Thursday, June 30, 2016

Zootopia Conundrums

I was gobsmacked by the wonders of Disney's ZOOTOPIA, not only the dazzling beauty and meticulous detail of the animation, but especially the different layers of significance that can be appreciated on various levels by children and adults. For the littlest viewers (as long as they're not young enough to find the "savage" scenes too scary), you have anthropomorphic, talking animals in clothes. The messages of "you can aspire to be anything you want to be" and "don't judge individual people by group stereotypes" are accessible to all ages. Then there are deeper issues of prejudice, violence, and political corruption. There's even a podcast suggesting that the movie constitutes an animal fable about the crack cocaine epidemic:

Film Theory: Zootopia

Although this hypothesis feels plausible while the "film theory" guy is expounding it, I strongly doubt that the Disney script writers had this exact scenario in mind. Nevertheless, the movie can definitely be applied to that real-world situation, as it can to broader social problems of minorities stigmatized as inherently violent and dangerous. And the dialogue includes many lighter allusions to stereotyping and insensitivity, such as the scene where rabbit police rookie Judy Hopps explains to one of her new colleagues that bunnies sometimes call each other "cute" but don't like it when other animals use that word.

A particularly impressive touch is the way the art shows the different animal species roughly in scale with each other, instead of making them all about the same size, as in typical anthropomorphic animal cartoons. As a corollary, each size category of animal has its own buildings built to scale. In the city center of Zootopia, of course, animals of all sizes have to mingle, resulting in occasional problems of a species having to deal with architecture and furnishings of the wrong size. Also, the writers used the real-world statistic that predators outnumber prey ten to one as a vital plot element.

Some questions about this world remain unanswered: Do all animals age at the same rate regardless of species? That appears to be the case with the example of Nick Wilde, the fox. Mammals (the only animals we see, and apparently the only ones who are sapient) seem to age at a human rate. What about breeding patterns? Judy has over 200 siblings. We aren't told whether they're produced in litters (it would seem impossible for a mother rabbit to have that many offspring otherwise). The shrew bride shows up heavily pregnant soon after her wedding, hinting that rodents breed fast, as in the real world. Yet instead of a litter, she appears to have only one prospective child (as indicated in a comment from her father, Mr. Big).

I don't remember seeing any domestic-type dogs or cats, only wolves and varieties of wild felines. Maybe this omission is a deliberate result of the absence of Homo sapiens from this version of Earth. Apparently this world has never had any human inhabitants. Since dogs and cats as we know them evolved through domestication from wolves and small wildcats, it would make sense that the former don't exist where human interference in their evolution never occurred.

Most glaring, what do the predators eat? If only mammals have consciousness and intelligence, the carnivores could eat fish (as in the Redwall series, where most fish seem to be "fair game" for food), insects (as in THE LION KING), and birds. No mention of this issue appears in the movie, though, at least as it applies to present-day civilized society. Harking back to the savage past, at one point Nick Wilde challenges Judy on whether she's secretly afraid he'll eat her.

From a writer's perspective, it's interesting that the movie was originally framed in the viewpoint of Nick, the cynical, streetwise con man. That version was much darker, focusing on the restrictions predators suffered under the rule of the fearful prey-animal majority. The creators eventually realized that the story needed to be told from the viewpoint of Judy, the idealistic young rookie from the country who comes to the big city eager "to make the world a better place," convinced that all animals live together in harmony in Zootopia. As her adventures unfold, she faces the dark side of her society as well as her own latent prejudices. If the story had been told through the eyes of Nick, who already knows Zootopia isn't a pure utopia, it would have been quite different and not nearly so strong (not to mention too violent and depressing for Disney's target child audience).

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Astrology Just For Writers, Part 14 - Science Catches Up

Astrology Just For Writers
Part 14
Science Catches Up
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Here is the index to this long series on Astrology Just For Writers.

Here is the specific blog entry I did in 2009 about how a writer can study an audience, choose an audience, and target that audience by depicting the Characters in a "realistic" way.

When you use Astrology to build a Character, people understand that Character and their "life" and motives non-verbally.  You don't have to "believe" astrology (I recommend that you don't), but you can use it in a way nobody would notice, to achieve powerful results.

Here is an item that turned up in March, 2016, pinpointing the millenial generation as narcisistic.

This is the beginning of asking the right questions of people, but asking for subjective evaluations is a bare beginning.  Objective measurements must follow.  It will be fascinating.

Note, in Astrology Just For Writers Part 6, the list of where Pluto (in Scorpio) and Neptune (in Sagittarius) were in 1985 which is way down inside my post.  Pluto and Neptune (along with Uranus and Saturn) frame the life experiences impacting character development.

What you seem to be on the outside is not what you actually are on the inside.  You see and evaluate others through the filter of what you are inside (Sun, Moon), and what you seem to be on the outside (Ascendant).

Read this blog series  on Astrology Just For Writers to see what you can learn about your current target audience, and about how to depict a Character born in those years.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 26, 2016

As Goes Music....?

In brief, apparently the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that it is absolutely fine for one musician to cut and paste a particularly good bit of someone else's copyrighted work into their own new work.

Is .23 seconds minimal?  One might think so, even if the new work is 120 seconds long.  How, though, would that compare to, say, cutting and pasting a 230-word scene from a 120,000 word novel?  Acceptable?  What do you think.

All the best,


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Who You Know

An essay by Kameron Hurley about why relationships matter in the publishing business:

Hard Publishing Truths

She describes how a multi-layered network of personal connections led to the publication of her first book. The most brilliant novel ever written won't get published if it never gets seen by the right editor.

Other things being equal—a choice between two stories of similar quality when there isn't room for both, for instance—it makes sense for an editor to choose the one by an author whose name recognition will attract readers. Many academic journals practice blind reading of submissions, with the author's name unknown to the acquiring editor until the decision is made. While I understand the sound reasons for this custom, I don't think blind reading is always appropriate. Sometimes the identity of the author IS an important factor in the decision whether or not to publish. Given two equally good articles on a certain work of literature, for example, wouldn't the one by a recognized authority on that work be legitimately of more interest to the journal's readers than one by a novice critic?

I've had my own peculiar experience with blind reading by a fiction publisher. After I sent the sequel to one of my vampire novels (which had won an EPPIE Award) to the publisher, it languished unread in the slush pile for months, because the company had adopted the policy of stripping author names from submissions. When I finally queried about the sequel's status, and the chief editor realized what had happened, they quickly accepted the book (and dropped the blind-reading procedure).

My first published novel, SHADOW OF THE BEAST, got into print partly because of a personal connection. The head of a commercial design company, a devoted horror fan, decided to start a small press publishing horror novels. Some years earlier, he had edited a high-quality vampire fanzine, which printed a couple of my stories. Therefore, when I submitted my werewolf novel to his new venture, he knew me and was predisposed to favor my book.

Odd circumstances led to the inclusion of my story "Prey of the Goat" in THE SHUB-NIGGURATH CYCLE, a Lovecraftian anthology from Chaosium. The story had previously been tentatively accepted by Lin Carter (no relation) for his "Weird Tales" anthology series. The series ceased publication before it got around to my piece. After Lin Carter's death, the editor of THE SHUB-NIGGURATH CYCLE, who'd acquired copies of the unpubbed works from the Weird Tales anthologies, phoned me out of the blue to ask permission to include my tale. One moral of this incident: Be sure people can find and contact you.

Of course, such connections work only if the book or story itself measures up to expectations!

Still, Hurley makes very good points about the "meritocracy" illusion that if one writes a good book, the rest will automatically follow. "But writing a good book is no more a magical recipe for success than ‘working hard’ is a guarantee one will retain gainful employment. As in any industry, there are simply too many factors at play."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Depiction Part 15 - Depicting Cultural Values

Depiction Part 15 - Depicting Cultural Values 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Nothing could be more intangible than Romance.  You can't see it, taste it, photograph it, measure it, weight it.  You can feel it only with "emotions" -- not the skin receptors that tell you something is rough or smooth.

Likewise, "Values" and even "Culture" are invisible, intangible, imaginary.

But to write a story, the writer must depict (create something the reader can imagine seeing, tasting, weighing) those intangible properties.

We do it the way a Physicist hunts for particles -- in a bubble chamber.  A particle whizzes through a medium leaving a trail of bubbles behind it.  By measuring the bubble trail, the physicist can identify the particle by charge, size, weight if it has any, and so on.

In other words, we investigate and identify our real world by the effect that intangibles have on the tangible.

And they do have effects!  

Romance makes people behave "crazy" -- take ridiculous risks, quit jobs with no prospects in sight to move across country or the world, just to be with a particular person.

Why choose that particular person? There are lots of unattached persons where you are -- why move?  Intangibles!  A person's character is composed of intangibles that have a pronounced effect on the way the person behaves, and those quirky behaviors make all the difference.

Most website based match making services will put some weight on the Politics or political values a person holds, matching to someone of similar values.  

But many successful marriages that reach Happily Ever After are composed of people of the opposite values.

We say "Opposites Attract" -- and story requires conflict, so writers know opposites make for great Conflict to drive a Romance Plot.

A Plot Conflict requires a Resolution for the end of the book -- a springboard into a Happily Ever After life where at least this one point of conflict is fully resolved.

So the writer first needs a point of conflict the two will fight over, and a resolution to that conflict the reader will believe at least for a moment.

Politics is always fertile ground for finding conflict between otherwise compatible people.

So let's try the Immigration problem -- an immigration of Aliens, as in TV Series ALIEN NATION, always works well if you do the worldbuilding meticulously.

And of course, there is the obvious assumption that immigrants who work cheap steal our jobs.

This is just humanity's innate xenophobia being focused on one vital issue (sustenance).

But this xenophobia is an intangible, a mere trait.  You can not see it, measure it, weigh it, -- xenophobia is imaginary, just like Romance. 

Xenophobia can, however, be depicted as a Culture's defining parameter by using something far more "tangible" -- paychecks, income.  The Economy is an intangible, but the effect of the Economy's waxing and waning cycles is very tangible to the grocery shopper.

You can create images, icons, in your writing as you describe a neighborhood, a store, a crowd of people -- worn shoes, ill fitting clothing in tatters, a thousand things come to mind to depict a Depression Level Economy.  "The Economy" is intangible, but it has tangible results.

Likewise Culture is an intangible, which has tangible results.  One of the tangible results of our culture's version of xenophobia is the fallacy of the us/them paradigm -- "Profiling" as they call it.  People learn as children to recognize "us" and stay away from "them."  The human baby first learns to recognize Mom and Dad -- or whoever provides care.  That teaches that "Us" are safe -- and the corollary, that "them" is not-safe comes around age 2 Years.

Note in the Web Sampler image, the word "blame" is used to explain the problem and the appropriate solution.

The urgent necessity to affix blame comes from those early experiences, around age 2 to 3.  If you are designing some Aliens, you need to know (but your reader probably does not need to know) when in development the Alien child is pounded and hammered into shape with the word, "No!" What age do the aliens learn that when they do wrong, they are to blame and being to blame for a mess means cleaning up that mess no matter what.

The earlier that lesson is pounded into the Character, the more profoundly the adult will feel the threat of free floating blame.  Blame can not be allowed to settle over a family in an amorphous cloud. SomeONE must be to blame.  Nothing can ever go wrong that is not the result of someone doing wrong.  

It is a child's eye view of the world, to be sure, but your human adult readers can relate to it very easily.  It is a cognitive fallacy that depends on a scaffolding of fallacies to support it -- all having to do with the theology of "Right" and "Wrong," Consequences, and the separation of Authority from Responsibility.

The problem as stated is that we MUST blame someone -- we have to think hard, slice and dice the problem with extreme precision, because it is absolutely necessary to find the correct faction to BLAME.  

Because something is wrong, there must be blame, and it must be affixed firmly to the correct source.

If you depict a cultural framework where blame must be affixed, and clearly depict "wrong" as some situation that can be described in images (people out of work), then you can showcase your Characters, their Relationship, Conflict and Resolution, against the backdrop of a Cultural Values.

Like a diamond and a ruby twinkling against black velvet, your characters will stand out vividly in the reader's imagination.

Look again at that Web Sampler -- there are a number of fallacies that are culturally accepted illustrated vividly by those simple words.  

The assumptions are that "jobs" are a limited resource in a zero-sum-game.  There are only so many to go around, so if some people get jobs, that demands the absolute result that others will have no jobs.  Nobody can just go make themselves a job.  In this cultural model, there is no such thing as self-employed.

Likewise, in the cultural model depicted in this Web Sampler, it is assumped that those who take less pay are not also "impoverished."  

Another fallacious assumption in this Web Sampler is that people come in types, and that people can't become a different type of person.  A worker is a worker forever. A business owner is a business owner forever, that it is impossible to lose a business by paying too much for labor.

And it is only "workers"  who are impoverished by other workers out-competing them.  

These intangible assumptions folded deep inside the utterly plausible statements are cultural assumptions. They make the world plain as day. It can't be argued because it is common sense, obviously true.  That's what Culture is -- something so obvious and clear that only a moron would not get it.  

That Web Sampler depicts the web of intangible fallacies with a clear, concrete, undeniable show-don't-tell.  And it advocates an Eternal Truth in our culture - "don't blame the victim; blame the victimizer" - by  invoking the web of fallacies our culture will never question -- "blame must be affixed" and "where there is a victim, there must be a victimizer."

The Web Sampler could be restated as "Immigrants never "steal" our jobs by being willing to work for less pay. They just make labor so cheap, it is cost-effective for us to found our own businesses." 

Most human cultures are fabricated out of a handful of fallacies wrapped around eternal truths.

To make your Aliens plausible, fabricate their cultures (current and historical) out of an equally diverse mix of fallacy and truth.  

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Copyright And Sovreignity

Some people opine that the best writers and musicians and photographers and artists have always starved,  and are willing to starve (aka not be paid fairly) because they love what they do, and will do it regardless of whether or not they are paid.

Some businesses seem to feel that it is morally acceptable to exploit musicians and writers, and to monetize the works of creative people without permission, in effect forcing creative people to involuntarily subsidize their start-ups. And governments and courts support the exploiters!

There are international copyright treaties: Berne, and those who administer: WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization). However, around the world there are also small groups of judges, who are making rulings and decisions that may undermine what has been agreed in international treaties.

A high-ranking advisor to the European Court of Justice has opined that ebooks are the same as print books as regards public lending, therefore libraries may lend ebooks without the permission of the author(s).
Advocate General Maciej Szpunar said e‑books should be covered by the Rental and Lending Rights Directive, which means libraries don't need an author's permission to provide them to the public.
Leading to the questions

Does someone need to physically appear at a library in order to take out an e‑book?
How does a library ensure to authors' and publishers' satisfaction that old copies of e‑books do not remain readable?

This may sound reasonable, but under the copyright law, authors should have the right to consent to the lending or renting of their works.

This discussion reminds me a little of the compulsory "consent decrees" imposed on songwriters by the US government (by unelected judges) which is partly why popular musicians are unable to prevent their songs being exploited by politicians with whom the particular musicians disagree vehemently.

It is conditional upon "fair remuneration" to the author(s). Ah, but who decides what is "fair remuneration"?  This could be the camel's nose under the tent, couldn't it?

Also, do the unelected European judges define what is a "library"? Could "Pirate Bay" or "Google Books" or "Amazon" call themselves "lending libraries" or "subscription libraries" and rent out ebooks without paying the authors for more than the first ebook?

Perhaps, like musicians receiving $0.00058 per spin from Spotify, a writer would be paid $0.00058 per borrow??? (I'm not suggesting that that is at all fair.)

Perhaps the EU has too much power, especially when authors, photographers, musicians and members of the public apparently can be stripped of their rights to privacy and intellectual property owing to an error in translation from one language to another!

This article suggests some alarming consequences if hyperlinks cannot be subject to a takedown.  Summarizing a summary of a case, apparently, a well-respected publication that specializes in tasteful photography of scantily clad models was hacked or else someone without authorization discovered where the magazine was storing the as-yet-unpublished images, and that someone created a hyperlink are made the images available over the internet to his audience.

When pondering articles on copyright, take time to read the comments. It gives the reader an insight into how a little encouragement will open a Pandora's box of piracy.  Give an inch, they'll take a mile.

All the best,

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ireland Tour, June 2016

Last week we returned from a 10-day package tour of Ireland with Belfast-born folk singer Seamus Kennedy. Remarkably, through our entire trip the weather stayed partly cloudy to sunny, in the 60s during the day and sometimes the low 70s, with no measurable rainfall. I gather this hardly ever happens.

At Blarney Castle, being terrified of heights, I didn't climb the tower to the famous stone. However, the grounds offer plenty of other attractions, such as the lower part of the ruined castle, a cave from which escape tunnels once extended, and outdoor features such as the Poison Garden, showcasing toxic plants. One of my favorite sites was the National Irish Heritage Park, a display of re-created houses, stone circles, etc. from the Mesolithic period to the Viking era. Another fascinating re-creation is the Dunbrody Famine Ship at the Irish Emigration Experience museum. We also saw an exhibition on the Titanic.

We visited Powerscourt Estate in County Wicklow, originally a 13th-century castle, but extensively renovated in the 18th and 19th centuries. The present-day grounds display features typical of the latter period such as an artificial lake, classical statuary, several gardens, and a stone tower called the Pepperpot Tower. The Japanese garden at Powerscourt includes a stone grotto, artificial, of course, but so festooned with moss, ferns, and vines that it looks "real." It's like a cool, green cave—delightfully Gothic. I decided I wanted one, except that there wouldn't be room in our back yard. Here's a picture:

Japanese Garden at Powerscourt

We also saw Avondale, the estate of renowned Irish statesman Charles Parnell, and the Michael Collins Center, devoted to the hero of the war of independence, who was killed during the subsequent civil war in 1922.

The main focus of the tour, however, was the 1916 Easter Rising. We started our trip in Dublin and toured the GPO (General Post Office, used as the headquarters of the rising), Kilmainham Gaol (where rebel leaders were imprisoned and executed), and Glasnevin Cemetery, where many Irish patriots are buried. I used to wonder why the organizers of the Rising chose the post office for their headquarters, but when we saw the building, the reason became obvious, quite apart from its status as the communications center of Dublin. It's built like a fortress! The walls are so thick that even when the interior was devastated by bombardment of the roof, the walls stood intact. Kilmainham Gaol is a grim, soul-stirring experience. The oldest part of the structure really is like a dungeon, with bare stone cells about the size of walk-in closets designed for one man but often holding four or more.

The executions of the rebel leaders backfired on the English authorities; while many Dubliners were neutral or opposed to the rebellion while it was going on, the harsh retribution turned public opinion against the English and made martyrs of the leaders of the Rising. If they had simply been imprisoned for a few years, the Rising might have gone down in history as one more failed rebellion. Instead, it became a catalyst for the war of independence that led to the partitioning of the country. James Connolly, wounded in the fighting, was already dying and had to be strapped to a chair to face the firing squad. Joseph Plunkett, a young poet who rallied to the cause despite suffering from pneumonia at the time, was allowed to marry his fiancee, Grace Gifford, in the prison chapel a few hours before his execution. They were later permitted ten minutes together in his cell, with a guard in the doorway holding a stopwatch.

Here's a recording of Seamus Kennedy singing about this event. Unfortunately, no videos from the tour have been uploaded on YouTube yet, so this clip comes from one of his albums:


Interesting fact for spec-fic readers about Joseph Plunkett: He was related to the classic early 20th-century fantasy author Lord Dunsany (Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron Dunsany).

Other fun facts:

Because of the Gulf Stream, parts of Ireland support palm trees.

During most of our stay, the national soup of the day was vegetable. Seriously—on each of our four trips to the British Isles, we found that the soup of the day tended to be the same in almost all restaurants. Previously, tomato basil was prevalent. A note about Irish vegetable soup—always pureed, where I'd expected broth with hearty chunks of potatoes and other fresh veggies. Still good, though. We had excellent meals everywhere, including the pub lunches.

As in England, in Ireland traffic drives on the left. Busy city streets often have helpful warnings painted on the pavement to tell you which way to look before stepping off the curb.

Hotel beds don't have top sheets, blankets, and bedspreads. Every bed was covered with an all-in-one comforter. Okay, that must make changing the bed and washing the linens easier. But I detest that arrangement, because the sleeper has no control over the level of warmth. If the room is chilly, one has to choose between shivering and roasting.

Otherwise, all the hotels were very nice, although we were taken aback to discover one of them had no elevator.

In summer it stays light until after 10 p.m., a surreal experience for us visitors from lower latitudes. It's hard to remember to get enough sleep when bedtime looks like early evening.

Coming from a place where a structure built two centuries ago is "old," I'm awe-struck by the depth of history in a country such as Ireland, where 100 years ago is practically yesterday. The guide at the Michael Collins Center was a distant relative of his and narrated several personal anecdotes handed down in the family. The only comparable example of a "live" past in the USA used to be the Civil War, and one would hope that's been put to rest (except that we still have controversies over display of the Confederate flag). The execution site in the courtyard of Kilmainham Gaol has become a public shrine, a change that presumably occurred within the memory of older people still living. To a foreigner like me who thinks of the rebel ballads as romantically tragic songs of the distant past, that's mind-boggling.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Part 14 - Selling the Happily Ever After Ending by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Worldbuilding Integration
Part 14
Selling the Happily Ever After Ending
Jacqueline Lichtenberg  

Here is the index to the series Theme-Worldbuilding Integration:

We've been boring down into the core of the problem of why Romance Genre does not get the respect it deserves with the general audience, and why those who do read Romance Genre have begun to reject the plausibility of the Happily Ever After Ending.

Last week, in Depiction Part 14, we circled around the methodology of depicting cultural shifts as part of giving a novel "depth" -- by showing rather than telling the way the protagonist's world has changed from the world their grandparents grew up in.

Now we "get into the weeds" by confronting nasty truths that need to be omitted from Romance Genre in order to create the "mood."

Yet without those truths (theme) being part of the protagonist's world (worldbuilding) there is no verisimilitude.  Without verisimilitude, the reader can no "suspend disbelief" and follow your Romance plot into a relationship with an Alien - a non-human from way out there.

Great science fiction always includes exciting scientific speculation as the solution to the problem, but problem-solving ability in humans always stems from the personal relationships (warped, ordinary, or non-existent) of the problem solver.

Humans are driven to solve problems by the effect of the problem on those they love.   Sometimes it is "self-love" (narcissism) that is the driver, but the power building up behind that dam of emotions will explode outward the moment a Love is spotted.  Even a narcissist can throw him/herself into the breach for Love.  When that happens, Love truly conquers all.

There it is - an unpardonable gaffe in our modern society where your reader resides. Love Conquers All.

The mechanism by which the conquering happens is as imaginary as the "science" used in science fiction.  And in truth, Imagination (Neptune) is the targeting mechanism of Magic and Science both. What humans can imagine, humanity can accomplish.

You've seen that with Star Trek from the 1960's.

How many of the imaginary, impossible, "instruments" and theories behind the Enterprise "depiction" are now in play in our world, changing our world? The A.I. computer that talks, the typewriter that takes dictation, the "communicator" that can reach orbit and back (our whole satellite communications system beams TV shows around the world). We have nailed the science behind the Transporter, and are in hot pursuit of the FTL drive.  Most of that work has been done by a handful of people inspired by Star Trek in their extreme youth.  In another lifetime, we may see Star Wars "magic" of The Force come into play.

Just as the Science Fiction Writer must "convince" the reader (if only for a short time) that FTL travel is "possible," so the Romance Writer must "convince" the reader that the HEA is possible.

The HEA is a hard sell these days. Our objective has been to figure out why it is such a hard sell, so we can solve this problem, and spread out the solution before our readers to energize their imagination the way Star Trek energized the scientific imagination.

The writer must lull the reader into suspension of disbelief as the first step, then argue the point in show-don't-tell.  Show Don't Tell is done by symbolism and depiction, not plot or dialogue.  has links to previous posts in this series .

"Selling" or salesmanship requires the integration of at least two skills (usually more).  You have to know the nature of what you are selling. You have to know the nature of the buyer.

Getting a "match" is very hard, so when a mis-match between product and buyer happens, we call that a "hard sell."  That generally refers to a salesman trying to make a person do something against their nature in such a way as to be against their best interests, and for the salesman's profit.

In the case of a Writer selling the Idea of the Happily Ever After ending, the random reader browsing a bookstore may have a 50% chance of regarding the Idea of the HEA as inimical to their wellbeing.

How can I say 50%?  I don't have an article, a survey, a scientific study to point you to.  All I have is the current Election Issues being bandied about by USA political parties.

Pundits refer to the generation gap we discussed last week as a process of "polarization."

Here is a video clip of Donald Trump as a Guest of George H.W. Bush at the Republican Convention where he said some "Republican Things" when he was in his 40's.

And the media has been full of clips of Donald Trump saying "Democratic Things" until recently, 2008 onwards, when he started to shade into saying "Republican Things."

Now look at the polls over all those decades.  Look at the election results.  Mostly we only remember who the winner was (we don't recall the losers).  Look at the margin by which winners win -- not at who won or why, just the difference between them in the popular vote.

You'll see a trend of that difference narrowing.

Most of your target readership will be unaware of that narrowing, consciously, but they have grown up in the world created by that narrowing trend - a world of increasing philosophical (thematic) stress.

That shows up clearly in the nasty-horrible tweets posted (often by people who get paid to swamp a target person in vitriol).   Your readers read to step out of that stress-zone, or have their opinions of the nasty folks validated.  Some read to experience vicariously what it's like to destroy someone.  Others want to believe that love is possible, even for them.

So how do you "hard sell" that readership the Idea that the HEA is not only possible but almost inevitable?

As noted above, you have to understand what the HEA actually is, and how it works, why it works, on what occasions it works.  You have to understand the nature of Reality that generates the HEA as a symptom of life itself, not a lofty far-off goal, but a function of the "scientific" reality the reader is embedded within.

There are, of course, thousands of philosophical systems humanity has discovered and invented which assert and demonstrate that the HEA is a natural consequence of being "A Good Person."

Some of those systems are called "Religion" these days.

We class "Religion" as part of the Fantasy Genre, and Fantasy as the opposite of Science Fiction.

Take another look at the cultural shift from the 1980's to today.  Look at the books published and the genre labels on the spines.

Before around 1980, science fiction was the label on far-out fantasy novels that were really about Religion.

In 1979, Katherine Kurtz's first novel, Camber of Culdi, was a product of clumsy writing but profound thinking.

Camber of Culdi hit the paperback stands and rocketed to the top of the charts. Now it is re-issued and available in all sorts of formats.

Sequels were demanded, and written -- now it's called a Classic Series.  I've used Deryni as an example previously:

It was blatantly about Magic and Religion (an oil and water mix, symbolizing the immiscible mix of Science And Religion we deal with today).

Deryni was optioned by Columbia - it is a vivid work that could translate to the big screen.

The Deryni Series (which I highly recommend) was marketed as fantasy, but bookstores shelved it with the science fiction. That publication marked the splitting off of Fantasy from Science Fiction until decades later, the Science Fiction Writers of American added "Fantasy" to their name, "Science Fiction And Fantasy Writers of America" -- not used anymore.

In the attempt, in the 1950's and 1960's to define science fiction, the famous end to the argument was, "All fiction is fantasy."  Which I see as a usable truth for writers, but not for readers.

Any fictional work, regardless of setting or plot, cradles the Characters in a made-up World built by the writer.

What would Hollywood do to Deryni to turn it into a blockbuster film?

Just as with Ursula LeGuinn's Earthsea Trilogy, Hollywood (as TV or miniseries, or film) would change the theme.

That's what they always do - change the book's theme to make it worth the price of producing it as a visual.

Films cost more to make than a book costs to print, but theater entry fees are about the price of a paperback, more or less. So a film must get more people to buy it to make back millions invested plus a profit to invest in the next film project.

As we learned by studying SAVE THE CAT! - the size of the audience depends on the theme-worldbuilding structure that cradles and presents the plot, as black velvet displays a diamond.

So take a look at the re-issue pages on Amazon for the Deryni novels.  The envelope theme connecting all these books is "The Good Guy Wins Against All Odds Because Of His/Her Goodness."

The quality of goodness wins, even when society as a whole labels that goodness as evil incarnate.

The Deryni have a natural "talent" for Magic -- in fact, those that have the gift for magic can't not-do magic, and must be trained and disciplined so as not to be a danger.

There has been a war to exterminate the Deryni because one of them siezed the Throne by using Magical Power and then did serious dirt to the "normal" human subjects of the Kingdom.  So there was a revolution and now only humans can be King. Except for one problem -- interbreeding happens.

So all the novels are plotted to be "about" "Who Will Be King."

And the Bad Guys win a lot -- a lot, and often -- but the Good Guys have triumph and generations of HEA.

Or at least, Happily For Now -- but the "now" is decades.

The Deryni series is liberally laced with love stories.  But the core of the matter is that the universe has nasty forces destructive to life in it, but The Good Guys Win Because of Goodness.

In that, it is like Star Wars we burst onto the scene in 1977 -- contemporary with Kurtz's series -- and integrated elements of Fantasy (The Force; Magic) with Science Fiction's classic galactic war, and the Hero's Journey, one man makes a difference.

Luke Skywalker was a winner because of his Goodness, and the color of his Lightsaber symbolized that while the plot scattered and blurred that message enough for the 1977 audience to eat it up and lick the plate.

Look at statistics through time in America (or wherever you intend to be published.)

--------quote NY Times----------
“The decline is taking place in every region of the country, including the Bible Belt,” said Alan Cooperman, the director of religion research at the Pew Research Center and the lead editor of the report.

The decline has been propelled in part by generational change, as relatively non-Christian millennials reach adulthood and gradually replace the oldest and most Christian adults. But it is also because many former Christians, of all ages, have joined the rapidly growing ranks of the religiously unaffiliated or “nones”: a broad category including atheists, agnostics and those who adhere to “nothing in particular.”

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

That's a profile of your readership by the New York Times who thought they were writing about Religion.

What is the connection between Religion (or religious affiliation) and understanding the HEA as a natural consequence of Life?

It is that notion of "The Good Guy Wins" not because he's a Guy but because he's Good.

The entire "feminist" movement (again a 1970's phenomenon) is a red-herring as far as the Romance Writer is concerned.  Oh yes, it's vital in portraying your lead Character as a kick-ass-broad the equal of any man in her world.  Only recently has the Romance Genre allowed the female lead to be A Strong Character because the self-perception of young women has shifted -- for the better, in my never-humble opinion.

But women came out of the mud of the gutter of human society mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore.

As a result, we have a Fantasy genre full of kick-ass-heroines, Kung Fu Masters all, who can take a beating as well as inflict one.  They don't worry about "good vs bad" and which is which -- they go with their gut.

The writers have "read" their buyers correctly and produced Lead Characters whose guts agree with their readership.  It's a soft-sell.

Now we have a generation that has grown up on kick-ass-heroine images as the essence of what it means to be feminine.

We are beginning to see a shift, though. We have 1940's hairstyles come back, shrink-wrap clothing modeled after videogame characters, and the Soccer Mom image of raising kids heroically.

In 1984, we had the TV Series Scarecrow And Mrs. King -- where a typical Mom ventured out as a secret agent and was better than the men (once she got over being Lucy Ricardo-scared).

And in 1982 we had Remington Steele    where a woman invented a man to "front" for her private detective agency, then had a guy walk in who impersonated her imaginary boss.

In both those shows, The Good Guy/Gal Wins Because They Are Good.

And the Bad Guy Loses Because He's Bad.

Hollywood doesn't invent these trends or Ideas.  Hollywood is in the business of making a profit "validating" their customer's feelings with visual proof, in show don't tell, that the world really is as they suspect it is.

Hollywood doesn't do "hard-sell" -- Hollywood does "soft-sell" -- Hollywood produces reflections of the audiences, at the budget points that the size of that audience justifies. Hollywood makes a profit.

Today, Hollywood is making new Star Trek (that crushingly disappoints those who grew up in the 1960's and validates those who grew up in the 2000's.)  Retreads of classics abound -- and all of them display a marked shift in theme.

The overall theme revealing the unconscious assumptions of the paying audience in the 1980's was that Goodness Prevails Because it is Goodness.  And more than that, you can determine what is good and what is not-good by checking the Bible.

In the 2010's (we're mid-way at this writing), we see a trend, reflected in the political divisions between the USA Democratic Party and the USA Republican Party, saying "The Bad Guys Always Win Unless We Use Science To Force Them To Behave Properly."  And you can tell the bad guys because they loudly proclaim they are Christians, then behave as anything but Christians (advocating war, cruelty to women, and throwing off all civil discipline.)

Your audience  has become "polarized."  They have separated themselves according to selected "beliefs" and gone to separate corners, waiting for the bell to start a slugfest.

Politicians and social scientists try very hard to label these groupings, to figure out what belief belongs on which side of the boxing ring.

Writers have to speak to both sides, equally, without advocating one over the other, to make sales figures that justify mass market paperback publication.  That's why it is called "mass market" -- because it's bigger than any group.

And here is an article from CNN talking about religious affiliation drop in both parties -- more emphatic in the Democratic Party than the Republican.  It is a general trend, and seen even among older people.  The 2015 survey by Pew Research did assert that 70% of the USA still says they are Christian.

From that article, I don't think everyone who says they are "Christian" means the same thing by the word.

----------CNN QUOTE--------
One political issue in particular has benefited from a sea change in religious attitudes -- same-sex marriage. Consistent with the political and legal changes to gay rights that have taken place in the United States over the past year, the Pew survey demonstrates that the share of all Christians saying that homosexuality should be accepted by society increased from 44% in 2007 to 54% in 2014.

-------END CNN QUOTE---------

Trace that political trend (remember the early 1980's was "The Reagan Era" ) next to the decline in acceptance of the HEA, with the rise of the Kick Ass Heroine.

Just because you see a correlation in the graphic curve, don't assume there's a cause-effect relationship.

But you can build a world around the theme that there is a cause-effect relationship between religious views, a particular standard of what constitute's the Good that Wins Because it's Good, and the accessibility of the HEA to your Characters.

You build the world your Characters must puzzle out, build its physics, chemistry, biology, its science, in such a way as to reveal to the reader what is "Good" and how the practice of "Good" generates success.

In our real, everyday world that your reader lives in, we see that Bad always wins. Just listen to what Bernie Sanders has said while running for President.  He's popular because he paints an accurate picture of what his voters see in their world.  He validates their view of their world, deplores it with them, and points to the solutions that seem obvious to his voters.

Donald Trump does the same thing, making it clear he shares his voters' assessment of reality and will apply the rules of Good Guy Behavior to solve those problems.

Both are problem-solvers writ large.  Both engage their audience's sense that Goodness Will Prevail "if only" we do what Good Guys do.

They differ on what "Good" actually is.

Don't forget to check out Ted Cruz and his followers, assessing what they think is the "Good" action that will lead to an HEA for the country.

Tease all this political theater apart until you can see the Theme and the Worldbuilding as separate factors in our real world.  In the everyday reality, they are so entangled very few specialists can ever tease them apart. Practicing separation of Theme from World is what writers do as compulsively and incessantly as we people-watch.

Once you can see your reader's everyday reality as composed of theme and a world that illustrates that theme, you can choose new content for the theme element and new content for the world element, then re-integrate your created ingredients into a story that all readers can believe (for a while.).

We read fiction to believe something we actually don't believe, just to try it on for a while. We read to walk a mile in someone else's moccasins.  We read Alien Romance to grasp an bizarre and impossible problem, and then problem-solve along with the Characters, rooting for the Good Guy to win because he/she is Good.

Here's a post in the Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration series that pertains to this idea of what Goodness is and what properties the world has to have to tilt probability so that Goodness causes Winning, at least when pitted against Not-Goodness.

Ponder the relationship between the world you live in and the forces that shape probability around you. That's what Magic and Fantasy generally depict - a world where human will, emotion, intention, shape consequences.  In science, nothing you think or feel matters in terms of the working of physical laws.

In science, what you do causes what happens.

In magic, who you ARE causes what happens.

Are these two views of reality irreconcilable?

What if you write a Romance between one who lives in a world where who you are does not matter (e.g. where it is stupid to believe in the HEA) and one who lives in a world where the way to achieve the HEA is to  become the Good Guy by strengthening Character (not body).

What does she see in him?  What does he see in her?

You can do that story in any setting and sparks will fly, readers of every stripe will flock to the book.

It is the pattern behind the TV Series, X-Files which we discussed briefly in Part 13 of this series on Theme-Worldbuilding Integration.

And just for good measure, here is an article about great, bestselling writers telling you that good people don't make good Characters.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Round-Up Of Other People's Copyright-Related Opinions

This will be brief... but if you click the links, you will find plenty to read!

This links to The Atlantic and chronicles just how easy e-books have made life for plagiarists and copyright infringers. Really, IMHO, publishers and authors may have made a huge long term mistake in jumping aboard (before they were well and truly ready) when Amazon launched the Kindle.

To read:

Caveat, according to a conversation I had recently with a female millennial, only "strange"and "unpopular"  people like science fiction and science fact, and see the fascination in mixing Psychology with Politics and Power. Alas! To my way of thinking, this is all grist for SF plots, because few people would believe what could be going on, right at our fingertips... unless they grew up reading "1984", "Brave New World" and the like.

To read:

Or watch...   this one goes to a video.  The conclusions are very Big Brotherish, and alarmingly logical. Big Brother is not only watching you, he is telling you what to think.  And have you noticed? The government will prosecute you for real if they find out that you don't think the "settled" way about certain matters! How safe are you from detection if you "search" using politically incorrect search terms?

If a large population gets all their news from the internet, and they find most of their news by conducting a search, and the search engine "helpfully guesses" the rest of the sentence as they are typing, it should be possible to lead people to think the way one wants them to think.

To watch:

I think I'll try to duplicate the experiment. But, here's a funny thing. I've provided three links. I cut and pasted all of them from my email "Draft" folder. (My habit is, when I find something interesting during the week, I start a brief email to myself and save it for you all.) For each link, I pasted it on the page, then I hit the "Link" function and made sure that the link work.  However, when I checked "preview" only one of the three showed up. Hmmm. So, I colored them yellow... and now they show up as pink. I've added second urls and all seems to be well, so I guess I made a mistake.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Greetings from Abroad

Today I'm returning from a package tour of Ireland. It started in Dublin and focused on the centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising. Our favorite Irish folk singer, Seamus Kennedy, came along as "native guide" and sang for us many evenings.

Here's an overview of Seamus's Ireland tours:

Seamus Kennedy Travel Page

I'll share some tidbits about the trip next week.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Depiction Part 14 - Depicting Cultural Shifts by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 14
Depicting Cultural Shifts
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here is the index post with previous parts of Depiction.

A friend mentioned watching the new TV Series Lucifer, where the Devil asks what is the one thing you want -- and the plot unfolds from that choice.

I've started watching the show BEFORE Lucifer about a school for young magicians, THE MAGICIANS (which is fairly well made) so I've seen the trailers and the beginnings of Lucifer.

I thought the concept interesting, but in the context of what viewers now will understand about the world decades hence,  I am looking for what KIND of spouse they will imagine for themselves later.  What will the young teens watching these two shows conclude about "happily ever after" and "soul mates" later on in life?

Personally, I expect that in a few decades they will have thrown off most of the ideas presented in these shows, and in most fantasy novels, just as prior generations have. We, as humans, don't believe everything we're taught, especially not by parents or authority figures.

In the meantime, though, a great deal of (easily dramatized) headline material will be created by these viewers as the mature.

Here's one way to look at this whole spectrum of Marketing Fiction in a Changing World -- a subject we've discussed at length in these posts:

Remember how people always say,  "I'm doing all I can" which essentially dismisses the petitioner as irrational for wanting more than "I can" -- saying I'm the helpless one and that's too bad for you.

OK, watching NYPD Blue season 1 from the 1980's I see a pivot point in a related attitude to the helplessness of "I'm doing all I can -- so how dare  you ask more of me!"

Today, absolutely everywhere, we hear the phrase "been taught" or even just "what we teach kids in schools."  Some politicians want to beef up the Department of Education because "what we teach kids has to be controlled so they'll behave properly" -- and other politicians demanding to dismantle the Department of Education and  "let" localities decide what to teach kids.

The unconscious assumption behind that language is that "permission" is required. Never in human history has humanity as a whole accepted "permission" as a limitation.  That's why we have Heros (to depict) and Villains (likewise to depict).

We have internal conflicts because, as a whole, humanity just does not "believe" what we are "told" or "taught" to believe.  We learn it, parrot it back for the test, then discard all -- or at least a few of us discard.

And among those few who discard what they've "been taught" we have major internal conflicts, sometimes psychologically crippling conflicts that cause what appears to be "irratic" or "irrational" behavior, temperamental outbursts and so on.  The subconscious retains some of what we've "been taught" no matter how the conscious discards it.

The subconscious can be reprogrammed though, and that happens with a great deal of DRAMA in life (Pluto is Drama, remember).  Dramatizing those lessons reprogramming the subconscious is what fiction writers do -- and it is the core material for Romance which is why Love Stories must be woven into most other genre fiction.

In truth, Love does Conquer All.  Exactly how that happens is what we write about.

So historically, schools have been putting all LEARNING into the same category as "what I can't do."  You can only do "what you've been taught."

Our current culture depicts kids and the adults they become as VICTIMS of "what they are taught."

Kids and even adults are victims so it is up to the Educators (who implicitly know best) to be sure that kids "are taught" only "right" things.

What has climate change to do with Romance?  Well, along with the unconscious assumptions underlying the dilemma of "what to teach them" (because if you teach wrong, they will suffer and it will be your fault, see last week's post)  we have the matter of teaching "you can't win" and there is no "Happily Ever After" so don't even try.

"You can't win" is taught by demonstrating authority, and telegraphing "allowed" as the key.  Authority must "permit" or "allow" or "provide" -- authority must act first or you can't "have" anything.

"There is no Happily Ever After" is transmitted the student's real life experiences of divorce, job loss, and the constant din of "it is not your fault; the system is broken."  You can't win because you're not permitted to -- permission is everything.

Here is last week's post on Authority, Responsibility and Power in Alien Romance -- how these nebulous concepts are essential to worldbuilding that can cradle a hot Romance.

That "no such thing as Happily Ever After" carries over into what passes for adulthood these days, as people lose jobs to technology and "are doing all they can" to "find a job" and can only "do all they can" which is limited by "what I was taught."

It may be time to entertain the notion that the HEA is possible, but only to those with a Hero's attitude that if you are doing all you can, and it isn't enough, do what you can't anyway.

The whole idea of making college free telegraphs that the real objective is to be certain there is no such thing as a well educated adult running around in the world.

You can't "get an education" -- it isn't an object to be acquired.  It is a condition of the brain, created by exercise.  That exercise is not acquired by "being taught" but by "learning."

 You can learn to live Happily Ever After, but you can not be taught to do it.

Educated adults point out that permission to Live Happily Ever After is not necessary.  You have to do "more than you can" -- a successful marriage requires each give more than 100%.  

Humanity has talents distributed along a curve -- and only 1% are CAPABLE of a university education beyond Bachelor's.  If you try to put everyone through University, it will become grammar school, not University.  Those who want to "get an education" will be happy with their diploma from such a school -- those who want to "learn" will go elsewhere.

That 1%  that can not be kept from learning because they need no permission ignores the "all I can" limit and just does things regardless of whether they "can" or not, regardless of whether they've "been taught."

You can't TEACH that 1%.  What you think means nothing to them.
So perpetuating the idea that you "can't do" what you "have not been taught" is an attack on the 1% by the 99%.

So here's an idea to check out by watching old stuff on Amazon Prime or Netflix.

The 1980's (Reagan) era was a turning point in HEROISM.

Captain Kirk of Star Trek was a 1960's phenomenon popular with people born in the late 1940's -- people who grew to college age seeing their parents succeed against all odds, and thus convinced they, too, could succeed against all odds.  They just needed to learn  how, not to "be taught."

Kids born in the 1960's became 20-somethings in the 1980's experiencing families (and kids their age's families) that were more loosely constituted (sometimes parents lived together, not married), increasing divorce rate, both parents employed (that was rare in the 1950's before "labor saving devices" made "housework" less than a full time job), and families being moved across country as the Dad "climbed the corporate ladder."  Neighborhood friends, school friends, extended family -- all temporary.

Kids who turned twenty in the 1980's "knew" from experience that all personal ties are merely temporary, so don't invest your heart in other people.

The cell phone, Facetime, text chat, and so on, changed all that and today's children hold friendships no matter where they are physically.
Here's the essence of TV Drama popular in the 1950's and 1960's (Star Trek) and 1970's.


The feminist movement (1970's) destroyed that whole philosophy (fiction themes are philosophical statements) by blaming "winning" on "guy-ness" not on "good-ness."

So women learned to become "bad-ass" in order to win because goodness doesn't win.

Then another generation tackled the whole "goodness" thing with the idea that everything is relative and "fairness"="goodness" because fairness means everyone gets THE SAME THING regardless of their personal merit.

The concept of GOODNESS that drove the 1950's got thrown in the toilet.

Then GOODNESS was replaced with Political Correctness -- the values of which are reflected in the TV Series Lucifer where "Lucifer" is the the protagonist, who always wins.  Everyone else is the "problem of the week."

In the TV Series The Magicians the theme is stated as Magicians can't do anything about real world problems.  Goodness, and Power, are not part of "the real world."

Political commentary on TV "non-fiction" news often states that  "Race is important to Democrats, so therefore Hillary must win the Black vote."  Or some variant on "must win the XXX vote" where XXX is whatever block of voters they are trying to trick you into thinking "are all the same."

In our new 2016 reality there can be such a thing as a "race" all voting as a Bloc.  And it's not racism to say "they" all vote the same way.

A Theme for a novel series might be rooted in the concept that the phrase "win the Black Vote" is racist.  It's based on the idea that all members of a group are identical to one another.  All the "isms" make that assumption -- good novel themes come from those unconscious verbal habits.  That gives you the "internal conflict" for your main character.

And it is objectively true - can be measured by statistics.

Why do the stats show there is a "woman's vote" and a "black vote" and a "Jewish vote?"  WHY????

Because there really IS.

How did that happen?

Maybe by forbidding kids to read the entire textbook before going to Class 1 of the course?

Or perhaps by forbidding kids in grammar school from teaching themselves and defying "the teacher" in every particular and making the teacher PROVE what they are teaching before the class, and not simply parrot what they learned in Education Classes?  Just because it's written in a book doesn't make it true. Prove it.

Teachers teaching today WERE TAUGHT that they can only do "all they can" and so 99% of them don't dare do anything beyond that.   The remaining 1% of teachers are making waves,  big time.

Authoritarian is the word for what has changed our culture.

To "depict" that Cultural Shift in a way that has verisimilitude enough to carry your reader into your artificially built world, you need to know what it was "before" -- what it was in transition -- and what it is "now" relative to your story.

Here's a clue - about reducing stress on the beleaguered victims who are "being taught" instead of learning.

Then you need to explain that change to your reader.

One great way to grasp this idea is to watch the British TV Series, Downton Abby -- that starts in a 'before' culture and depicts the shift into World War I, and the gradual rise of socialism in the UK that changed the whole class-based, landed gentry culture of the 1800's.

Note the relative ages of the characters.  The elders were raised in a before-culture -- the adults are striving to maintain it -- the children are throwing off the traces and running wild into "the future."  And all are righteous about their beliefs and attitudes..

So, in tracing the cultural shift your reader understands, look for old fiction where THE GOOD GUY WINS BECAUSE HE'S GOOD NOT BECAUSE HE'S A GUY.

A good theme might be, "There never was any sexism, and there is no such thing as a 'women's vote' and never was."  Everything in your reader's reality (and yours) says that is nonsense.  Convince the reader otherwise.  The technique known as the "twist ending" is where you suddenly "twist" the fictional reality you've invented back into something resembling the reader's everyday reality.

Look for old fiction where the difference between THE GOOD GUY and THE BAD GUY is that the good guy is GOOD and the bad guy is BAD.  No shades of gray.

Shades of gray in theme material was injected in the 1970's and 1980's as viewer's real-reality shifted from "black and white."

That pivot point in development is important to understand.   It happens so gradually that the Characters don't notice until one day they wake up and the world has changed -- they can't talk to their grandchildren anymore.  New world. New language.

Depicting that generation gap lets you give your Worldbuilding a dimension that feels like reality to the reader.  It is verisimilitude.

That post has a link to Part 1 -- and it's about depicting Verisimilitude.

What is good and what is bad can be a matter of thematic argument among the characters in a work, but GOODNESS always wins.

The writer's job is to show the reader (not tell!) the mechanism of reality (of the build world this character lives in) that CAUSES goodness to win.

The entire HELLENISTIC CULTURAL attitude underlies our modern USA culture -- teaching that winning is good, and that in order to win someone has to lose.

Today's school sports custom is to deny that there is such a thing as losing.  This will create a huge cultural shift, and perhaps we will see that as the current turning-18-year-olds vote.

The Hellenistic culture survives in that two-valued Aristotelian "logic" that divides the world into black and white.

Remember in the heyday of the Hellenists, the world was flat, on the back of a turtle, and if you sail to the edge you fall off.  This week, they discovered gravity waves as predicted by Einstein, when they observed two black holes colliding. This is not an either/or world, at the particle level or at the moral level.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 05, 2016


Do you think that writers matter?  Do you think that that which writers write is more valuable (or should be considered more valuable) than "user generated content"?

If you'd like to opine, please join Authors Guild and The Writers Guild of Canada in a campaign right now online, in Tweets and comments, and in conjunction with the first Canadian Writers' Summit (June 15-19th 2016).

For the press release:

True, the Canadian website looks like the campaign is for Canadians, but readers and writers around the world are invited to support the campaign.

Use the hashtag #WhyWritersMatter on Twitter and/or Facebook, or email your thoughts.

So far, of the published thoughts, my favorite is this quote by Emma Donoghue, author and oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Room.
"Writers are the nearest we've got so far to inventing telepathy and time travel."

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 02, 2016

E-Books and Libraries

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column:

Peace in Our Time

The "peace" in the title refers to the "e-book wars" that pit authors, publishers, and libraries against each other. Giant online booksellers such as Amazon come into the equation, too. I'm not sure I understand the practical details of Doctorow's plan for authors to retail their own books, but I definitely agree (judging from the numbers cited in this article) that publishers are currently ripping off libraries with exorbitant e-book prices. And I didn't know that the Overdrive system was imposed on libraries by publishers.

My personal experience of borrowing an e-book from our local library through Overdrive involved a monumental tome, PAUL AND THE FAITHFULNESS OF GOD, by N. T. Wright, my favorite New Testament scholar. Like most academic-level publications, the book is priced beyond the usual budget of a casual reader. To read it for free from the library, I had a long wait because our county system owns only one "copy" of this volume. Now I know the probable reason for this bottleneck—the library's cost of "buying" from the publisher the right to lend multiple "copies."

Doctorow's article contains lots of information new to me. Interesting discussion even if you don't completely agree with his proposals.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt