Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Reviews # 28 Camp Alien by Gini Koch

Reviews # 28
Camp Alien by Gini Koch

Great novel in a great series.  What more can I say?  Read it!!!

I have reviewed Gini's Alien series quite frequently on this Tuesday writing craft blog, so there is not much more to say than just, you must read this series.


It looks expensive until you note the size of the volumes - and the print is small, so you might prefer the Kindle or ebook version where you can make the print larger.

Unlike many of the science fiction novels or series I point you to, this one is actually in the Romance Genre.  The first books in the series are a "genuine" Romance in that the couple first meet, establish a Relationship (with some difficulties to overcome) then marry.  But the series goes on telling an ever more complex story of that Relationship as they have a child (half-alien hybrid), then another child -- both children very unusual individuals.

One of my most repeated caveats about this series is that the writing style is "loose" -- very often wordy, and the dialogue looping ( more like real speech than fictional dialogue).

However, the editing has tightened in the last few books, and this entry, CAMP ALIEN, does not seem to have editing errors of that type.

So reading the set all together, in sequence, should give you a very good bit of training in how to tighten your own narrative and dialogue, or at least take editorial direction without balking.

Well, edited text makes for a smoother and more enjoyable read.

In addition, CAMP ALIEN is a walloping good read all by itself.  The one structural problem remaining is the plethora of characters - all of whom are instrumental in the plot, but most of whom are off stage while dialogue is used to fill the reader in on what happened in previous novels in the series.

I didn't have trouble following the wide-ranging scope of the characters and their sub-plots as the previous novels evoked those Characters strongly, vividly, and made them people to me. This effect is the signature of good writing.

In this volume, CAMP ALIEN is Camp David of international conference fame.

We started in the first novel, ALIEN, with an Alien guy who ran a small team of Field Operatives fighting non-human invaders of Earth, which the Aliens now see as Home.

They meet our main character, Kitty Kat, by accident and she leaps into battle beside them, earning her way into their ranks (to her dismay).  The Relationship progresses over the next volumes as they battle various threats to Earth, get married, have kids, and concurrently advance in rank, to be in charge of ever larger operations.

Eventually, they become Ambassadors from the Alien contingent on Earth to the US Government, move to Washington and live in a fortified Embassy there.  They get involved in Politics, and the Alien guy inadvertently becomes Vice President.  In the novel previous to CAMP ALIEN, the President (a Human) is murdered (along with most of the Cabinet and other officials in the line), and our Alien Vice President becomes President.

In this novel, old threats return in very plausible ways, and the battle to save Earth moves through international politics to Camp David which is nearly destroyed by the new combat.

Kitty Kat demonstrates how she uses otherwise mundane talents, plus a hint or two from another Alien, to combat the threats (from robots to androids to biological constructs) to save Earth time and again.

This volume is notable to Romance fans and those who want to write Action Romance like this because it focuses around a very typical marital issue - one which you would never expect this couple to have.

Kitty Kat is kidnapped (business as usual), swings into action, saves herself, saves several other groups who had been kidnapped (friends and allies of hers), finds a stolen airship armed with Alien weapons, recaptures it and heads on home.

She is confident she can land this airship where it belongs, at Andrews AFB.  She radios ahead for landing permission and hits a brick wall of "you are not authorized."  Then big guns are trained on the airship.

By the time she gets that straightened out, she is so mad at her Husband The President for shutting down her authorization to land that she threatens divorce, and declares her airship a sovereign nation (only half joking! Maybe less than half.)

She is beyond furious because she feels betrayed.

Eventually, after much more action, she gets the whole story of why her husband did this to her.  And she's even more angry, because he did it because he believed a video showing her captured, maimed and tortured and begging him to come save her.  She has never, in all their adventures, done anything like that.  She's saved him a number of times.  She had assumed he understood her Character, Capability and Soul well enough to view that blackmail video with suspicion.

When she sees the video, she points out the clues that it is fake, and the being tortured and dismembered is not her, but a copy of her. (copies of people are common in this whole series -- they should have expected it.)

Her husband and the men who believed the video was real are shocked, contrite, apologetic, groveling, and most terribly, gut-wrenchingly ashamed of themselves.

In real life, of course, this would never happen.  The men would justify their error to themselves.  But with 12 other very long novels behind us, we believe these men (particularly Kitty's husband) are reacting in character here.

Moreover, Kitty herself believes their error was well within plausibility after she sees all that went on while she was conquering her kidnappers.

This depicts a marital spat over a very common Relationship problem, and makes you believe every word.  But it is science FICTION -- very fiction, though the psychological science is right on the button.

In the end, Kitty's sovereign nation grudgingly rejoins the United States and Alien combine, makes interstellar peace and maybe peace in the Middle East as well.  And you'll believe every word while laughing your head off.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Copyright: Updates and Esoterica

Update: The artist Peter Doig prevailed in the multi-million dollar suit brought against him for refusing to certify that he was the author of a work of which he was not the author.

Interestingly, he can thank his highschool yearbook photos in part for convincing the court that the Peter Doig being sued was a schoolboy in Toronto at the time that his hobbyist namesake was incarcerated somewhere else.

Read more, courtesy of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

and from Sullivan and Worcester LLP

Moral of the story? Keep your yearbooks!

What we can learn from Led Zeppelin... who, as defendants, won the copyright infringement lawsuit brought against them on account of some alleged similarities in a riff in Stairway To Heaven with an earlier musical work, but who did not prevail in their claim to recover their legal costs.

Analysis courtesy of Dorsey & Whitney LLP

Loser does not always pay!  Motivation (of the plaintiff) and reasonableness of the factual and legal arguments (by the plaintiff) may weigh more heavily than three or four other factors that a judge considers in making a determination whether or not to award costs. New in this case was a sixth factor: alleged litigation misconduct and alleged tasteless courtroom antics on the part of the plaintiff's counsel.

Thirdly, a cautionary tale from Russell Kennedy about how the mischievous use of social media can be expensive for the mischievous, even if the posting is only up for a brief time and exposed to a limited readership.

Defamation on social media can be ruled "defamation" even if the mischievous party does not identify the plaintiff by name, as long as the description of events makes it possible for any reasonable observer to identify the  plaintiff.

Finally, Eversheds reports that the music industry is seeking to change the protections afforded to "platforms" that profit disproportionately from "user generated" piracy of copyrighted works, and that, when the DMCA was written twenty years ago, the lawmakers' intent was not to protect business models that had not at that time been invented.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ponies and Changelings

The latest episode of MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC offers an interesting example of applying fantasy to real-world geopolitics—a "ripped from the headlines" story—with no explicit mention of actual events or peoples. In "The Times They Are a Changeling," Princess Twilight Sparkle travels to the Crystal Empire to visit her brother and sister-in-law (the prince and princess of that kingdom) and their baby filly. Twilight's assistant, young dragon Spike, accompanies her. The capital of the Crystal Empire is in the grip of paranoid fear because a changeling has been glimpsed in the area. Spike, who became a hero among the Crystal ponies on a previous visit, joins a squad of guards searching for the creature. Getting separated from the group, Spike stumbles upon the changeling and discovers that the terrifying monster, named Thorax, isn't a threat at all. In fact, the "monster" saves his life. Parasites who feed on love, changelings infiltrated Canterlot (capital of Equestria) in a former episode, their queen disguising herself as the Empire's princess—hence the Crystal ponies' state of high alert. But Thorax left the changeling country because he yearns to experience friendship without devouring love-energy in a destructive mode. If he can make friends, generating enough love in such relationships that he won't "starve," maybe he can rise above his nature and cease to pose a threat to others. Spike welcomes him as a potential friend, introducing him to Twilight and some of the Crystal ponies in the guise of an ordinary pony. When Thorax accidentally gets exposed, Spike fails to stand up for him. Realizing how he has betrayed his would-be friend, Spike goes after Thorax, persuades him to give friendship another chance, and changes the other ponies' minds about their belief that "there's no such thing as a nice changeling."

In the MY LITTLE PONY universe, a changeling is a creature that can disguise itself in the form of any other person (pony, dragon, etc.), what the D&D game calls a doppelganger. In folklore, changelings are fairies left in place of stolen babies. In some cases, adults could be suspected of being changelings, too. An Irish woman, Bridget Cleary, was burned to death in the modern, civilized year of 1895 because her husband claimed to believe—apparently sincerely—that she was a fairy changeling; by killing the substitute, he expected to get his "true" wife back. The MY LITTLE PONY concept and the folklore concept have one factor in common, that changelings can infiltrate normal society by posing as "one of us." Because they look like "normal" people, only constant vigilance can guard against the danger they present.

Just below the surface, "The Times They Are a Changeling" fits into the "good guy vampire" subgenre. Thorax fights against his predatory nature to find happiness through friendship. At the next layer down, though, it's a story about what terrorist threats do to individuals and societies. Because the changelings attacked in an earlier episode and almost destroyed the Crystal Empire, the Crystal ponies have become so paranoid that at first they suspect Twilight and her companions of being changelings in disguise. The citizens of the empire are determined to keep all changelings out, making no distinction between the evil ones and those who might be harmless. This climate of suspicion and fear leads Spike to turn against Thorax instead of supporting him at a critical moment. When the majority demonizes all members of a different nation or culture, it's hard to speak in defense of them.

The message of this episode isn't totally unproblematic. While Thorax wants to be "good," it's clear that all the rest of the changelings (all whom we see, anyway) really are dangerous, amoral predators. He's presented as more of an exception than an example. However, the ending offers hope that other changelings can learn about friendship and alter their world-view and behavior, just as Thorax has done. Evil isn't necessarily an essential part of their nature. On the level of the show's target preteen audience, this episode conveys yet another message about friendship overcoming differences. Adult viewers can perceive (or not, as they choose) deeper layers of applicability.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Guest Post by Julie E. Czerneda - The Clan Chronicles

Guest Post
Julie E. Czerneda
Author Of The Clan Chronicles From DAW Books


I've been reading Julie E. Czerneda's novels for years and just finished The Gate To Futures Past (Reunification #2).

It is a sequel to This Gulf of Time and Stars (Reunification #1).

The Reunification novels are part of The Clan Chronicles.

Julie E. Czerneda is one of the few writers like Charles E. Gannon, the absolutely-must-read writers.

Julie has blended good science (physics and genetics) with imaginary science with theories of souls and the spiritual significance of Time, and added in a whopping dollop of amazing Romance that fuels the blistering hot plot.

Without the Romance, there would be no story here! That is the very definition of Romance Genre.

So I was delighted to get this Guest Post from Julie on the occasion of a new novel in The Clan Chronicles -- a series that explores the farthest reaches of alien and human biology, genetics, romance, and the structure of the universe, the nature of Reality, and what is important (and what is not).

Most writers would flub this blend, putting too much of one or the other, getting too abstract, inserting indigestible lumps of exposition about nothing relevant, or just cutting to the sex scene and forgetting the oddities of the carefully built logic of the world surrounding the characters.

The Clan Chronicles are a must-read for Science Fiction Paranormal Romance writers trying to blend genres.

The Clan Chronicles gives the eerie feeling of reading Asimov genetically spliced to Heinlein mothered by J.D.Robb (Nora Roberts).

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

------------Guest Post by Julie E. Czerneda------------

Author Bio:
Author photo by Roger Czerneda Photography www.photo.czerneda.com
Julie E. Czerneda photo by Roger Czerneda

Since 1997, Canadian author/former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her boundless curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Recently, she began her first fantasy series: Night’s Edge with A Turn of Light, winner of the 2014 Aurora Award for Best English Novel. A Play of Shadow followed, winning the 2015 Aurora. While there’ll be more fantasy, Julie’s back in science fiction to complete her Clan Chronicles series. Reunification #1: This Gulf of Time and Stars, came out in 2015. #2: The Gate to Futures Past will be released this September. Volume #3: To Guard Against the Dark, follows October 2017. An award-winning editor as well, Julie’s latest project is editing the 2017 Nebula Awards Showcase, a singular honour. Meet Julie at Acadia’s Dark Sky Festival, Bar Harbor, Maine this September and at Hal-Con, Halifax, this November. For more, please visit http://www.czerneda.com.

About the Clan Chronicles Series:

Cover art by Matt Stawicki www.mattstawicki.com
Cover art by Matt Stawicki www.mattstawicki.com
The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future where a mutual Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, himself a talented telepath, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #whoaretheclan.

And what will be the fate of all.

Cover art by Matt Stawicki www.mattstawicki.com
Cover art by Matt Stawicki www.mattstawicki.com
2 sets of 2 books. 1 mass market of A GULF OF TIME AND STARS and 1 hardcover of GATE TO FUTURES PAST. US/Canada only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway 

To Smell Me Is To Love Me

If you’re built that way. The means by which living things communicate has been my passion since I knew what a biologist was—and, wow, what a great thing to be. Living things communicate regularly for all manner of important reasons: don’t eat me, hold still while I eat you, learn or be eaten/or starve, that way lies death/this way less death, status/age/and oh, yes.

Reproduction. That’s a handy one for biologists to study, in part because unlike Humans, most species have a specific time when they are in the mood, being not-so-much for the remainder. Sex as a time-limited activity, usually tied to a season. Sex as the end of life, so it happens only once. There are wonderful variations on these themes, but generally speaking? You’re all in, or not interested.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Affection, even love, for those living things who enjoy it, isn’t the same as sex drive to a biologist. For us, sex is about results.

The Clan Chronicles, which started with A Thousand Words for Stranger, is at heart about sex and results. I deliberately created the Clan, the aliens we meet in the books, as having no capacity for love or affection. Their reproduction neither requires nor rewards it. Males compete with females to create a pairing able to produce offspring. Lose?
The male dies. The female? Waits—literally, in a physiological sense, her body immature--for the next contestant for her Choice.

Simple and not that far from spider sex.

The Clan have reached a point where they are losing males faster than they can be born. In other words, extinction looms. One individual, an unChosen female named Sira, has waited long enough. She’s determined to find a solution and save her kind.

How being the tough part. Oh, there are “other” humanoids within this multi-species Trade Pact. Not to breed with—biologist remember, so inter-species fecundity is right out for me--but what if one, say a Human, could successfully compete and pair with a Clan female, in order to invoke the reproductive maturation of her body? Sira, despite Clan loathing for the non-Clan, decides to try.

So far, I’ve a textbook mental experiment in reproductive behaviour, breeding for extreme/risky characteristics, and a cool alien species about to crash. A problem, but not yet a story.

There is another side to me, of course. The romantic. The dreamer. I love stories of space travel, of daring starship captains and crew, of the whole messy business of getting along when your biology doesn’t.

The driving force of the story of the Clan Chronicles may be their predicament, and Sira’s involvement of Captain Jason Morgan, a Human telepath. The heart of the story—its warmth and passion—arrives when Sira learns what her kind has forgotten.
How to love.

--------Excerpt from This Gulf of Time and Stars by Julie E. Czerneda 2015 DAW Books-----

      A lock of red-gold rose from the mass tumbling down Sira’s back, curling towards him like a languid finger. Warm and sensual, that hair, strangely willful, and the mark of a fully mature Clanswoman. She’d become that by being near him. By being attracted.

      By falling--that unforeseen consequence--in love with an alien.

      As had he. For he wasn’t, Morgan thought, the simple trader he seemed either.

      When he’d met Sira he’d been a telepath of respectable skill, for a Human, with enough potential to make him uncomfortable around the noisy minds of others and wary of the Clan, who disapproved of such power in others. Since?

      Suffice to say, he no longer noticed crowds. Sira had honed his abilities, trained and tested them to Clan standards, wanting above all else to protect him from herself. For Clan thoughts and bodies moved outside the known universe, through a dimensionless space they called the M’hir. It was real. He’d almost died there, when she’d lost the fight with her own instinct. Sira had honed his abilities, trained and tested them to Clan standards, wanting above all else to protect him from herself. For Clan thoughts and bodies moved outside the known universe, through a dimensionless space they called the M’hir. It was real. He’d almost died there, when she’d lost the fight with her own instinct.

      Almost. Instead, he and Sira had managed the formerly inconceivable. Not only had her body matured into its natural—and glorious—adult state before Choice could take place, but their minds and hearts had forged the permanent Clan pair-bond called a Joining.

      While he remained wary of the rest of her kind, even the most xenophobic of Clan couldn’t argue with that.

      Not that he cared. What mattered? He was no longer alone, no longer empty and courseless. The clear brilliant sanity of Sira’s thoughts, her passion and goodness, filled him. Each shipday he woke to the joy of discovering the universe with her. And when they made love—

      Her head half turned, hair lifting to reveal the sweet curve of her jaw, the blue of the airtag adhered to her skin, and, yes, a coy dimple. We could leave, you know.
      He came close to tripping over his own feet. Witchling.

      You started it. With distracting warmth.

-----------End Excerpt-------------

Oh, the hair? Sira—all Chosen female Clan—have opinionated hair. I did that because it gave me an instant reality check. She isn’t Human and never will be. Also, it’s a wonderfully sensual seduction device. Read the books.*

So the Clan Chronicles is a love story between aliens. It’s a science fiction examination of a biological question. It’s a lark and an epic, with dark places and some truly hilarious moments. It’s all those things at once, my dreams, for you to share.


*I’ll admit Sira’s glorious locks had their start in personal aggravation. I’d been trying to get a curl in my own hair and failed miserably. What better than fabulous self-curling hair? Naturally, I immediately made that hair a nuisance; it’s what authors do to their characters.

------- End Guest Post---------------

OK, you have your homework assignment -- go read The Clan Chronicles with special attention to the blend of science and romance.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Incorrect Information About You As a Writer May Turn Up In A Search Engine

Incorrect Information About You As a Writer
May Turn Up In A Search Engine 


Readers used to "vet" you by looking you up in a "Who's Who" or similar paper book brought out front by a reference librarian (I'm in a lot of them).  Some of that info, printed on paper, would be out of date, and some of it never was true.

The same thing happens on the internet, only sometimes the info page is not dated.  What you read must be kept in your tentative-file, and not believed until confirmed by direct contact with the individual involved.

We all know better than to believe anything found on the internet.  Except, sometimes, you are in a hurry and find something that looks legitimate, and just use it as if it is true, or the whole truth.  Much of what is written about any public figure will have been written by enemies of that public figure.
Published writers are not immune to this phenomenon.


Here is an example that might be illustrative of using a well known name as click-bait for a scam selling information about Internet Figures, people known on social media to be influential.  It is possible this site might be collecting info with bots, then reselling it to advertisers.  They did not consult me before excerpting these items.

A friend of mine found my name used thusly:


It appears some of this is lifted from things like classmates.com or ringsurf.com and other subscription services -- where I often fill forms with untrue info because it's none of their business. A lot of it is true, and lifted from my sites -- Facebook -- simegen.com -- by some kind of "bot" that really does not know how to read!  Some of it is true, or was at some time.  All of it is online somewhere, or was at one time or another.

What I'm posting here today is true as of August, 2016.

Note the copyright listings at the bottom of this page. Obviously, they are trying to conform to any legal details.

There is true "information" on that page mixed with information that is not true or way out of date.

Yes, I write books, and those are titles of mine -- but there exists newer information.

Here is where to get updated information and contact information:

You can find me on Facebook


And the Sime~Gen Group where it's easy to talk with me to directly verify information. It's not hard to get in touch.


You can talk to me on Twitter:

You can find me on LinkedIn

I'm on blogger:





I'm also on a numbeer of chat services such as whatsapp.

The master biography/bibliography that I update is:


There is a Sime~Gen wiki which is currently firmly edited by those who know what they're talking about -- but will be open to additions and embroidery by many casual readers trying to be helpful.  By then, we expect to have a paper printing of this Wiki's information in a Concordance of Sime~Gen which will be authoritative.


You can find my page on Amazon where you can use the "follow" button to get notified of new titles:http://www.amazon.com/Jacqueline-Lichtenberg/e/B000APV900/

Or focus on the Sime~Gen Series:

Here is a documentary on French TV that has a few clips of me, and discusses my Star Trek series, Kraith:

And here is Kraith for free reading:

And of course, I own and update my own domain:


So if you find info on me you want to quote, check with me first.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Famous Artist Is Sued For Denying That An Alleged Namesake's Work Is His...


Authors try very hard not to write under the same pen name as another author. Sharing a name tends to confuse and annoy readers.

How is an established artist to know if there is an obscure dabbler (no pejorative intended) somewhere who has the same name? Is it his legal responsibility to know?  If the established artist is asked to agree that a work signed with "his name" is authentic, and is threatened with a multi-million dollar lawsuit to force him to lie, what's he to do?

The legal blog of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton LLP tells a story every bit as intriguing as anything written by Jeffrey Archer (in my opinion).


I do hope the jurors are fascinated!

The art law blog of Boodle Hatfield also discusses the same dilemma with some added details. I cannot help wondering why the established artist doesn't countersue for defamation.


On the other hand, if there is consternation in the fine art world over this legal coercion of an artist to "authenticate" a work that he denies creating, it is unlikely that anyone will ever want to buy the daub in question.

My apologies for the short post!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mother Nature

That's the title of a 1999 book by anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. (No, that's not a typo.) The phrase has at least a double meaning, referring both to maternal instincts and behavior in nature and to the nature of motherhood.

Some animals practice semelparity, putting all their literal eggs in one metaphorical basket by breeding only once in a lifetime. Examples include the salmon who swims upstream to spawn and die or the spider whose newborn young eat her body. More commonly, "higher" animals practice iteroparity (what a cool-sounding word), like us and our primate kin—reproducing multiple times. A female in an iteroparous species has to balance the welfare of the newest infant against her prospects for maximizing the number of offspring who survive over the long term. "Nurturing" is only one trait of the ideal mother in nature; she may also compete against other females for the status and resources that give her children the best chance to thrive or even make hard choices about cutting her losses with one baby for the sake of future babies who will have better prospects for survival.

A culture of sapient aliens in which the dominant female's pheromones suppress ovulation in the other females in the group, as among some social mammals on Earth, would have a very different family structure from ours. Among sapient aliens with biology like that of the above-mentioned spiders, a female who devised a way to survive the birth of her children might be condemned as scandalously immoral.

Female primates during their fertile periods often mate with numerous males so that those males will protect the resulting offspring rather than threatening them. It's not uncommon for males of many social species (lions, for instance) to kill infants sired by other males in order to bring the females into estrus immediately. In some human hunter-forager cultures, people believe a fetus is built up gradually by repeated infusions of semen from multiple acts of intercourse. Women deliberately consort with several men during pregnancy, and everyone who's had sexual relations with her during that time is deemed a father to the baby. Suppose an alien species existed in which this belief reflected biological reality, so that a baby really did have multiple fathers? In their society, polyandry would probably be the norm.

Among the vast majority of primates (including Homo sapiens in most cultures), males take little part in caring for infants. A satirical novel about a women-ruled planet I've read, however, takes the logical position that because women bear the burden of pregnancy and nursing, the father should do all the rest of the work of child-rearing. Men in that society stay home to care for the house and the babies, while after giving birth women don't do much with infants besides breast-feed them.

In hard times, some pregnant animals can re-absorb or spontaneously abort embryos at an early stage. Some species even have the power to alter the sex ratios of their offspring by selectively miscarrying embryos of one sex, according to which sex has the best opportunity for reproductive success depending on the availability of resources in a particular breeding season. Think what an advantage would belong to an intelligent species that could consciously perform this kind of "natural" birth control.

Maximizing the number of surviving offspring to carry her genes doesn't mean a mother necessarily nurtures every infant she bears. In the case of a too-large litter, females of some species may abandon the weakest, maybe even eating them to "recycle" their substance as nourishment for the mother herself and her favored young.

We might find it difficult to accept as "civilized" a planet where mothers have a duty to cull sickly newborns and where eating the culls is considered perfectly reasonable. Or a society that has institutionalized and ritualized the practice of dominant males killing the children of their predecessors, as the mating duel to the death is ritualized in the Vulcan Pon Farr ceremony.

Imagine encountering a species of advanced aliens who practice one or more of these pragmatic "nature red in fang and claw" customs. Think of the Martians in Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, whose culture shocks the human characters for several reasons, not only that the Martians practice ritual cannibalism (among other things) but that they cast their young out into the desert to fend for themselves and prove their worthiness to survive. As Mike, the human "Martian," explains, among his adoptive people competition for fitness happens in infancy and childhood rather than adulthood. (We get a glimpse of this process in the earlier novel RED PLANET, which appears to be set on the same version of Mars.) Another kind of struggle for fitness among children occurs in Suzy McKee Charnas's MOTHERLINES. Upon weaning, children leave their mothers and join the "child pack." They grow up wild, learning to provide for themselves and form rivalries and alliances among their age-mates. Only at adolescence are they reclaimed by their mothers and readmitted to adult society.

Adjusting to intelligent aliens with customs like these might be more shocking to our sensibilities than the three genders and male pregnancies of the TV series ALIEN NATION.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Depiction Part 18 -- Interstellar Commerce by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 18
Interstellar Commerce
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in this series on Depiction, a writer craft tool essential to Romance Genre because it is the core of Characterization, and essential to the Science Fiction Genre because it is the core of social impact is here:

China, as noted below, is trying to build a new "Silk Road" - an intercontinental trade route that will give them a sort of ownership of Global Commerce.  The USA did that with the Panama Canal, so now we have a second Panama Canal about to open.  

So let's look at this pattern and project it onto an Interstellar scale.  
Science Fiction as we noted last week, is the Literature of Ideas, while Romance is perhaps best identified as the Literature of Soul Mates -- or possibly just the Literature of the Soul.  Or the Literature of the Happily Ever After -- the Literature of Happiness.  Or maybe the Literature of Relationship -- but "relationship" seems way too broad since it includes too many kinds of relationships.
So Science Fiction Romance might then be regarded as the Literature of Romantic Ideas.
One of the reasons we have the Internet and the Web (they are two separate inventions) is the TV Series, Star Trek.  The series sparked a
"romance" with science in many viewers who could imagine the world in which Spock commanded the Enterprise Computer.  Kirk's romance with adventure, with going where no man had gone before, and Spock's romance with (he has 6 Ph.D.'s) innovation, combined to inspire a generation, which one day might earn the title of The Greatest Generation.

The Ph.D. degree is traditionally awarded for adding to the sum total of human knowledge -- of ideas about how this universe actually works (scientifically).  The Ph.D. degree is all about going where no one has gone before, and doing the impossible while you are there.  Before the Ph.D. candidate does it, it is considered "impossible" because "you can't do that."  

In other words, the main Character Trait of the Ph.D. type person (school or no school) is that they never just do "all I can" -- but they do the job, regardless of what they can or can not do.  The Ph.D. Character Trait is "doing the impossible" even though it takes a little longer.  The Ph.D. type Character accepts no limits, especially those imposed by others, or most especially the limits imposed by the imagination of others.

So Spock is a Character depicted as having earned 6 Ph.D. Academic Degrees.  His curiosity knows no bounds.  That is the core of that Character, according to Roddenberry -- curiosity.  The intangible of "curiosity" is depicted by casting Spock as the Science Officer.  His having been cast ALSO as the First Officer (Command, not Science department) was due to Network Officials who would not buy the show with a female (Number One) as First Officer.  Roddenberry fineagled Uhura onto the bridge by persistence and subtrefuge.  

Star Trek depicted humanity's curiosity let loose in the Galaxy.  The show is a Romance with The Unknown, which is a core definition of Science Fiction and of Romance.  Romance is about getting to know a stranger, and science is about getting to know reality.  Knowing is Ideas.

Humans (and Vulcans, apparently) are capable of establishing and maintaining Relationships with intangibles such as Ideas, and tangibles such as The Enterprise, as well as processes such as Exploration, Innovation, or Commerce, and Curiosity.

No single human can exemplify all these kinds of Relationships, all at the same time.  But over a lifetime, humans can and often do cycle through the panoply of Relationships.  

A Character may "arc" (or learn from the plot events) from the beginning of a Relationship to the end or transition point of that Relationship, a point in the Character's fictional life when the focus of his/her Romance shifts to one of the other types of Relationships.  Each such "arc" has its own readership.  In targeting a Readership, we have discussed the elements of romance stories that different readerships enjoy.

There can be a Romance with Commerce as a process, a way of life, a life style.  Several branches of Romance Genre -- most notably, Historical Romance books -- explore the Archetype of The Trader.  

Science Fiction has many stories and novels about the Tramp Trader, the free trader, the pirate (Pirates are a part of The Trader archetype).  Historically, on Earth, we have had Pirates and Traders, owning their own ships, plying the trade winds among the South Sea Islands, the Carribean, and so forth.  Today it's Liberia and funding some disruptive Causes, but Pirates and the Shadow Banking system have always been part of the human world order.

Even non-fiction books have been written about being one of the two or three passengers on a Tramp Steamer, traveling to places tourists don't go, or are not welcome.  Seeing the world is the story that targets the house-or-town-bound readership.  If you live shackled to a single place, your "Romance" is with traveling elsewhere.  If you live by traveling, (say with a Circus) or as a "Military Brat" -- your "Romance" is with the stationary, settled, suburban lifestyle.

Or take the Western, for example.  Best Selling Western Romance has been written about the Drifter who begs a job on the ranch of a recently widowed woman (sometimes with children). 

There is something about the Character who has been doing what enchants readers that sparks Romance.  

All these "settings" -- South Sea Tramp Steamer, Western High Chapparal, Australian Out-Back, African Safari -- are ripe settings for the Romance story to blend with the Science Fiction plot of Confronting The Unknown.

The Science Fiction novel is the Quest of the Hero for a Ph.D. -- for adding some crucial bit to the sum total of human knowledge.  

Take, for example, the movie The African Queen:

In Africa during WW1, a gin-swilling riverboat owner/captain is persuaded by a strait-laced missionary to use his boat to attack an enemy warship.

Yeah, and it's a HOT ROMANCE, Intimate Adventure all the way.  "The Unknown" includes leeches, boat breakdowns, and being hunted.  The plot is about floating around in an old boat, and the story is about how Danger causes two susceptible people to Bond.

You can do that in the Galactic Setting, too.  

So, let's say you decide to write The African Queen set during a Galactic War.

If you've got a Galactic War, you need to depict two conflicting sides.  Maybe it's two human factions, or two non-human species.

Say it's two non-human species fighting each other for the right or privelege of owning all humanity as slaves, or possessions of some kind (maybe they're so alien, the concept slavery just is not translatable to them.)

Now create a Character from one side of that War, a venerably worn down Starship, and a Character from the other side of that War.

Here is where the Theme-Plot-Story-Worldbuilding blend has to be teased apart.

The theme is what you have to say by writing this book.  What is the take-away for the Romance reader?  What is the take-away for the Science Fiction reader?  

Why do you want to write this book (as opposed to some other book)?

Maybe you want to talk about the intrinsic worth of the human spirit?  Or the ineluctible value of the individual?

If you want a theme about the worth of the human spirit, you need Aliens who are fighting each other over some Religious premise, or the lack of Godliness).  The War, the conflict, has to be about Spirit -- whatever aspect of Spirit you want to talk about.  That specific aspect becomes your theme.

If you want to talk about the Value of a human individual -- and where that concept fits into the Idea of the value of humanity as a whole, or specific human Groups -- the two Alien species have to be at War over some sort of issue involving Value.

On Earth, historically, we fight over arable land, over potable water, or irrigation water, over Valuable Minerals (this century it seems to be Oil, but it was Gold at one time).  

So what would galaxy-spanning Alien Civilizations war over?

Habitable Planets - good stars to hold them in orbit, etc.  In other words "land" or "territory" is always a motive that is easy to explain to modern readers.

Shipping Lanes -- or paths from one place to another such as "Worm Holes" or artificial ones left by some previous star-faring civilization.  Command of Commercial Transit has always been worth War -- think of the Silk Road and Marco Polo.

China is funding a rebuild of The Silk Road to open commerce with Iran etc. and the West is suspicious that the commerce involves fissionables.
The maps of the two Silk Roads drive home the enormous scale of the project: the Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road combined will create a massive loop linking three continents. If any single image conveys China’s ambitions to reclaim its place as the “Middle Kingdom,” linked to the world by trade and cultural exchanges, the Xinhua map is it. Even the name of the project, the Silk Road, is inextricably linked to China’s past as a source of goods and information for the rest of the world.
China’s economic vision is no less expansive than the geographic vision. According to the Xinhua article, the Silk Road will bring “new opportunities and a new future to China and every country along the road that is seeking to develop.” The article envisions an “economic cooperation area” that stretches from the Western Pacific to the Baltic Sea.

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

So just expand that map into a connection among the "arms" of our Galaxy.  Suppose that, with some massive capital investment, one faction of your Waring Species could gain CONTROL of the access to all the others?

Of course, one of the species fighting for control might be "part human" or some kind of genetic hybrid.

Suppose it was not humanity per se that these Aliens are fighting to own.  It isn't slaves they want or need -- but genes.  

They need to inject human genes into some Aliens (maybe their own species, maybe some non-sentient species they've found somewhere) to create Pilots or some kind of necessary functionary to explore, open and/or hold the Commerce Access Points -- the Interstellar Silk Road.  

And of course, at some point, someone uses the same process to inject Alien genes into humans.  

Would they engineer the hybrid to be sterile?

Would such a sterile hybrid be able to Love?  

So, suppose the galaxy is fighting a Trade War, and the object-item-resource being Traded -- the market being cornered -- were fresh human genes.

Many good Science Fiction novels have been written about genetics, even interstellar civilizations at war, and many of the "species" involved are genetic hybrids between Earth humans and Earth animals.  S. Andrew Swann is master of complex galactic civilizations, plots-and-counter-plots, all mixed up with arcane (and fantasy) genetics.
S. Andrew Swann creates many complex and compeling Relationships for his Characters, but not Romance Genre.  Check out the Moreau Omnibus.
This does not narrow the choice of Theme very much.  There is the morality of genetic commerce to explore, and there is the morality of mixing species to discuss.  There are the ramifications of creating such living hybrids -- what are they?  What rights do they have?  What will they do to assert those rights?  

So another thing humans and Aliens might go to War over would be the entire spectrum of "rights," "priveleges," and where there are no rights or priveleges, then "power."  

Leading science fiction writers, such as David Brin and Robert Sawyer, have suggested interstellar commerce, especially with Aliens, would be conducted in beamed transmissions of coded patterns from which things can be constructed - 3-D printing of genetic constructs.  The human genome has already been "reduced" to code, to numbers.  

So the transport of physical objects might not be what "commerce" means among Alien civilizations.  

Knowledge -- that Ph.D. concept of adding something new to the sum total of human knowledge -- could be what is trafficed via interstellar commerce.  

Jack Campbell has done Interstellar War (two wonderful, related, series) among human factions, with some Aliens fomenting the humans to a 100 year war by playing "Let's You And Him Fight" so they can pick off the weakened winner later.

His books depict wonderful space battles that use plausible understanding of time and distance, plus 3-dimensional maneuvering.  The technology is likewise plausible.  And there are some good Love Stories!  
Jack Campbell's themes center on the Human Spirit, and the value of the individual in combination with differently talented individuals.  He relies on inherent personality, plus acquired skills, to round out his Characters.
Ownership can be very sexy.  We often evoke the satisfaction of "possessing" in depicting sexuality.

And we have seen what the Creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer did with professionalism in Prostitution in Firefly.

 Read the one-line descriptions of the episodes to get an overview.

Note in Serenity -- "precious salvaged cargo" -- in The Train Job "cargo turns out to be badly needed medication" -- in Shindig we have a "smuggling transaction."

The prostitution/companion hired-woman concept is about "commerce" and the material goods being moved theme is about commerce.  Commerce is the envelope theme, and each story depicts a sub-theme of commerce.

In Old Mrs. Reynolds it says:

After ridding a peaceful planet of a group of bandits, Mal and his crew are honored for their heroism. But when he returns to the Serenity, a horrified Mal is told he inadvertently married one of the local women during the celebration.
---------end quote--------

Bandit, married, two types of commerce, as is "being Honored."  The trade of tangible and intangible value -- commerce.  Firefly is famous for the lack of non-human Characters.  What if there were non-humans? 

See how tight, focused, pointed the thematic structures are, then see how the fans of this show react to the show. Few, if any, fans will say they are reacting to the tightness of the thematic bundle structure -- but that tightness almost always attracts dedicated fans.

Inside the envelope of "Commerce" -- you find your statement, your theme, your reason why you want to write this particular story.  For example, "All commerce is good."  "Commerce is only trade for profit."  "All commerce leads to war."  "Trade is Trickery."  

Pick some statement about barter, value, as a theme and it will instantly define the Main Character and the Mate to that Character.  The Plot begins when the two meet, working at cross-purposes, or to similar goals but by different methods.  See again, the film, The African Queen.

If your theme is, "All commerce is good and leads to Peace," your Main Character may be trying to Open Trade Negotiations with Aliens while the Soul Mate Character is a thief, grifter, guerrilla warrior, freedom fighter, or just plan smuggling scalawag. 

Or perhaps the Soul Mate is an Alien guerrilla marketer looking to promote a product on the cheap to humans.  Maybe the product would be the Fountain of Youth for humans, or perhaps it would be the most potent poison known (possibly a drug that gives a High then kills.)  Or maybe he's selling Tribbles.  Or perhaps he's selling "protection." 

Choose the Soul Mate's endeavor or business model from the master theme, and give it a sub-theme of that set.  

For example: "All commerce leads to Peace" might generate the sub-theme for the Soul Mate of the Trade Deal Negotiator of "Creative Accounting is in the Cost of Doing Business" (meaning skimming and bribes are included in the shelf-tag price as are tariffs.)

The skimming, bribes, etc. are a normal part of an employee's compensation in many countries, and there the Peace Shattering Offense would be to object to skimming or bribery.

Many low or minimum wage employees in the USA today look at Office Pilfering and approximating the "petty cash" envelope's due when making change out of it as a legitimate part of their compensation for loyalty to their jobs. 

So suppose your Trade Negotiator tried to hire a local for the equivalent of what we call minimum wage.  Then various items go missing from the Embassy offices.  That is PLOT generated from Theme via Character.  "Items go missing" is a Plot Event that illustrates the envelope theme of Commerce and the sub-theme of Creative Accounting (minimum wage being redefined as only part of the job's compensation.)  What your Main Character does in response to discovering items missing is Plot.  Why he/she does it is Story. 

Falling in love with your New Hire, accusing some High Ranking Noble you are negotiating with of petty theft, then discovering the New Hire is your Office Thief generates the STORY that is welded to the Plot via the Theme.  The story is about trust and betrayal, two of the core elements in a Commercial Transaction.  

Entire civilizations and even religions open up behind that bare bones conceptual outline set in a Trade Mission's office where the objective is to make Peace with Aliens, not fleece them.  

Some other member of the Trade Mission may have orders to fleece the Aliens (because it would be stupid to expect to make Peace with Aliens), and see the theft by the New Hire as proof it is morally obligatory to fleece the aliens. That is Story generated by the Setting which is generated by the Theme.  

Each of the characters has family, trigger issues, blind spots, and mission-critical, life-or-death results to deliver to superiors.  Each of these Character Traits is derived from the Master Theme, and depicts the individual Character's theme. 

By the time you have all these elements put together, they become so blended you can not distinguish plot from story from character from theme -- all these elements contain and depict all the other elements.  Often the best way to communicate all that to the Reader is via Symbolism.

Pick a set of elements and blend them into a Depiction of Interstellar Commerce you could write.  As an exercise, you might do three or four outlines of this type.

If you run out of Ideas, check out Polesotechnic League: Book 1 of 7 (also known as The Man Who Counts):

Poul Anderson was famous for his socio-economic science fiction with believable Aliens, derived as I've said many times, by imagining what various Earth animals might be like if they developed intelligence and an interstellar civilization.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Aliens In The Offing? (or Not)

"The offing" is either the deep part of the sea as visible from the shore, or something likely to happen or manifest itself soon... (ie, metaphorically on the horizon).

I'd like to share a few links to DiscoverMagazine.com/Aliens  It's the sort of blog I ought to have found years ago!  This article, about Tabby's Star is great inspiration, and is also fascinating for the comments. KIC 8462852 might be too far off to be "in the offing"! It has a mysterious flicker.

This article is about how to dupe aliens into thinking that Earth has no oxygen, and other ways to not attract undesirable alien attention, 

Please scroll down to enjoy the guest blog from Friday/Saturday.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Shifting Landscape of Publishing

Here are links to two blog posts related to the challenges of flourishing as an author in today's publishing environment.

Horror writer Brian Keene on how maintaining a balance between traditional releases from mainstream publishers and newer methods and formats helps an author hang onto long-time readers:

Missing in Action

He discusses the advantages of digital publishing and online distribution but also recounts his experience of the downside of having no traditionally published books in physical bookstores. Many of his older readers didn't follow him online because they didn't realize he was still writing new material. The article reminds us that not everybody is cutting-edge computer-savvy or in the habit of seeking online first (or at all) for products they want, including books. Having books stocked in stores offers another advantage he barely touches on—the chance to sell to impulse purchasers who otherwise wouldn't know the author exists.

Kameron Hurley on when to quit your day job:

When to Quit Your Day Job

The surprise in this essay is that, unlike most people giving advice on this topic, Hurley doesn't focus on strategies for leaving the "day job" as soon as feasible. Instead, she recommends sticking with it as long as you can (provided it's not a soul-sucking ordeal) for the financial security of salary and benefits. How long can an individual live (much less support a family) on a $100,000 advance, which looks like a fortune at first glance? The portion left after taxes and the agent's percentage will last at most two or three years, depending on the cost of living in a particular city. And how many aspiring authors will ever receive a windfall of that magnitude? An advance that size WOULD be a functional fortune for me, because my husband and I are already living perfectly well on our combined retirement-income streams. That fact, however, supports Hurley's recommendations, because one of her points mentions quitting the day job if one has a reliable income such as the salary of a steadily employed spouse.

Selling a book for a huge advance is in that way a bit like winning a million dollars in the lottery. If a young winner thinks, "Wow, I'm a millionaire," and starts spending like one, he'll soon go broke. If he decides to quit his job and exist on his windfall with a modest lifestyle, he'll get at most twenty years or so of leisure before he has to find a job again. On the other hand, a million dollars really would make the winner rich if he or she were already at or near retirement.

My personal fantasy of writing as a get-rich scheme involves film options. Since the books are already written and published, that income would be free money, similar to winning a lottery (and, from what I've heard, not much more likely).

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Depiction Part 17 - Depicting First Contact - Take Me To Your Leader by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 17
Depicting First Contact
Take Me To Your Leader 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of the Depiction Series are listed here:


This Tuesday blog is generally about Alien Romance Novels, about how to blend science, fiction, and romance into romance stories where love conquers all and brings a couple to a happily ever after "ending."  Science Fiction is largely defined as, "The Literature of Ideas."

So you wouldn't think politics was our beat.  Just look at current election coverage, political ads, and punditry of political analysis.  What could politics have to do with Leadership or Literature of Ideas?

However, this blog is about science fiction romance, and in science fiction one must build the entire world behind the characters around some one, single, unique, new, concept or premise.

There is an entire sub-genre of science fiction called sociological science fiction where the science being fictionalized is Sociology.

Such novels examine the fallacious assumptions humans make about "reality" -- such as which traits are inherently just human, and which traits human infants acquire from parents.

What is cultural, and what is genetic?  What precisely defines "human."  Are we just another species of Great Ape, or something else?

And if we're just another Great Ape right now, does that mean we will be nothing more than a Great Ape thousands of years from now?  Or thousands of years ago?

We are now accumulating data about exoplanets, and how common the conditions for life are in the galaxy.  What would Aliens on other planets have in common with Great Apes?

One common organizational theme among chimps and bonobos is that there is a single, dominant individual in each group.


With chimps, it is a dominant male, and with bonobos it is a dominant female who creates order in the grouping.

It can be argued that humans likewise pick an "alpha" male, a leader to follow, such as Donald Trump, or any of the 15 other men and 1 woman, Republicans, who ran for the office of President of the United States in 2015-2016.

And on the Democratic side, in US Politics, we have Hillary Clinton.  I see Bernie Sanders as an alpha male, and Hillary as an alpha-female.

To "depict" a human grouping, do you (the writer of romantic fiction ) have to designate a "Leader?"  Does the definition of human grouping include a Leader?

And if so, are we chimps or bonobos.  Do read that article.  It depicts chimps as war-like, belligerent, because they are dominated by a male, but bonobos as peaceful, easier to negotiate with, because they are dominated by a female.

If you look at humanity around this Earth, you see we seem to have some of each kind, but the problem is any particular human can be this kind on Monday and that kind on Tuesday.

The USA has never had a female president (yet), but other countries have been "led" by females.  Has that change in gender of leadership changed the behavior of those groups?

If you listen to the political rhetoric bandied about today, you will hear the word Leader (or related leadership, leading, etc) quite frequently.  The pundits analysis seems to be that everything that's "wrong" with the USA is due to a lack of "leadership."  That may be one of the fallacious assumptions we discussed in parts 3, 4, 6, and 7 of the Theme-Plot Integration series.

Here's the index to theme-plot integration:

And we built on those concepts later:

To create a theme and a plot for romance novels set among the stars, you need to build your Aliens (maybe not their World, but the Alien species itself) using the human template but with some, single, element different.

Only one difference (per alien species) is not an unbreakable rule, but it is the most reliable rule.

Since this is science fiction romance, you formulate the aliens using the kind of thinking trained into students of science. When designing an experiment, science teaches us to vary just one element at a time -- one feature -- one parameter at a time, and compare the results.

Note how Gene Roddenberry created Vulcans with the single "difference" of being non-emotional.  Yes, there's a long story behind that -- originally Number One (a female First Officer) was un-emotional and the Vulcan science officer was emotional but extra-smart.  To get the show on the air, Roddenberry had to eliminate the female bridge officer because no viewer would believe a man would take orders from a woman.  (how times have changed!)

So we ended up with the non-emotional Vulcans, and Roddenberry redesigned his aliens to suit the network executives so that their entire world culture, perhaps biology, was non-emotional.  Then to make the drama work, of course the non-emotional Vulcans turned out to have raging emotions.  But for Depicting First Contact, we learn to hide all differences except one.

Take C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner novel series, which I have been reviewing here for years.  Most recently #16 Tracker #17 Visitor :


Cherryh depicts her human "lost colony" as having all the varied traits humans have, included complex politics.  Her aliens on this planet, the Atevi, are at first depicted the way Roddenberry  presented the Vulcans to us, as having a single trait at variance with humans, and most everything else pretty much similar.

That single different trait is the first defining attribute presented, and often repeated in various forms.  For the Atevi it is that they don't love, and can't understand Love, but have all other emotions plus one humans can't understand.  They bond in couples, and have vast and complicated political alliances often based on family relationships.  In other words, they're more human than we can realistically expect any aliens we meet (or find the ruins of) to be.

The Atevi form their political alliances around a Leader - a single dominant individual.  And the dominant individuals vie with each other to be the most dominant among all dominants.  But with Atevi, that dominate individual may be either male or female, and the distribution seems fairly random.

We have also seen Gene Roddenberry's Vulcans at least revere an elderly but dominant female, T'Pau.

So, according to that article on chimps and bonobos, there is a distinct difference in brain configuration that developed when a river formed and divided their mutual ancestors geographically.  They evolved in separate directions, and today that brain distinction manifests as a difference in gender of the Leader.

So, should that cliche opening line for a First Contact story be, "Take Me To Your Dominant Female?"

And if so, then what for?  I mean why would Aliens land and make a bee line for a Leader?  Doesn't that plot-element require that the Aliens only do business leader-to-leader?

Is there a fallacy embedded in the whole concept of Leader?

Note, Roddenberry and Cherryh both depict their main Aliens (who will produce individuals who bond with humans) as having leaders.  The Atevi need leaders.  All hell breaks loose among Atevi if Leadership fails.  They are essentially evolved from herd creatures and physiologically need a Leader.  Vulcans, on the other hand, appear to have chosen a social structure organized around a Leader, and a group of Leaders creating a structured government.

The question a writer of romance stories should address when designing an Alien Lover is, "Do humans need leaders?"

When you have a vision of human "society" (as opposed to generic Great Ape society), what humans absolutely need and what humans choose as convenient (because we're lazy apes) or what we choose because some among us are big bullies and grab leadership, then ask yourself what humans need Leaders for.

What purpose or function do human leaders serve?  What happens among leaderless humans (such as a random collection of survivors of a lost colony -- or maybe a colony on Mars).

What is the connection between social Leadership, and Command of "the economy?"

What is "economy" -- where does it come from, who makes it happen, why does it happen, what is it for, and who needs it anyway?

Does an "economy" need a leader as society does?

Now presumably, aliens operate their economy according to the same laws and principles that humans do.  It is something we ought to have in common with any space faring species.  Many famous First Contact stories ...

(such as In Value Decieved In Value Deceived by H.B. Fyfe
Analog/Astounding Science Fiction, November 1950, pp. 38-46
http://www.unz.org/Pub/AnalogSF-1950nov-00038  )

...depict Trade as the first transaction, not friendship, love or even war.

C. J. Cherryh took that approach with the story of how the first human colonists moved from the Space Station around the Atevi world, down to the ground.  At first meeting, the humans managed to start trading with the local Atevi -- much as the first colonists in North America traded with the Native Americans.  It was only later that misunderstanding due to that single Atevi trait that differs from human caused war to break out.

In human sociological history on Earth, we have seen trade precede war many times.  Trade (or an economic transaction -- Value for Value) is perhaps more fundamental to human nature than even sex or war.

Language evolves rapidly and diverges when there is isolation.  If you are writing Historical Romance, you should keep in mind that modern characters could not pop back in time and understand spoken English.  Even written English is not that easy, if you look at some actual manuscripts.


Even today, with the internet, populations that do not communicate with each other (such as the age-gap) evolve different meanings for the same words. Thus on this blog, I try to define the difference between what I designate as Plot and what I designate as Story, many times.  Plot is the sequence of events or character actions; story is the characters' reactions to those events, feelings and motives, lessons learned. Plot is generally external, Story is generally internal. Many writing teachers reverse the meanings of the words, but all identify these two separate moving parts of the novel's mechanism.

So when you are building an Alien Civilization from scratch, keeping in mind the "one-difference" rule, you might decide that since C. J. Cherryh has already done "Love is Incomprehensible" and Gene Roddenbery started to do "Emotion is Incomprehensible" then chickened out (but I did it in Kraith
http://simegen.com/fandom/startrek/  ),
you might want to explore what single difference your Aliens might have in the realm of Commerce that would make, say, MONEY incomprehensible.

We make many assumptions about "money." It is such a common idea, dating back before Biblical Times, that we often assume that all creatures in the cosmos have money.

But really, what we use for money now is very different from what it was 4 thousand years ago.

Coin of the Realm is a term which had literal meaning.  The reason Julius Ceasar's profile was on coins was that The Leader was the creator of COIN.  The coin was "of the Realm" -- the kingdom or empire struck the coins.  The original concept was that the coin was made of something that had intrinsic value (gold, silver).

Common practice was to shave slivers off the edges of coins and then pass off the light-weight coin as a whole coin.  Also coating wood -- the wooden-nickle -- to look like money was done.  Counterfeit Money has always been with us since money was invented.  Today it's hacking into the bank computers and jiggering the numbers.  Or the Federal Reserve (Central Bank) just printing more of what looks like money but is as counterfeit as any criminal's coin, having the same effect on the economy as counterfeit money does.

Remember, counterfeiting was weaponized in World War II to bring down whole countries by flooding their economy with bogus bills.

So would such deception be the expected practice with your Aliens?  Or would they have an economic system which was immune to counterfeit coin of the realm?

How would you design an economic system that was impervious to a counterfeiting flood (or hacking, identity theft and taking out a mortgage in your name which essentially counterfeit's your personal realm's coin?)

Note how Roddenberry created Aliens lacking all emotion, but Cherryh created aliens lacking only Love, but replaced "Love" with another emotion rooted in different biology.

Look at chimps and bonobos. They trade in mutual grooming, share food, and create an "economy" based on sex and dominance.  Yet they're smart enough to figure out how to cooperate to get food.  Wolves bring down large prey in packs, cooperating for food but then letting the dominant wolf apportion the meat.  Apparently, human tribes can develop a society based on that cooperative model on a tribal level.

One question you, as world builder, have to answer is, "Once food (wealth) is acquired by cooperation, does The Leader apportion the wealth among His/Her followers as he chooses, or do the individuals who cooperated snatch what they think is their own portion?"

Poul Anderson, among many early science fiction writers, pointed out the way to build Alien Species that "make sense" to modern, human readers is to examine the basic biology of animal species that really exist on Earth and extrapolate what kind of civilization that biology would generate, given evolved intelligence.  He founded a long and prolific career on that method, and modern science fiction writers tend to follow that rule successfully.

Understand the biological drives shaping human cultural choices about Trade (such as they may be free will choices), then find one parameter to change to create your Alien.

Which parameter you change, and from what to what you change it, will define your THEME.

Your plot will explode outward from that premise with natural inevitability. You will have depicted an abstract statement about the nature of Reality in concrete terms as we discussed.


Or in this entry on depicting Dynastic Wealth:


To do that as well as Roddenberry or Cherryh have done with emotion, you have to understand what money is to humans, and why we created it, then change that why to make your Aliens.

Humans started with barter -- trade.  I'll trade you this horse-halter for that bushel of corn?  No, no not THAT bushel, it's wormy.  This nice halter is worth that other, nice fresh clean bushel of corn.

Trade is object for object -- and it is all about what an object is worth to you, right then.

I'll trade you this gold coin for that bucket of water?  No, this water was too hard to come by -- I'll give it to you if you give me that horse.  Well, if I don't have a horse, I don't need a whole bucket of water.

Value is subjective and situational.

If you're dying of thirst, water is worth all the gold you are carrying.

The value of your aching back (drawing a bucket of water up from the bottom of a deep well sans donkey) vs. the value of a bushel of corn you could buy in town (5 mile walk away, then back again hauling a bushel of corn) if only you had a gold coin to give to the farmer in the market (provided you could get there before the market closed or all the corn was gone.)

Calculating the value of a gold coin is a vitally important skill, and always has a wild card factor, a gamble involved.

Today we call that arbitrage.

The value of a material object, or a coin, is fundamentally guesswork.

A gold coin, or a hundred dollar bill (actually a 1 ounce gold coin is about $1200 today), is coin of the realm, and medium of exchange.

You can "sell" a bucket of water for the value of the water, plus the value-added by that water being in a bucket at ground level rather than 200 feet down a well.  You might sell the leaky wooden bucket with the water -- or not.  Separate deal.

You give the water, you get the coin, you carry the coin to town, you give the coin, you get the bushel of corn.  Now you don't have any water to cook the corn in and you're 5 miles from home where you can shuck the corn and cut the kernels from the cob, making the burden lighter.  You have to pay someone so you can borrow their wagon?

That's an economy.  The bushel of corn cost someone a sore back, too, and a year's work tilling the soil, pulling weeds, etc etc -- it's not easy growing corn.  In the price of that bushel of corn is also figured the cost of paying soldiers to defend the land from invaders who would steal the corn and kill the farmer.  To pay the soldiers, the Leader has to create Coin of the Realm as a Medium of Exchange.

Aliens might trade in buckets of water, but might not have corn, or any kind of vegetable crop. Maybe they only eat animals, but they surely eat something.

Last week, we examined the very definition of life, itself.

The value of "life" has mystical variables -- which you can pick through to find that ONE element to change to generate your Aliens.


So what is the "value" of work?  A material object (hunk of wood, for example) is worth something -- variable with how difficult it was to acquire, how rare it is.  That same material object plus "work" might equal a Polished Soup Bowl, a Comfortable Rocking Chair, hoops-and-loops to hold clothing together (frogs), table, shelves, hair clasps, whatever you can make out of wood.  To make those things requires a) skill and b) time maybe c) bleeding from splinters.

The work is intangible, but has VALUE in coin-of-the-realm.

Consider that the realm authorizing that coin is your own, personal, only-you, ecology of one person. You are a sovereign individual.

Read Clan of the Cave Bear .


This famous novel depicts the economy of the sovereign, lone, individual.

Every collected object used for food, clothing, shelter, has an assigned value in time-effort-energy and in how replaceable it is.  When the hero returns "home" to find his little shelter utterly destroyed, you understand what a dollar actually IS.  You understand what ownership and sovereignty is.  And you understand what Capitalism really is (as opposed to what "they" have told you capitalism is.)

The rule of Fallacy being more popular than Accuracy seems to hold with respect to Capitalism.

But words are as variable in value as coins.

Again, consider how language shifts and changes -- the same words do not mean the same thing to all people.

A word is "worth" (e.g. means) what you say it does, just as a coin is worth what you think you can get for it (fallacious thought or not.)

Today's online dictionaries try to keep up with the ever changing definitions of words.


... defines capitalism thusly:

an economic system based on private ownership of capital
capitalist economy
socialism, socialist economy
an economic system based on state ownership of capital
venture capitalism
capitalism that invests in innovative enterprises (especially high technology) where the potential profits are large
Type of:
free enterprise, laissez-faire economy, market economy, private enterprise
an economy that relies chiefly on market forces to allocate goods and resources and to determine prices

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No, that's not it.  "Capitalism" is actually just a system of describing what the hero of CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR lost when his belongings were destroyed -- belongings he had gathered raw materials for and crafted into items essential to his survival.

"Capital" is not MONEY.  Capital is not COIN (of any Realm).

Capital, like the "Packing Fraction" from physics, is the Money you do not have BECAUSE you have a thing instead.

The ratio of the total volume of a set of objects packed into a space to the volume of that space. The difference between the isotopic mass of a nuclide and its mass number, divided by its mass number. The packing fraction is often interpreted as a measure of the stability of the nucleus.
Packing fraction | Define Packing fraction at Dictionary.com


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

As in Physics, Capital has stability measured by how much it cost -- how MUCH is NOT THERE, how much it would take to pry your hot fist away from your possession.

Understanding this secret of reality (hidden by changing definitions of words) makes the difference between the rich and the poor.

I've discussed Rich Dad: Poor Dad previously.  The book explains how what we sometimes call the "cycle of poverty" is more a matter of language facility than wisdom or skill at life.  By cycle of poverty, I mean the phenomenon of poor parents raising poor children trapped in poverty all their lives, raising another generation of poor kids.

We have many prominent examples of those who have 'broken the cycle of poverty' among our political candidates in 2016.

We have Dr. Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, even Ted Cruz, -- they all have tales to tell of that steep, hard climb out of having nothing.  They do not seem (from what they say in public) to understand that what they did depended on knowing the difference between money and capital, but look closely at their stories and it is plain as day.

Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money - That The Poor And Middle Class Do Not!   Robert T. Kiyosaki


The secret is simply that capital is not money.  You can 'save' capital.  You can NOT 'save' money.  When you put "money" in a bank, it becomes "capital."  (unless it's in a checking account to be spent).

Money (coin) is a MEDIUM OF EXCHANGE -- it is worth whatever two entities (Aliens included) think or say or determine it is worth.  The real value of "money" lies in its velocity, the rates and direction of movement of the coins.  Money is a force (mystically, you can consider it fueled by the Soul.)

Capital is fixed, real, tangible asset that is worth to you exactly what you paid for it, what it cost you to acquire, and that includes emotional investment.

This is what the Atevi can't grasp -- humans LOVE the objects they invest their emotions into (grandma's hand-stitched quilt is worth more than the scrap rags she made it from).  We make things, and we "love" those things because we made them.  It is a capital investment of Self.  We even accuse people of "loving" Money.

Your potential work (your aching back) has a value to you, independent of anything anyone else might think it is worth.  Your potential work is your human capital.  It is potential 'value' because it is unrealized.  You can't exchange it. You can't move it.  You can't reassign ownership.  It is capital.

Money and Capital share a property that I expect Aliens would understand.  Money and Capital can both be "made."

As in Clan of the Cave Bear, a single individual can gather material objects in one spot and craft mission-critical items from that material.

The gathering costs expenditure of capital (remember, labor, your aching back, is your capital).  The crafting (learning to do it, then doing it, failing, discarding gathered material ruined by failure, finally succeeding) of the matter into a usable object costs an expenditure of Capital.

Life -- time, effort, energy, health, RISK, combat with others, competing for rare stuff -- is your Capital.  You invest that capital by gathering then crafting.  Now you HAVE an object that is mission critical, and that object is Capital.

For more iconic imagery on this abstract definition of what is money and what is capital, watch the film Enemy Mine.


This is a true Love Story, complete with human/alien pregnancy, sans sex!

When corporations report "Capital Expenditure" they do not refer to taking Capital (land, buildings, factory equipment) and selling it.  They refer to taking from incoming cash flow and BUYING land, buildings, equipment.  For example, if you own a house, and it needs a new roof, you do a Capital Expenditure, spending your wages or salary to buy a new roof (or the materials to go hammer a new roof over your head yourself.)

Capital is STATIC -- trapped, concrete -- but MONEY has a value derived from its VELOCITY.  How trade-able is your gold or silver coin?  What is a dollar worth?  Capital is what you exchange (barter) but Money is the medium by which you exchange it.  Money is a SYMBOL.


Coin of the Realm has a value based on the value of the Realm, itself.

Your aching back is the coin of your own, personal, sovereign realm.

I think any living Alien species we meet up with will be able to comprehend an aching back (or carapace), or at the very least, "Whew!  I did it!"

Of course, a hive species might have a problem with "I."  Writing a Human/Alien Romance with a hive species might be a challenge.

But assume your Aliens are individuals, and here they are among 21st Century humans on Earth (or maybe finding a human colony on Mars or "out there" somewhere.)

How will they understand working for a living?  Paychecks?  Cell phone bills.  Starbucks expensive coffee.

The film Starman gives you a start on this problem.


This kind of story fairly well defines science fiction.  In a First Contact situation, you have to set aside your assumptions because they are all probably fallacious.

C. J. Cherryh depicts this process with razor sharp precision in the entire FOREIGNER series, but targets it especially well in the novel VISITOR where the language of the new Aliens, the Kyo, has to be puzzled out nearly from scratch.

Finding your own fallacies amidst your assumptions is extremely difficult, but it is in fact one of the primary skills of the working scientific researcher.  Nothing blinds you to facts more than your assumptions, and how assiduously you have examined your assumptions determines how blinded you will be by Romance.

So, what if your Aliens have as many unexamined and possibly fallacious assumptions as the human Characters in your Romance story?  That could be a source of Conflict for your couple, and misunderstandings greater than C. J. Cherryh has depicted.

Armed with that idea, and your own personal take on what an economy is, where it comes from, why bother to have one, and what "labor" is (Capital or Money?), and who owns the resulting material objects, write a 750 piece of dialog for a First Contact Romance novel.

Consider the subject might be the Minimum Wage.  Suppose the Alien is trying to hire a Security Guard for a foray into the White House and an official, "Take Me To Your Leader" meeting.

What should the Alien pay?  What multiple of the Minimum Wage?  And how do you convince an Alien (with an alien idea about paid labor and skilled labor) to pay that much?

Depict that entire Alien culture's economic system in 750 words of dialogue, and spark the hottest Romance in this Galaxy.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg