fabricate others from the warp-and-woof from which The Candle Symbolism is created.

It is, in the odd way that all symbols demonstrate, about the Power of the Powerless, which is a subject that makes up into  large sets of fabulous Themes.

In Parts 2 and 3, we talked about Crying at Weddings.

Note how "light" pervades the imagery of Weddings.  Imagery is the alphabet of symbolism.

And of course, candles are often part of wedding ceremonies.

Never forget that traditionally "wedding" meant a female becoming the possession of a male, with the male having the power of life and death over that female.  "Keep them barefoot and pregnant," was not just a saying.  It happened, and still happens some places today.  It is a situation that generates huge, complex Themes about the Power of the Powerless.

Little by little, in leaps and bounds, the definition of "wedding" is changing as fast as the definition of "marriage."  That change is changing the definition of Romance, both in real life and in fiction.

What we are looking for here is the level of abstraction at which no change is happening at all.  If we find that level, we find "reality" (whatever that is).

We don't put candles on a Wedding Cake (though sometimes we put them beside the cake)


 -- but we do put them on Birthday Cakes.
We all know what a candle is, and how to light them.

All your readers know that mastering FIRE was a huge dividing line in the development of the human animal into a civilized beast.
We also know the oil lamp - Aladdin's Lamp and all its ilk - was the only source of night time illumination for thousands of years, toxic smoke and all.

Olive Oil is a favorite for burning.  Various forms of tallow, all kinds of smokey, stinky stuff has been burned for the sake of light at night.  Today we do the burning way off somewhere at a Power Plant, and bring the power to our homes to make various things glow for us.  But in essence, nothing has changed.

Is electricity fundamentally different from Fire?

Is candle-wax fundamentally different from Olive Oil?

Is oxidation different from electricity?  What if all Power Plants used nothing but Solar or Wind (or wave or geothermal) power?  Would that make the electricity we use to make things glow different from the light of a candle?

If we don't use oxidation for light, does that fundamentally (thematically) change the symbolism of a Light?  What has Fire to do with the symbolism?

We are surrounded by fire in so many forms.  Stoves burn Natural Gas (some are electric; some solar).

We make a fire in the fireplace for Winter Holidays -- mostly no longer used to warm the house, but a symbol of the Winter Solstice festivals.

Some fireplaces have been converted to natural gas, and had fake ceramic logs inserted to look like wood.  It's too much work to clean out wood-ash once a year.  Besides, wood makes toxic fumes, shortens your life, right?

Some houses have natural gas heaters hidden away in the attic or basement.

Other than smokers, people can go for months without lighting a candle or an actual open fire.

If your stove is electric, and your clothes dryer is electric, and your water heater is electric, when do you ever LIGHT a fire (with a match?).

Who has lit a fire with flint-and-steel or rubbing two sticks together since Scouting days?

How common is open flame in your life?

Among your readers, fire is reduced to a mere symbol, relegated to special occasions, right?  But the discovery and mastery of fire is the, single, outstanding progenitor of human civilization (maybe including The Wheel?)  Using Fire to make Wheels turn was a biggie, too.  How did that go for your Aliens on their native planet?

Do you see the parallel between Theme-Symbol Integration and Fire-Wheel-Integration?

The less common the underlying progenitor of a civilized process is, the more penetrating the encounter with its symbol.

The sight of a candle flame can yank a modern human's heart strings like almost nothing else.

Some people meditate using a candle flame.

Staring at the flame to clear and silence the chatter in your mind is one of the beginner's exercises in meditation.

As far as I know, there is no currently existing culture that dates back to the taming of fire, or even to the invention of putting a wick into oil to make light.  The Oil Lamp pre-existed Middle Eastern civilizations - Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian -- and they're all long gone.

Here's a quote on the earliest oil lamps:

After human race first tamed the fire and started to use it as a light source, a need appeared for a smaller, controllable flame - a more sophisticated solution, if you will. First such solution was an oil lamp some 70.000 B.C. Early humans used shells, hollow rocks or any nonflammable material as a container and in it some moss soaked in animal fat which they would ignite and it would burn with a flame.
--------END QUOTE------------

70,000 years ago?  

It was a practical device for extending the work day at a time when getting the project done was always and ever a life-or-death proposition.  Also, of course, fire deterred predators.

Some recent research indicates cooking food makes nutrients more accessible to human digestion, so that could have helped the R&D geniuses 70,000 years ago (yes, they were the Bill Gates' of their day) figure out how to make, contain, and use fire.

Along in there somewhere, the fearsome thing (I'm sure some wildfires were started inadvertently, and stories told about that terrifying high-tech marvel the smartphone - uh, I mean Fire) became a SYMBOL.

What would flame have first been a symbol of?

That could matter to a modern Romance writer leaping into writing fantasy or science fiction romance stories because aliens on other planets -- think major love-interest -- could belong to a culture where FIRE is a symbol of something very different from what all our modern Earth cultures think.

To create a connection on a romantic level between a human and a non-human, raw-basic-symbol systems can evoke even more intense emotion than we ordinarily experience in daily life.

So think about the simple, basic FLAME.

Think in the abstract about symbols.  We extract the essence of a material thing and make a symbol out of the outline.

The symbol, the mere suggestion, reminds us of the real thing.
The symbol evokes a series of associated emotions, usually at a semantic level above words, a level where music and scent light up brain cells and recreate an experience.

From that first use of fire as symbol -- maybe a bit after the 70,000 year ago mark -- meanings associated with that symbol would have been changed, added to, morphed into, re-interpreted, and re-associated with different emotions.

But it is all rooted in the routine, daily, boring, encounter with the reality.  That Reality recedes as technology distances people from it -- then it becomes a symbol, a selective recreation of reality.

For example, maybe people started holding weddings at night around a fire because all day long everyone was in a headlong dash to get life-or-death stuff like sowing and reaping done.

When was the last time you shouldered the harness of a plow blade and pulled it through stubborn sod?  What does a plow blade symbolize to you?  Blisters on your shoulder?  Oxen pooping in your barn?  The smell of sweaty horse?  No, you go to the rental place and lease a gas-powered plow for a Sunday afternoon to make your garden this year.

Yet the symbolism of beating swords into plow blades still "works."  How many sharp-edged swords do you own?  (Not stage-steel, but real fighting weapons with blood on them?)

Life was hard, and mostly people died young.  Life was hard in the daytime, and people could relax and do "human" things only at night.  Have you ever been so far away from the glow of city lights that you literally could not see your hand in front of your face?  Have you ever tried to walk in a forest in a night so dark you had to put your hands out and grope?  That is the world where the light of a single candle pierced the nerves and gained eternal meaning -- meaning true even in today's street-lamp world.

So fire-light became a symbol of romance, or at the very least license for wonton sex.

To this day, the "candle-light-dinner" is a symbol of courtship, even if we have to remember to turn the overhead lights out so you can see the candle light.

The candle -- or oil/wick/flame -- has become a symbol of both Life and Death.

We light candles (or sparklers) on birthday cakes to count our years, or dodge that issue:


We light a candle to commemorate death -- the candle light vigil ceremony on the site of a murder or tragedy has been pushed back into prominence even as religious observance wanes.
  Making these candles is a whole modern industry.  You can find these vigil candles on Amazon -- and not all who use them or attend memorial vigils are in any way religious or what is termed God-Fearing.  Neither warp nor woof of the fabric of their philosophy contains a God-is-real thread.  But they "do" vigil candles right alongside devout worshipers of diverse God-concepts.

So which is the Candle a symbol of, Life or Death?  Sex, Romance, Happiness, Bereavement, Mourning, Calming Meditation, Wedding, or what?

Perhaps the candle is a symbol of wisdom?


It is said (tall tale) that President Lincoln gained his education by reading books by the light of a log-cabin's fireplace.  Have you ever read a book by the light of a fireplace?  Or a candle?

It takes me 7 or 8 candles burning at once to see well enough to read a nice, clean font from a modern book on super-white paper.

I can, however read well by a fancy 1800's style oil lamp with a fancy woven wick and carefully crafted chimney to keep the fire burning brightly, never mind toxic carbon emissions.

 So an oil lamp is to me a symbol of the serene happiness attained by reading in bed at night -- yes, I've done that.

Some people have memories of camping out in tents lit by such an open-flame lamp (though today's children mostly use solar-charged electric lamps).

Sometimes, those camp-out-at-night memories are great happy memories, so the open-flame light (or electric camp lantern) evokes happiness.

  Sometimes the camping memories evoke spooky ghost-story marathons long past a child's bed time, lending the groggy tiredness to the spooky-pleasure (because it's fake-spooky).

Now we're getting somewhere.  Consider the inventors of the oil lamp 70,000 years ago didn't even have a nice, modern tent for shelter.  We recreate our origins and surround ourselves with those ancient things -- the out-doors, the night sky, open flame, spooky stories -- and regard them as SYMBOLS.

What was real, everyday, common, can't-escape-it, reality 70,000 years ago is reduced to mere symbol today.  What was alarming and threatening is titillating today.

Today, we use those symbols to evoke what was once the reality of existence -- being spooked was being really scared death was immanent.

Ghost stories by candle light.

Today, at Halloween, we see symbolic ghosts made out of thin plastic sheeting hung from trees in people's yards.

What is a ghost?  Well, no two traditions agree on that, but generally it is a remnant of some part of a human being.  We term that non-material part we imagine we have our Soul.

Romance writers can gain verisimilitude by paying attention to the Candle as a Symbol, analyzing it, projecting it into the cultures of aliens.  The symbolism may never be referred to in your novel, but it will be the firm foundation of your worldbuilding, and that firmness will be evident to your readers even if they can't point to what is causing them to feel that way.

Invent the 70,000 year ago culture of your Aliens before coupling your invented Alien to an everyday, modern human.

Romance stories that rivet a reader's attention generally contain a core element of a Soul Mate mechanism, even when the words Soul Mate, or even just Soul, are never used by narrator or in dialogue.  The element is in the worldbuilding even if the worldbuilding contains a Theme thread that says, "In this universe, God is not real" and there's no such thing as "Soul."

Whether you, the writer and the reader, see God as the single organizing principle of Life, The Universe, and Everything, or not, somehow being "In Love" activates some component within a human being's perceptions that the human never knew was there before.

Some of your readers only imagine what they would be like if such a component was activated inside them.  Some yearn for it.  Some fear and flee from it.  Some don't believe it ever happens to anyone.  And some have experienced it, only to have disaster part them from their spouse, and now they are hoping it will happen again.

Neuro-scientists are zeroing in on the brain structures and activity associated with all these complex human experiences.

The thesis they are pursuing is that the brain and its functions completely account for everything humans experience, do, decide, believe (yes, even your Politics is just a genetic property of your brain -- you have no choice!), and theorize.

Many readers of Science Fiction Romance are keenly aware of this brain research.

So Romance writers have to worldbuild some theory of Soul into every story-universe, or the characters won't seem real.

What do I mean by "world-build?"

What the characters believe about their world is not the same as what their world REALLY is, what it's laws-and-rules are.

In fact, many great science fiction novels pivot on the characters discovering things are not what they believe them to be.  Think about the film, The Matrix.

Or think about the novel THE FLICKER MEN that I talked about in this post:

Remember, I pointed out THE FLICKER MEN is not a Romance, but Science Fiction Romance writers need to read it anyway?  This is the reason you must absorb what is going on in novels like The Flicker Men.

The Flicker Men pivots on a worldbuilding concept woven of recent discoveries in particle physics and mathematics, and is a valid extrapolation from that new science, which creates the plot.  The story is woven from cognitive dissonance, and utter consternation, culture shock, psychological disorientation, and the struggle to overcome that paralysis and deal with the harsh realities that have been revealed.  That harsh reality is that some people have Souls -- and some do not.  Time is not what you think it is.

In contemporary romance, you can find great novels about deeply religious characters discovering God is a myth created for political purposes by con-artists -- and characters who are absolutely convinced there's no such thing as God or the Soul discovering the chilling (spooky) tangible reality that God is Real, and "my Soul knows it."

Romance deals with exactly that kind of cognitive dissonance discovery -- when you Fall In Love, you discover your own Soul, and the conversation your Soul is having with Another Soul.

If you are convinced Souls don't exist, then you may mistake Love for Lust --- or vice-versa.  And therein lies a Plot.

What your Soul knows and what you know are not always the same thing -- and therein lies the kind of Conflict that writers weave Nested Themes for long series of long novels around.

This quandary is all about our cherished theoretical notion of reality vs. the actual function of immutable reality around us.

Some people move through life smoothly, and others encounter vast difficulties.  Bring a pair formed of each type of person into conflict, take up the issue of whether "Life Is Good" or "Life Sucks" and you're off and running with long series of THEMES driving an ever-changing matrix of conflicts.  Add deranging astonishment of an awakening Soul discovering another Soul to Love, and the pages sizzle.

When you are handling an abstract theme -- such as "Souls are Real But God Is Fictional" or "God is Real and only Some People Have Souls" -- you handle these boring abstractions with symbolism.

You never state the theme in words, not narrative, exposition or dialogue.

You "show don't tell" by using symbols.

So you bring in a candle as a symbol -- but what is it a symbol OF?  How do you use the Candle as a symbol that your reader will understand?

You understand candles, flames and the chemistry of oxidation.

Just as a map is a piece of paper with a two dimensional drawing (OK, Google Street View is handy, but think of the simple navigation map), a candle is not what it symbolizes any more than a map shows a street you can drive on.

Any symbol abstracts certain functional components and leaves out all the rest of reality, just as today we seek to have an open flame for the Holidays without the toxic smoke and shovel loads of ash.  Is fire still an effective symbol without fumes and ash?

There is almost no experience of a human being that is not "symbolized by" a candle.

It's life, death, joy, sadness, Solstice, anniversaries, security and threat.  The whole gamut of human experience is tied symbolically to "Light dispelling Darkness."

Remember, the Bible starts with LET THERE BE LIGHT.

It is said, when things look bleak because humans are holding a war, destroying things, hating each other, etc. that the light of a single candle dispels the darkness, mental, emotional, and actual Darkness.

The same about Good and Evil: the light of a candle overcomes Evil.  The candle flame repels wild animals, stops sneak-thieves, etc.  A single act of random kindness is like that candle flame -- and can redirect the path of a human being.

Another proverb about the candle-symbol is that a lit candle can light other candles and not be diminished by giving away it's light.

Think about that very hard.  What can you give and still have?

In Judaism, every Friday at sundown, candles are lit.  In some traditions, oil is used instead of candles -- olive oil with a floating wick, older than the high-tech invention of the candle.

Look at this picture:

What is she doing?

She is gathering the light of the candles to her eyes, then saying a Blessing, and after that she will cast the light she gathered back onto the candles in the official act of kindling the light.  The candles are not "lit" until after the Blessing is said -- and that moment of Lighting officially begins the Sabbath, during which time fire is not kindled.

It is said that the Sabbath candles of the Matriarchs of Judaism lit the tent for the whole week.  Does that mean physical light?  Or does it mean the metaphorical "light" by which we "see" right from wrong?  The nature of that metaphorical Light is a thread of the warp-and-woof of your Thematic Fabric.  It is by that Light that your reader discerns the Poetic Justice visited upon your Characters.

In Judaism, the "day" begins at sundown.  "And it was evening and it was morning the First Day."

Evening comes first.

The Day is the first unit of Time.  The Soul enters manifestation through the dimension of Time.

The Sabbath day ends in a series of symbolic actions.

Fire is kindled once more, a blessing said over wine, incense and fire, and then the fire is extinguished by dipping the candle flame into the wine, marking the division of Time when it is again not only permitted but required to kindle fire.

Thus the candle and its flame are used to mark an interval of time that repeats at set intervals.  By marking that singular Day, all the rest of the Days of the Week are thereby defined.

The Soul enters through the dimension of Time, and the Soul then participates in marking and counting Time, dividing Time.

Those who practice Evil also use candles to symbolize their powers.

So what is it about a candle that contains all of these abstract Thematic Elements, from Good to Evil and from Joy to Sorrow?

What exactly is a candle?

Let's view a candle as a mechanism for supporting the Flame.

Flame is pretty much the same thing no matter what is burning (oxidizing).  Flame is a zone of incandescence where a chemical reaction is taking place, combining oxygen with (whatever) and producing Light as a byproduct.

The chemical reaction has to be "sparked" -- that is, something HOT has to be touched to the substance that will burn.

How hot depends on the substance that will burn.  Each substance has it's own temperature where it will start to combine with the oxygen in the air to produce something else (ash, CO2 and water, whatever).  Some candles smoke, others not-so-much.  Smoke is not a property of the flame, but of the substances reacting.

How relevant to the symbolism is the substance the candle is made of?

Another common use of Flame as Symbol is in the Hanukkah Celebration, which commemorates the victory of the Maccabees and the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.

This dates from the Exodus from Egypt, when God Commanded that a tent be built called the Mishkan or tent of meeting, where Moses would meet with God and bring instruction to the Jewish people.

One feature required for this operation was a Lamp that was to be built hammered from one piece of gold by an inspired artisan.

Here's an excerpt from

As the story goes:


Chanukah -- the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev -- celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.

When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

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

So, we have candles used as an anniversary celebration SYMBOLIZING the Olive Oil Lamp that the High Priest lit in the Temple (which practice persisted for centuries from the 40 years in the Desert wanderings).  Ever been in the Sinai desert?  It's DARK.

The Shape of that Temple Lamp is described in the Bible, but even so there are various opinions on how it was shaped.  Here are some.

From the Temple Institute website

And other Rabbinic traditions specify straight branches like this Hanukkah Menorah:

Note the different shapes for the branches holding up the flames on

a) the design prescribed for use in the Temple by the High Priest

b) the design seen on  carvings (Roman etc)

And note how the Hanukkah Menorah has 8 branches, not the 7 of the Temple version -- commemorating the 8 days that 1 day's worth of olive oil burned.

Note how even today old, traditional Hanukkah menorah designs are used, but how artists have embellished, re-designed, and re-imagined the Hanukkah Menorah.

And the Menorah has become a subject of freehand, creative art by and for kids, and for adults:

On a side note: The word Hanukkah or Chanukah is used to designate the process of dedicating the Temple, which included cleaning up the mess left by the invaders, repairing, and then purifying (spiritual cleansing), as well as making the oils and incense and other consumables according to the detailed instructions.

So today, when we buy a new house or move into an apartment, we hold a Chanukat Habayit -- a house-warming -- party.

Hebrew is a language which is not cognate to English, so it "works" grammatically in a different way. The exact same "word" appears in different forms and has different meanings -- but all the meanings are related even if they're not related in English.

The word generally used for Education is Chinuch.  It's the same word as the Holiday Chanukah, in a different grammatical form.  In Ancient Hebrew, Education is Dedication - like the Temple is dedicated, like the Holiday of Hanukkah commemorates.  A housewarming party for the mind/spirit/soul of a child.

If you ponder that conceptual linguistic relationship for a while, you may see how today's modern argument over "Common Core" educational standards can be resolved.  We think of education as something one person does to another -- as an adult "teaching" a child, basically by force and over the child's vigorous objection, for their own good.

What the child learns is the adult's choice, not the child's.  Yes, there are schools that try to break out of that box, and perhaps that movement will grow. Today we don't punish the child for misbehaving; we reward them with time "in the corner" with educational toys and optional activities.

But for the moment, think conceptually about transforming the subject of the Common Core discussion from parents vs. government to the ignition of a child's Soul into an enthusiastic dedication to Light.  Remember, the candle symbol is embraced by those who do not accept the concept of A Creator.

Redefining Education could make a great cultural theme-thread for the fabric of your Romance novel worldbuilding.   Your aliens might require Earth to re-define "Education."

Think about the child's Body -- and the child's Soul.

Here is the post I did which has a link to 6 other posts I did on the Soul-Time-Hypothesis:

Remember, the Soul enters manifestation through the dimension of Time.

The principle being practiced in Orthodox Chinuch today, by some groups, uses the principle of how a Soul takes possession of a Body through Time to help that Soul become dedicated to Life and Light.

The theory is that the Soul makes its first connection to its Body at conception (maybe before) (a moment in Time), and gradually, in stages through Birth (a Time) and at lines of demarcation throughout childhood -- (3 years is when Chinuch begins, 12 or 13 is when the Soul becomes fully responsible for its own body, and there are stages between), becomes more and more manifest, more in control of the Body, more dominant in the ebb and flow of the animal processes within the Body.

The Soul manifests through the dimension of Time through the medium of the Body.

Leveraging that principle, Chinuch gradually turns over responsibility, one thing at a time, to the child, as they gain dedication.

So what has that to do with the Candle as Symbol, and how to discover and invent symbols for an Alien Civilization?

If we look at a candle, we see two distinct parts -- the candle-shaft of wax & wick (or pot of oil & wick) -- and the flame.

Let's look at the candle shaft, or oil&wick part.  Maybe that's the real symbol.

In the actual instructions in the Bible, the Lamp to be lit in the Temple by the High Priest is described in meticulous detail.  It is to be made by hammering a single block of gold into this specified shape, and the shape is to be adorned with various "decorative" devices.

Since we know that no detail mentioned in the Bible is just filler, we know that the "decorations" may be decorative, adorning with beauty, but there is undoubtedly more to it than that.

The formula for making the oil is described in microscopic detail, and those who did the work trained apprentices in exactly how to do this oil preparation -- far more detail passed down orally than is written.  Much of that detail may be lost now.

After years of intense study, The Temple Institute has been recreating the implements used in the Temple Building itself.

This image and the quote below is from the Temple Institute website:
The menorah weighs one-half ton. It contains forty five kilograms of twenty four karat gold. Its estimated value is approximately three million dollars. The construction of the menorah was made possible through the generosity of Vadim Rabinovitch, a leader of the Jewish community of Ukraine.
--------END QUOTE---------


It is amazing, impressive, and a powerful symbol even though it is not being kindled.  Without any flame, it is a symbol.

All by itself, without flame, the Lamp is a powerful symbol, and a potentially functional device, a physical reality.

So, perhaps the lamp or candle-holder for the flame and what is burned to make the flame (candle wax or oil) matters somehow in both symbol and actuality?

But it seems to be the focus is on either the Flame itself, or perhaps on the Light it sheds.

All kinds of things burn -- forest fires burn trees, shrubs and houses.  Oil wells can burn oil and gas before we can capture it and make it burn where we want it to.

Volcanoes and lightening set fires everywhere.  The Earth is always on fire somewhere.

Magnesium burns under water.

There's flame everywhere.  But a LAMP (or candle holder) contains, tames, directs, controls the Flame, bends Fire to our Will.

So the lamp or candle-shaft as container of the fire is a symbol, all by itself, of bending Nature to our Will.

Or, if we Identify with the Flame itself, the lamp or candle is a symbol of bending us to the constraints of material reality.

Is a candle a symbol of the thing that burns, or of the burning?

Or both?

Let's look at the symbol again.

We  generally favor pictures of lit candles.  If you go into a lamp store, they usually display most of the lamps or fixtures lit so you can see how beautiful they are.

The whole POINT of the Flame-Container image as a symbol is that it HOLDS LIGHT and SHEDS LIGHT.

The container contains something dangerous and puts it to use in our world, at our behest.

Does it symbolize POWER?

Note we began this exploration with the idea of the Power of the Powerless.

Does the candle symbolize the power we have over life?

No.  We use it to symbolize death, bereavement, sadness, and situations we have no power over.

Does the candle symbolize the powerlessness of humans in the face of life and nature?

No.  We use it to symbolize birthdays, romance, a warm Yule log at Year's Turning.

Does it symbolize Danger?

Well, we've used FIRE to signal from mountain top to mountain top -- both enemy-coming and triumph-assured signals have been done with fire and smoke.

So what DOES a "candle" taken as a whole, wax/oil, wick, flame, symbolize that it spans all these emotions?

Symbols generally bespeak that which can not be spoken, that which is not believable but is known to be true fact -- what is called "a higher truth."

Symbols communicate Higher Truth.

So let's ponder the underlying concept of all Romance, particularly Paranormal and Science Fiction Romance.

That is the elusive and maddeningly implausible concept of the Soul Mate.

To dedicate yourself to a life's search for your Soul Mate, you have to accept there is such a thing as Soul.  To fabricate Theme, you can postulate all sorts of different origins and natures for Souls.  Your Aliens may have Souls that differ in substance, structure and function both in actuality and in their mythology from that of humans.

But to do "Soul Mate" stories at all, to deal in the concepts related to Fate and even Luck, you have to postulate that the Soul is Real.

If the Soul is real, then it has to have some sort of relationship to the Body.

So to worldbuild for a Paranormal or Science Fiction romance story, we have to postulate a structure for the Human Being. (see why I said you have to read The Flicker Men?)

If our Humans (and maybe Aliens, too) are structured with a 1)Soul,
2))a Connector, and
3)a Body,

then the CANDLE is the perfect symbol for the entire Human Being -- or Sentient Being.

1)The Flame symbolizes the Soul,
2)the Wick symbolizes the connector
3)the wax/oil symbolizes the Body
And that jives perfectly with the Kabbalistic concept of what a human being is.

In the symbolic candle, we (the human) supply the spark, the flame is ignited, the wax/oil is CONVERTED (not destroyed, changed) and appears CONSUMED through TIME.

In the real human being, God supplies the spark, the Soul is ignited by the male-female Spiritual Interaction that parallels the creation of a zygote (the candle) by physical interaction, and through time, the Soul consumes the body just as the flame consumes the candle.

We grow old, wear down, and die just like a candle.

Sometimes we "gutter" and go out before our time.

The Soul is connected to the body through that "thread" -- the silver cord that has been reported during out-of-body experiences.

Our Souls take incarnation for the purpose of consuming a body through Time, converting the physical material into something spiritual.

As I noted, the Candle is a symbol of great power.  It makes no sense that this symbol has survived to this day, and is embraced and used by those who aspire to Good, and those who admire Evil, is used at occasions of Joy and Sadness as well as Commemoration and Spiritual Practices.

There is only one thing in this world I can think of that possesses all that and needs a symbol that represents such diversity of meaning.  That one thing is the Human Being.

We are Good and Evil, Joy and Sadness, a Light to the World and the Bringer of Darkness.

If you find a Soul Mate among Aliens in the Galaxy, those Aliens will likewise exhibit that kind of flexibility of spirit and purpose.

If Symbols convey a higher-truth, it is possible we can open First Contact without war just by establishing that we use the symbol of the Candle (or oil) Lamp.

The Lamp may be just as important as the Flame.

The way we put Candles into a Lamp designed for oil is an interesting variation.  Themes can be spun from that addition.

So, is it the Light that is the point of the candle, or is it the Lamp that contains the Candle.

If you are a Candle, then what contains you?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg