Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Cozy Science Fiction Part 1 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Other People's Faces...and Stuff.
The most interesting copyright-law related blog of the week was penned by Kimberly Buffington of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. The cautionary tale concerns a young lady who was photographed without her knowledge or consent while she was eating. A photographer emerged from hiding and asked her to sign a waiver, giving him permission to make use of her likeness, and she refused.
Six years later, the young lady started to see her unmistakable likeness on posters in franchise outlets of that same restaurant. What is more, some posters had been photoshopped to make it look like she was partying with alcohol and other people.
Curious? Follow this link for the skinny.
And in case that did not work for you:
I think the young lady has a point. What if her career depended on teetotalism? What if one of the other persons--and any of his apparent acquaintances--turns out to be of interest to the authorities?
Not only does this cautionary tale warn anyone who uses for commercial purposes the photographs they have taken, it also inspires my imagination with at least three stories. Which reminds me of The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde. (Google Books cannot find reviews, but there are plenty on GoodReads.com).
It is not quite too late to submit your comments on the qualities and passions you'd like to see in the next Register of Copyrights.
Opine here. https://www.research.net/r/RegisterOfCopyrightsNR
One of the most important points to consider making (perhaps) is that additional weight ought to be given to the unique and thoughtful responses from creative persons who depend on copyright protections of their own work for their livelihood.
Finally, one can no longer rely on glaringly bad spelling and grammar to flag phishing attempts and spoof emails. Beware. This week, I've been bombarded with some clever ones purporting to tell me that I have purchased some very expensive sporting gear celebrating a certain Florida football team named after a large member of the cat family.
All the best,
Thursday, January 26, 2017
As an almost lifelong science fiction reader (mostly "soft" SF, since I'm mainly a fantasy and horror fan), I can't help nitpicking at the new TV series TIMELESS, even though I'm enjoying it. Premise: The antagonist has stolen the prototype time machine (the Mothership) in order to leap around through U.S. history trying to change the past, for reasons that seem justified and vitally important to him. The good guys—a historian (Lucy), a soldier tasked with eliminating the villain by any means available, and the scientist mainly responsible for inventing the time travel device—pursue the thief in the smaller "Lifeboat" and struggle to keep history on track. The writers of the program attempt to take seriously the present-day reverberations of changes in the past, e.g., Lucy returns from the first excursion to discover that her terminally ill mother is fine and was never sick, she had a different father in the new timeline, she's engaged to a man who's a stranger to her, and her sister's existence has been erased. Alterations occur only when it suits the plot, however; the "butterfly effect" of small deviations potentially cascading into huge changes doesn't show up.
Just as series such as GILLIGAN'S ISLAND have the Omnidisciplinary Scientist, an expert in whatever category of science that week's plot requires, TIMELESS has an Omnidisciplinary Historian. Like experts in any other field of study, professors of history specialize. No one historian can know every period in minute detail, not even every period in American history (which seems to be Lucy's specialty). Her familiarity with the events of every date the time machine lands on and the backstory of every historical person they meet strains credibility. It wouldn't take more than an extra minute or two for each episode to show her reading up on whatever span of dates they're about to visit, which would go a long way toward plausible suspension of disbelief. And what's with that huge walk-in closet stocked with any type of clothing the travelers happen to need? When the time machine was built, did the designers PLAN to hop all over the past two or three centuries risking permanent damage to the timeline?
Hardest for me to accept is the scene in last week's episode, when Lucy tries to spook a serial killer in 1893 by revealing knowledge of details of his past that would appear only in an in-depth biography—and the team had no advance reason to suspect they would even meet this guy.
At the beginning of the same episode, Lucy has been kidnapped by the villain and taken to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. One character laments, as they're preparing to pursue the Mothership, "We're short a historian." Have they forgotten the Internet exists? If Lucy were there, she would probably have to look up the World's Fair to gather information or at least refresh her memory; the other characters could brief themselves the same way.
What really bugs me, though, is how the characters behave with such a sense of urgency in every episode. They have some means of tracking the Mothership. They always know where and when the villain has landed. Yet they act as if catching up with him is a life-or-death rush. Uh—they have a TIME MACHINE. They could research the target date and location for months or years, then transport themselves to the precise place and moment to intercept the villain.
Clearly the writers either haven't thought through the implications of time travel or ignore them in the interests of drama. A glaring example of consequences of the fact that a network science fiction series has to appeal to a general audience, not just the SF-fan subset thereof.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Theme-Archetype Integration Part 4 - Marriage and Ownership
Previous parts in this Theme-Archetype Integration series
And previously on Marriage:
And now Part 4 opening a whole new can of worms, ownership and marriage.
This series on integrating Theme with Archetype was started because of a question posed by a reader of this blog. Exactly what is an archetype? What are we really talking about here?
And the answer is complicated because these Tuesday posts are on what goes on inside a writer's mind before the light bulb, "I've got an idea for a story!" flashes on.
This series is about what writers need to know about archetypes in order to use them effectively, and in such a way as to connect with an audience. And all of this is about the period before the Idea occurs to you.
So "what" an archetype is to you depends in some part on what you intend to do with it and for whom you are doing that. An archetype is not intellectual property. The applied and realized archetype - the Characters and their Story - is intellectual property which is owned.
An archetype is a pattern -- like a dress pattern cut out in tissue paper, or a "template" for a web page so that you add your own images and text to a pre-existing design.
In the case of the Archetypes that subsume our shared Reality, the owner of the Archetype is the Creator of the Universe.
We've discussed theme at great length (and will have to discuss it continuously). The essence of story is conflict that progresses through plot events to a resolution.
What conflicts with what and to what ending -- how those elements relate to each other is where the theme resides.
Theme is a statement about reality, or an inescapable truth, a lesson to be learned because of the plot events that happen to the main character as a result of that main character's character traits.
Theme is the writer's understanding of the nature of life, the universe, and everything as it pertains to the reader's personal problems, joys, triumphs and failures.
What a human being is, and how we related to each other (or to Aliens from some other planet), is all a matter of opinion. But where did that opinion come from and how do you explain how you arrived at it?
For example, Love Conquers All is our primary theme in the Romance genre. But how do we know that, despite all the reality based evidence to the contrary?
Plotting a Romance novel is a process of explaining how some Character comes to understand that Love Conquers All, giving the reader a glimpse of that lesson.
Here are some previous posts on Theme.
So Theme is a statement (or question) derived from the Artist's view of the universe, from the Vision of Reality the Artist sees that others may easily miss.
The Artist's job is to depict that vision in concrete form so that those who can't see it do come to understand it.
The problem is that this Artist's Vision of the Universe is non-verbal, but novels are written in words.
How do we translate gut feelings into words? What property of Reality allows us to flip a non-verbal conceptualization around and make it come out into a string of 100,000 English words?
How can "words" depict an archetype? What is an archetype - what is it made of and where does it come from? A thematic premise is that such universal archetypes are created (and owned) by the Creator of the Universe. (a theme would be: The Creator of the Universe is not God but Humanity.)
Is the concept of "archetype" something a philosopher just made up so academics could earn a living teaching about it? Is it something that occurred to a philosopher at the dawn of mass production which uses molds and forms to make many copies of a thing?
Or is the concept "archetype" actually an inherent property of reality that humans just make use of? Maybe it is an "undocumented feature" of the hologram we live inside of?
Sometimes a writer just sits down and tells a story, typing away making words flow because they can see and hear the characters.
But sometimes "inspiration" does not happen and the writer then gives up, saying they have "writer's block."
Here is a post on writer's block:
Or the writer buckles down like a professional and analyzes the Nature of Reality on its highest abstract level, finding where this novel violated an Archetype's inherent form and thus became a formless mess instead of a depiction of a reality.
For example: one of the major Conflicts in any Romance is "your place or mine?"
The argument may then develop into moving in together, then into "sharing" a bathroom, and your half of the closet vs my 3/4 of the closet (well girls have more clothes!)
We use the word "marriage" when describing a mixture of wines. You can't take such a mixture apart again. The different chemicals in the different wines may interact producing another chemical that was not in either one at the start. How do you assign ownership then?
There are two main, underlying, very abstract, issues behind the process of creating a Marriage out of a Romance. Without Marriage as the end-game, Romance fritters out and dissipates leading to the "epic breakup." But "marriage" in this sense is not a piece of paper, but a state of being inextricably mixed.
Here are two posts involving Romance as the state of mind that signifies a melting away of ego-barriers, allowing people to blend into a unit.
Neptune, the planet most symbolizing blending or blurring. It is the transiting planet that always seems to be involved in Romance. When that transit is over (can last most of 18 months), there comes the Waking Up Next To A Stranger moment where the "honeymoon is over." The "honeymoon" state of mind is the trailing edge of the Neptune transit where the Other's flaws and faults just don't count, don't irritate, don't matter because they strike softly with blurred edges.
Remember that in this model of the universe, transiting planets don't "cause" anything. The solar system is just a giant clock with 9 or 10 "hands" pointing to different parts of the cycle of life. It is just TIME. What HAPPENS (plot) at any given TIME is the result of how the Artist in us crafts that moment.
The plot events of real life are not entirely and only Free Will Choice -- since everyone has free will, and most of us exercise that will, and everything that others do or don't do affects everyone to some degree, what you do spreads ripples of effects that intersect others' lives. What they do about your ripples affects you (eventually).
We act. But we also interact. And we deal with the consequences of other people's actions.
Think about driving a car -- your quick response, avoiding an accident, saving someone else's bacon and they whiz by without ever knowing how close they came to being wiped out.
You can think of the State Motor Vehicle driver manual as an archetype and the embellishments of the drivers as the manifestation of that archetype. Each trip, each situation is unique. The archetype behind it all, the Manual, is always the same.
Driving is a good example. Every trip you make is your artistic creation, just as every novel you write is your artistic creation.
The car you are driving may be registered in your name -- or your spouse's name. The errand you are doing may be driving car pool, having your neighbor's kids in the back seat. The gas in the tank (or charge in the battery) may have been paid for jointly by your spouse and your neighbors, and you are contributing time.
Or the car and its fuel may be owned by your live-in S.O. but the errand (going to work) may be yours. If you earn money at work, but get there driving a borrowed car, is the money you earn yours or your S.O.'s?
Maybe you pay the apartment rent, and the two of you share the car? Who buys the groceries?
Money is always primary in conflicts in a Relationship (do your Characters date Dutch?). Next comes belongings, the possessions each brings to the Relationship.
A kept woman, a Mistress, expects the guy to buy her clothes, at least the expensive ones to wear on fancy dates. But if a guy buys his Mistress clothes and jewels, who actually owns those objects?
Or take a married couple. The one who earns more, puts more toward the mortgage, two cars, pet grooming, take-out dinners, and covers medical expenses, surely has more "rights" than the one who barely makes enough to cover child care? They may work the same number of hours, put equal effort into their work, but bring home very different pay checks.
If the paycheck disparity is too irksome, the third type of argument erupts, a conflict over who has the "right" and who has the "privilege" of space occupied. The territorial arguments may seem to be over closet space, drawer space, or who gets to park inside the garage.
These conflicts are usually the result of some inequity or dissatisfaction with the deployment of joint resources (money, time, etc). When people live together, over time they acquire or redefine space and physical objects until they have created "marriage" in fact if not in Vows.
The writer doesn't have to reveal all to the reader.
Readers already know most of what they want to know about Life, The Universe, and Everything. Novels are to entertain not to explain.
But also, Readers know a lot more about Life, The Universe, and Everything than they know that they know.
It is the writer's job to know these things consciously, and present them in the story entertainingly.
For most readers, thinking is not entertainment-- well Mystery Genre reading requires an amount of reasoning and remembering, a bit of psychology, but rarely delves into the Nature of Creation. Mystery, like Science Fiction, is more concrete, about the tangible realities of life, not the nebulous theories.
The last thing a reader wants to know about is archetypes. The first thing a writer facing writer's block and a deadline wants to know about is archetypes.
The Reader shares all archetypes with the Writer.
Archetypes are the feature of reality that allows stories made from words about arguments and adventures of fictional characters to connect with a stranger's emotional reality.
Archetypes are the medium of exchange, the carrier wave, between writer and reader. This is what we both understand, and what we agree on.
The Reader sees that this Character is "one of those" -- but so different from all other Characters and people in reality that the Reader barely recognizes the similarity.
As Jung said, Archetypes are part of the "collective unconsious" -- that dimension that binds us as one (and maybe binds us as One with all the other sentient species scattered around all the galaxies.
|Diagram where each point of light is a Galaxy|
Jung invented that collective unconscious concept, right?
Maybe he did, but it has existed for thousands of years - probably in more cultures than I've ever heard of.
The easiest place I know of to learn about the connection between the dimension of reality where the concept "collective unconscious" makes sense and our everyday dimension of reality is the Talmud -- the understanding of the Bible written down from the oral teachings of Moses.
Our Reality, physical reality as described by Pythagoras and Aristotle, and investigated by the addition of the rules of the scientific method propounded by Roger Bacon, is easily within the reach of the human mind.
OK, not everyone is smart enough or smart in the necessary way, to understand astrophysics or genetics -- or computer networking and Artificial Intelligence and self-driving cars. But humanity as a whole produces people who can conquer these subjects.
Writers have perhaps a bit of this or a bit of that ability, plus an artist's ability to "see" what can not be revealed by physics, math, and chemistry.
The artist sees Reality plus another "dimension" -- it is there, we don't know what it is or why it is there or what it does, nor can we "prove" it is there, but it is there and it affects how things go in human life. Everyone knows this, even those who don't want to know that they know.
In other words, human Will, decisions, even intentions matter. Heroism matters. The Lone Ranger's Code matters.
We talked about the Code of Honor here:
A Code is a moral template. The Lone Ranger would ride into a situation, perhaps summoned by a silver bullet message, and HELP. When applied to a Situation, his Code prompted him to HELP, even at risk of life and limb. So he helped.
The Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, the story of the life of Moses, is a Code which, when applied to all the various situations of life, down through millennia, prompts certain actions (or inactions). It is a template, an archetype, a Motor Vehicle driving manual, for how humans must behave in order to get the physical world to behave. It reveals how the Universe was constructed, and shows how to operate within that Universe.
The Talmud is the collection of real world problems and their solutions as derived from the Oral teachings (how Moses explained what the words of the Torah meant).
One of the most curious features that leaps out at the casual student of the Talmud is how decisions of these ancient Rabbis blended the geometry of the physical world with the thoughts, words and intentions of humans to decide when or if a certain deed was appropriate.
Physical things, space, buildings, fields, roads -- the physical world as we find it and as we craft it -- have attributes that depend on ownership.
One of the key elements in decisions of all sorts is ownership.
Who owns an object (or piece of land; a dwelling), what they do with that object habitually, the right to rent the object or dwelling to another, the right to sell that object or dwelling, can make the difference between a permitted action and a non-permitted action.
Close study of these Rabbinic decisions, the argument driven method of arriving at these decisions, reveals a view of the universe that is fundamentally at odds with our modern secular world view. At the same time, that ancient world view forms a context where Love Conquers All is a natural law, inescapable consequence of fundamental reality.
A human being's emotions, intentions, habits, contracts, ownership of physical objects, all have vast implications in right vs. wrong.
This is a description of physical reality that portrays human intention as making a difference in how Events proceed. Love matters.
A physical object (or real estate) is connected to its owner -- the equation is rather difficult, but the connection is real and makes a difference between right and wrong. This also holds for every business transaction.
Around the world, there are many other such code books of behavior based on other descriptions of Reality. Study as many as you can. Never pass up an opportunity to learn.
Here's the useful thing about Torah and Talmud for a writer facing writer's block and a deadline.
Reducing what you've written so far to a Question of right or wrong, can break that writer's block.
This is especially true in resolving the common disputes in Marriage (before or after the Ceremony).
A simple Question of what it means to "own" something, of what is the difference between a "thing" and a "person" and what confers authority, can suggest exactly where this novel must start and end.
Very often writer's block happens because the opening line is badly chosen, leading to a middle from a different book than the ending belongs in.
The three pivot points in a novel, Beginning, Middle, End, have to be a matched set. The Beginning has to bring the elements that will conflict to generate the plot into contact. The Middle has to describe the best or the worst consequence of that conflict. And the End must resolve that Conflict.
Oddly, you see that pattern in most Talmudic arguments -- even arguments between Rabbis of widely separated generations. The arguments illustrate methods of conflict resolution that rely on very specific understanding of the Nature of Reality, of the way ownership imbues items with specific properties - some temporary and some permanent.
If you can pose the plot conflict of your stalled novel as a question of whether you may or may not rent or loan a thing, as a question of rights and how you acquire such rights, then you can reveal where the novel you are writing has to END.
If you know where you "are" in your story-arc, and you suddenly know how it must end, how your reader expects it to end (but fears it won't), then you can figure out what has to happen in between.
The trick here is that the reader knows, unconsciously, how the universe works. And so do you. Therefore you know how this novel must end, and your Reader knows too. Just to make sure, though, you should state the theme succinctly and directly at about the 3/4 point of the novel. The theme will validate the Reader's cultural assumptions about how things work -- ending with Happily For Now, or Happily Ever After.
Our current culture is derivative of a blend of many older cultures -- just as Languages borrow words and concepts, create new words, evolve syntax, etc. and become new and different languages, so too cultures evolve.
The Torah and the Talmud as a pair (especially when combined with Kings, Prophets, Chronicles) form a Template for our modern culture. These books reveal an Archetype from which modern Western cultures have been created. Just as you create a specific Character from the Hero Archetype (or The Magician, The Mother, etc), so too our modern Culture is created from a cultural archetype.
Our cultural archetype is based on the Idea that reality as we know it was Created by Words - G-d said, and there was! Theory is that all that is now is still being created by such Divine Utterances. All is vibration.
Humans also speak. What we choose to say, and how we say it, matters.
The Love Conquers All and Love At First Sight/Soulmates themes explicate the older culture described in the Talmud. Get a grip on how that older culture worked, and every novel you write using a Love Conquers All or Soulmates based theme will be easy to write, and will have internal consistency.
And there are a large number of other, older, sources that reveal these older cultural archetypes which, in today's world, are stewed together unrecognizably.
The more widely read you are, the better chance you have of smashing through any writer's block situation that confronts you.
To resolve the age-old marriage disputes of who owns what, reach back to those first principles about the nature of reality on the highest abstract level -- then work your way down to the particular situation your Characters face.
Sunday, January 22, 2017
What Do You Want In A Register?
January 31st 2017 is the deadline for copyright owners and future copyright owners to opine.
It's free, easy, and not terribly time consuming. Please make your voices heard.
These are the questions in the 3-question survey:
1. What are the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you believe are the most important for the Register of Copyrights?
2. What should be the top three priorities for the Register of Copyrights?
3. Are there other factors that should be considered?
Optional: you may upload supporting material as a file.
FWIW, the "Register" is a person. The position was vacated when Maria Pallante was constructively demoted. Rumor has it, Maria Pallante was too sympathetic to copyright owners, musicians, songwriters, authors of books, creators of movies and tv shows that are delivered through cable and satellite channels.
Probably, people who depend on legal sales, contracts, subscription fees, licensing and royalties for their books, movies, sound-tracks, music etc would like a copyright enthusiast in the Register's office.
Perhaps, authors and other creators would like a Register who has a history of representing or supporting copyright owners, and who is clearly supported by copyright owners, rather than one supported by pirates, copyright infringers, "permissionless innovators", or the sort of persons who tell us that "information wants to be free" and include in-copyright fiction and musical works as "information".
Some management experience would be helpful. It would also be good if they were articulate and personable, and able to testify effectively to Congress.
It would be truly remarkable and lovely if those studying the survey comments would give more weight to the replies of persons whose livelihood is affected by copyright ownership than to freeloaders and enterprises who advertise to freeloaders.
In other copyright related news, kudos to the UK and to ISPs in the UK.
Copyright infringers who use Torrents and software to illegally download music, ebooks, films, sports etc will be receiving letters from their broadband providers, explaining to them that what they are doing is illegal, and recommending legal places to find what they want.
All the best,
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Cultures in the non-tropical regions of our planet typically celebrate seasonal holidays such as lights, fire, evergreens, and feasting at the winter solstice; harvest festivals and tributes to the dead in the fall; rituals welcoming spring, e.g., Easter and May Day (as well as advance preparations for the return of spring, such as Carnival and Lent); etc. Heather Rose Jones's Alpennia series takes place in an imaginary country in a version of our Europe. In addition to familiar holidays, the capital city marks the changing of seasons by measuring when the river rises to a certain level. What kinds of holidays might be celebrated on worlds that don't have seasons like ours at all? Come to think of it, why do the Fraggles in the animated series FRAGGLE ROCK have a midwinter festival of bells? They live in a giant cavern complex, where the climate should stay uniform all year round, and they don't have a view of sun, moon, or stars to mark the cycle of the year. (Yeah, I know, because the writers wanted a sort-of Christmas episode, and I loved it, but in-universe the episode lacks logic.)
On a planet where the main division of the year's climate falls between wet and dry, the onset of the rainy season—the time of fertility—might be an occasion for a major holiday. On Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover, which has four moons, some festivals coincide with the appearance of all four moons in the sky. Earth cultures mark months and weeks by phases of the moon, and some cultures follow a lunar rather than a solar year. How would the calendar of a world with no moon look? Without weeks in our sense, what method would societies use to set aside days of rest? Or consider a world like the planet in Isaac Asimov's classic story "Nightfall," with several suns. On that world, total darkness occurs only at intervals of over a millennium. With no memory of night and stars except in mythology, people go mad from the unprecedented sight, and civilization collapses at every "nightfall." But suppose darkness happened rarely but not all that rarely, say roughly once a year. The peoples of that world might have holidays to get them through that frightening occurrence, just as ancient cultures on Earth held rituals and celebrations to ensure that the sun would return on the winter solstice. Other kinds of worlds might have holidays centered on the periodic eruption of a geyser, the migration of important species of animals, or the blooming of a special tree. In our own culture we have celebrations such as the Cherry Blossom Festival and (in my home city in Virginia) the spring Azalea Festival. Capistrano honors the return of the swallows.
The STEVEN UNIVERSE animated series (Cartoon Network) takes place in an alternate world similar to ours but with divergences in history and geography caused by the Gem War (an alien invasion) thousands of years in the past. The characters live in Beach City in the state of Delmarva, for instance. According to the show's creator, this world has no Christmas. We've seen that there's no Halloween. (From these clues, we must assume no Christianity and therefore no Easter either.) Apparently they also don't have Thanksgiving. Other than local town celebrations, we don't yet know what holidays they do celebrate. Because they live in a temperate zone with changing seasons, though, we have to expect them to observe some holidays analogous to the ones we know.
Terry Pratchett's HOGFATHER takes place at the season of Hogswatch, Discworld's analog of Christmas. At the winter solstice the Hogfather brings toys to good children in a sleigh pulled by giant boars. People leave sausages instead of cookies for him, in keeping with the origin of Yuletide as a all-out orgy of feasting before the privations of winter. At the climax of the novel, Susan, Death's part-human granddaughter (it's complicated), has to save the original Hogfather, the primal being on whom the myth is based, from permanent annihilation. Death tells Susan that if she had failed, the sun would not have risen. When she asks what would have happened instead, he says, "A mere ball of flaming gas would have illuminated the world." It's also Death who tells us, in the same scene, "Humans need fantasy to be human."
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Theme-Archetype Integration Part 3 - Showing Character Without Telling
|Clayton Moore - The Lone Ranger|
Previous parts in this theme-Archetype Integration series
And now part 3 - about how to convince readers (especially editors) that your novel is about "strong characters."
We've discussed the requirement for "strong characters" previously, in some detail.
In summation, a fictional character is considered "strong" not because he has muscles or is stupid enough to run into danger instead of away from it -- but because he or she has the will to adhere to the "values" or a code of ethics.
Juvenile fiction is about "building character" -- character is not a trait humans are born with (though Aliens might be). It is an acquired trait -- but not one that can be 'taught' as in a course in school.
In trying to define "strong character" we have to consider "gender" and "gender roles." There was a recent article titled WHY TV NEEDS 'WEAK FEMALE CHARACTERS' in
Put another way, what distinguishes this run of TV tragicomedies isn’t their heroines’ unlikeability, but rather, their vulnerability, that is, the frankness with which they disclose feelings and experiences women have long been encouraged to suppress. It is no coincidence that so many of the programs mentioned make deliberate (and much-derided) use of nudity. Like the shots of unmade-up faces that fill Transparent’s third season premiere, the images of Hannah Horvarth sans culottes are a sign not of the shows’ prurience, but of their politics: their insistence on giving women the license, and space, to be exposed. In contrast to the “strong female characters” that have dominated popular culture in recent decades—and that, as Carina Chocano argued in The New York Times, are often distinguished by their lack of gendered behavior—these comparably “weak” characters undermine the conflation of complexity with an implicitly masculine code of values. Too often, to be “strong,” in Chocano’s phrase, is to be “tough, cold, terse, taciturn, and prone to not saying goodbye when they hang up the phone.” Instead, these shows take the bold step of assigning to their lead characters some of the most disparaged of “female” traits.
Read the whole article at:
There are a lot of thoughts there about current tastes in female characters characterization, particularly the popularization of the female face with makeup smeared and dripping with tears.
Strength of Character comes through "growing pains" -- the school of hard knocks -- from failing and getting your comeuppance, from being excruciatingly embarrassed, from doing things you are ashamed of later (often much later) because you finally see why that deed was 'wrong.'
There was a 1968 TV Series IT TAKES A THIEF (the fictional one, not the reality series)
And more recently, the TV Series White Collar
Regency Romance has thousands of examples of honorable crooks -- outlaws who adhere to a strict Code of Honor.
The contents of that Code of Honor -- or the Honor Among Thieves -- is largely irrelevant to determining whether a Character is "strong" or not.
The strength of a character is measured by how much pain, suffering, loss, expense, and pure grief the character will suffer in order to avoid violating his/her OWN code of honor, sense of ethics, and values.
The Lone Ranger's Creed is a prime example we've discussed.
And here are blogs where we've examined this aspect of Character creation.
Does your main character have a Creed? Ideals that he/she lives by?
Now think again. Once you thrust a "creed" or Ten Commandments up front at the reader, the expectation is that the plot will test the Character, usually to destruction. The expectation is that this novel is about forcing this "strong" character to BREAK his Oath, his Creed, his Beliefs, to violate the core around which the Character is built.
And that is, indeed good plotting. It is true in life that whenever we say, "I would never ..." some time later we find ourselves doing exactly that.
So if you create a Strong Character, then right up front tell rather than show that the character has a STRICT CREED by which he lives, you are telegraphing to the reader that this book is about destroying a Good Character to reveal that all "good" people are really rotten at the core.
That's a theme: "No human is really Good." But if you state that on page 1, the expectation is that the novel is about that singular oddity - a Good Human who is really Good, who is actually a Strong Character.
Rotten core means the Character is not strong on the inside -- though might have a brittle facade. Such a character is not a Hero. Such a character might not be a Villain, but he is not hero material (until or unless the rotten core is revealed, cleaned out, and rebuilt).
Life comes in sections or epochs -- lives have a shape, child, teen, college age, marriage age, (re-marriage age!), parenting age, retiring age, old age. Each stage of life has its own business, its own lessons to be internalized. Some of those lessons build the core stronger, some erode the strength.
By creating your character's biography, not at random, not choosing "interesting" things that happened to the character, but rather by "filling in" (as with a coloring book, or sewing a dress), the details from an Archetype, you can show rather than tell what kind of person your character is.
Hero and Villain are archetypes. The Lone Ranger is built from the Hero archetype, given only one other trait, (being last survivor, keeping that secret). The "last survivor" trait is a show-don't-tell illustration of the basic Hero Archetype.
Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise made that point a few times -- the Captain of a ship far from home port, the final decision maker, must maintain a social and emotional distance from the Crew while at the same time being open, approachable and friendly.
The Hero who has a partner, a sidekick, a bosom buddy, makes the best kind of lead character for a novel, especially a Romance novel.
The love interest might be the sidekick or use the sidekick as access to the Hero.
Think about the TV Series Zoro. (not the recent movies, the very old TV Series)
Now consider how many remakes, rewrites, renewals, that series had. Wouldn't you like your Science Fiction Romance series to get that kind of longevity?
Now think about Superman -- and eventually the TV Series Lois and Clark:
The Lone Ranger never got a love interest (neither did the Cisco Kid (also of early TV fame)). But we knew both of these Hero Characters by the Creed they lived by -- never articulated on air, but rather woven deep inside the plots.
So, if you are going to write a "weak" character, you tell the reader right up front, what this character (pridefully) refuses to do, or definitively insists on doing.
If you are going to write a "strong" character, you show the reader right up front, how the character (unconsciously, and without actually intending or exerting any effort of will) simply adheres to his personal code of ethics, his/her values and creed.
How do you do that? What do you choose to include in a first page of a novel to indicate what kind of a person this Character is?
We have discussed how the opening lines of a story or novel delineate the first meeting of the Lead Character (the one whose story you are telling) with the opposing force that will be overcome on the final page.
That is the Conflict -- Lead Character vs. Opposing Force
The Middle is where the Lead Character is defeated and vanquished by the Opposing Force.
The Ending is where the Lead Character vanquishes the Opposing Force.
The Hero wins by Strength of Character followed by Strength of mind/body/will.
The Villain loses for lack of Strength of Character - no matter how much strength of mind/body/will the Villain may have. Physical strength, cunning, wealth, power -- none of these can stand against Strength of Character.
So if Hero and Villain have the same strength of mind/body/will and the same Strength of Character -- then you have a conflict between their respective Creeds -- their values, ethics, morals.
That sort of Plot Conflict using the content of Creed is a setup for the perfect Love Triangle novel.
The Main Viewpoint Character is the one who must choose a mate. One man and two women -- or one woman and two men (or variants on this pattern).
You might open where the two men of the triangle are interacting, and the woman sees this.
The Hero says something most readers in your target readership would find neutral or innocuous, and the Villain retorts, "That is offensive!" The verbal combat goes on, and the Villain uses some sort of Power (financial, social, perhaps the threat job loss or disgrace) to force the Hero to apologize.
Within this exchange, you can code a large amount of worldbuilding detail, sketch the relationship among the three, and their life stories, current status and relationships, etc. But the scene focus is sharp on the issue of taking offense and counter-attacking the offender.
It should seem to the reader that the objection to the offending utterance is rational, reasonable, and righteous. Of course that statement was utterly offensive, so naturally any Good Man would take offense and obtain an apology -- either knowing or not-knowing the Woman is watching.
A modern twist of this Situation would be if a friend of the Woman in Question is recording a video of the exchange to send to the Woman in Question (as proof of the Character or lack thereof, illustrated by each man's behavior.)
For an Alien Romance, the Woman In Question might be the Alien sent to judge humanity, perhaps for entry into the Galactic Civilization -- or maybe for worthiness of being defended against some Galactic Invading armada bent on taking over this whole planet.
The plot problem in the opening conflict is very much the same as in a Detective Mystery, where a Colombo Character has to tell the guilty from the innocent. Which is the Good Guy and which is the Bad Guy? Which will the Woman In Question choose to marry? The one who offends? Or the one who takes offense? Strong Characters never take offense. Though they may form a low opinion of the offending person, Strong Characters will not let their opinion show. It is not in the Creed.
Guilt is the feeling driving characters who know they have violated their own creed.
Innocence is the feeling of those who know they have not violated their own creed.
Offense is the feeling telegraphed by Characters who are convinced their own Creed is the only acceptable Creed, and all humans must be forced to obey that one Creed.
The difference between a Hero and a Villain is in how and when they will use Force to make others behave.
In other words, the difference between hero and villain is inside the content of their Creed.
A Hero is never offended by what others say or do, because he/she is secure in the knowledge that they have followed their own Creed well enough. A Hero can be put into a physically (or socially, or economically) humiliating position and still be cloaked in dignity.
A Villain is easily offended by what others say and do because he/she needs the behavior of others to conform to his/her Creed in order to feel secure in the virtue of that Creed.
In other words, Villains evolve to villainous behavior because of the content of their Creed. Not all humans with a Creed of dubious content will become Villains (in fact, few do). But would Aliens trying to evaluate us know that?
As a Romance writer, you can take a valiant Hero adhering to a Virtuous Creed and break him, break the Character, make them violate their Creed.
One famous series that does that, with an admirable expertise in human psychology, is Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake Series (Vampire Romance -- gorgeous work, especially the intricate worldbuilding).
Anita Blake starts out with searing Pride in her Creed -- things she WILL NOT DO -- which, novel by novel, she actually does, hates herself for, gets used to, accepts, and rebuilds her character around new, situationally appropriate, Values. But as her character grows and strengthens, it is no longer founded on her over-weaning pride. She regards her younger self as innocent, naive.
The pride exhibited in Book I
telegraphs the character-arc to come -- the Creed she lives by may be good, but she will not be able to maintain her integrity.
And she does not. And she suffers the consequences. Really suffers.
When it all settles, she is not a Strong Character, but she is not a Villain either. She's just "one of us" -- an ordinary person coping haphazardly and expediently with impossible situations.
Well, her impossible situations include Vampire politics, shape-shifters, accidental acquisition of power over others, deep involvement with professional hit man, ruining the life and career of a very nice, mild mannered High School teacher, and so on.
The series is the story of a Character whose Creed is honorable, but whose grip on that Creed is shattered. She can't live by it, anymore and comes to regard the Creed itself as naive.
So what appeared to be the theme at the beginning of the series is revealed to be a red herring. The actual theme of the series might be stated, "Humans can't adhere to a Righteous Creed." But how could a human born with the Power to raise the dead adhere to a Righteous Creed? Isn't that a naive idea?
So this (very popular) series is an example of how all Weak Characters are not Villains. Anita Blake is no Villain -- but she's no Hero, either. She's a Survivor -- and that may be an Archetype, too, one related to the Lone Ranger.
In the Anita Blake series, we see a Character who articulates her Creed right up front, so you know she will break it.
In the Lone Ranger (old Radio or B&W TV version) we see a Character who lives a Creed without any real pride in that fact. He has a Creed. He lives that Creed.
The whole pursuit of the Cavendish Gang is not revenge, but simple justice and responsibility, simply Being Prepared, physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right. He never says that in so many words. He just does it -- and very likely does not know he does it. It is simply right.
Anita Blake knows her Creed and takes inordinate pride in forcing herself to behave according to her creed, head high, -- in spite of yearning to do otherwise.
The Lone Ranger doesn't know his Creed, but does not yearn to do otherwise.
Anita Blake is not a Villain -- but she is the material out of which Villains are made.
The Lone Ranger is a Hero, pure and simple.
One is a Fantasy Character -- the other Reality.
Which is which, and why? Answer that and you will have a dynamite theme for an Alien Romance Series.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
Here Be... Cookies, To Turn A Phrase, and Ivanka Trump
European law requires us (the authors of this blog) to remind European visitors that Google, host of Blogger, places cookies on the devices of all visitors. We (the authors) have no control over the cookies that Blogger/Google places on your devices, and if you visit this blog, we assume that you consent to the cookies.
Talking of European cookie law:
The law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP recently wrote about European proposed e-privacy rules that may be adopted early in 2018.
Honestly, I do not believe that the authors of this blog have any access at all to visitors' data, email addresses or anything else (unless you leave a comment, and mostly, you don't). There does seem to be a visitor counter at the very bottom of the blog page, and according to the above referenced law firm, visitor counters do not require the consent of visitors.
On "60 Ways..." not to leave your lover but "To Turn A Phrase":
In an interesting article about how he advises clients on creating unique and memorable trademarks, Nexsen Pruett refers to "Figures of Speech or 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase" by Arthur Quinn.
Read Nexsen Pruett's blog if you are thinking of getting a trademark (mine is Space Snark and I did not take this expert's advice). I'm thinking of buying the late Arthur Quinn's paperback. However, it is short and expensive, and Google Books helpfully reveals quite a lot of the content (very interesting content on use of misspelled words), Pages 12-24 consecutively and in full, for instance.
And a search of "And" reveals "To And or Not To And" pages 1 to 9 inclusive. It's a mystery to me how Authors Guild lost that lawsuit, and this is totally lawful.
Last but not least,
I bought an Ivanka Trump dress last week. It was marked down at T J Maxx, and was well made, flattering, and a modest length. I cannot say the same about the length, of a Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP law firm's article about artists piling on Ivanka Trump because their artwork shows on her home's walls in the background of her selfies.
If the late Prince and his music publishers could not prevail in the Dancing Baby case for his music playing in the background of a home movie, it's even more likely to be fair use for whatever one has permanently displayed on ones walls to be in the background of personal photographs.
It might be a different matter if the lady were taking high quality photos of just the artwork and selling prints, but she is not doing that.
The legal blogger (Ms Pillsbury) makes excellent points about Fair Use as regards background images in non-commercial social media type posts on Instagram.
Authors might extrapolate something to consider before taking photographs to promote their own books if there are prominent and clear images of more famous authors' works in the background. It's not cool to use--or tag-- another author's name (without permission) to promote oneself.
All the best,
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Trapped in Virtual Reality
Numerous works of fiction use the premise of a character stuck inside a game (including a few holodeck episodes in the various STAR TREK series). If you enjoy that kind of thing, try the Japanese "light novels" (a generic label based mainly on books' length, not the "light" or "dark" tone of their stories) in the "Sword Art Online" series by Reki Kawahara. In the first sub-series, the protagonist, Kirito, one of the beta testers for a cutting-edge virtual reality game, gets trapped inside the game world along with hundreds of other players who log in on release day. The game designer has fixed it so that nobody can log out, and anyone who dies in the game dies for real because of the way the creator covertly rigged the brain-machine interface. Thanks to Kirito's experience as a beta tester, he becomes one of the survivors. The main appeal of this story lies in his Intimate Adventure journey from his original stance as a self-reliant loner to friendship with a fellow player, Asuna, and ultimately to deep mutual love with her. The game, Sword Art Online, feels like a three-dimensional, physical experience in most ways but with many game-based factors. For instance, getting injured drains points but doesn't cause true pain. So, despite the total immersion effect, because of details such as this the players have no trouble remaining aware that they're playing a game.
The latest sub-series, which I'm reading now, introduces Kirito to a new VR system that's far advanced over Sword Art Online. The new game, still in the testing phase, simulates the physical world in such extreme detail that the environment can't be distinguished from reality. When Kirito inexplicably wakes up in this environment with no memory of how he got there (no awareness of returning to the test facility, logging in, etc.), he feels hunger, thirst, fatigue, and pain as if in his real body. The only way he can confirm his guess that he's inside a hitherto unexplored version of the game is by opening status windows for objects in the environment. To the people he meets, these windows are simply a form of magic, "sacred arts."
If such a virtual world existed, simulating the primary world in the finest details, how could you know (unless you could access game features such as status windows) whether you were in a real environment or a fictive one? Would there be any way to prove either hypothesis? Furthermore, if you experienced all the effects of living in normal reality, would it make any difference whether you were or weren't?
This scenario brings to mind the problem of solipsism, the one view of the universe that's impossible to refute. If I believe all people and objects I observe are figments of my imagination, how could you refute that belief? The fact that things I can't control and/or don't enjoy happen around me doesn't provide a valid counter-argument, because uncontrollable and unpleasant events often happen in dreams, too. The solipsist hypothesis is completely untestable. Robert Heinlein seems fascinated with this world-view. One of his classic works has a protagonist who (thanks to time travel) is all the characters in the story, including his/her own father and mother. It ends with the chilling sentence, "I know where I came from, but where did all you zombies come from?" I've read a short story (can't recall author or title) set on an interstellar spaceship, in which one character begins to doubt that his memories of Earth are real. Maybe he and his crew mates have always been on the ship? He deteriorates from doubting the reality of Earth to believing that the other people on the ship cease to exist when not in his immediate presence. In THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, Alice ponders whether the sleeping Red King is a character in her dream or she's a character in his.
If "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream" (Poe), how would we know that? If we live within a perfect three-dimensional, multi-sensory simulation, we can't confirm or refute that possibility unless we can somehow get outside the simulation. As I read in some philosophy course long ago, "A difference that makes no difference is no difference." So it makes sense to operate on the working hypothesis that the universe and all its inhabitants actually exist.
By the way, I've written one "trapped inside a game" story, which appears in the collection DAME ONYX TREASURES, here:Dame Onyx Treasures
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Interview With Francis Carmody via Facebook
In November, 2016, Francis Carmody contacted me by leaving a post on my Facebook "wall" asking me to do an interview. I agreed, and he posted the following questions which I thought interesting to Science Fiction Romance Writers because he demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit that fiction writers (who are self-employed business people) need. Look at what Francis Carmody is doing and absorb that attitude of getting the task done. The numbered paragraphs are the questions he created and JL: is me answering.
----Francis Asked ----
1. The last time we talked together, you said that you “loved my spirit.” Why?
JL: This set of questions is a good example of why. The Major Media should do so well at formulating their queries! Fiction writers, likewise, plot by asking questions, presenting possible answers, confronting Characters with choices. Characterization is always rooted in "Why" -- "What does she see in him? Why did he betray her?" Much of this list of questions consists of prime thematic material. If the New York Times asked this type of Question (and got truthful answers), we'd be in much better shape as a country than we are today.
2. If you had to pick a single issue as the most important concern for the 21st Century, what would it be?
JL: I think Alvin Toffler nailed the issue, way back in the 1970's with his book (still available because it is a fine illustration of the problem). It is FUTURE SHOCK -- technology is causing the way we live life day to day and minute to minute to change faster than the human brain/nervous system can adapt.
The issue is how we configure the human/A.I. interface.
Inside that issue is the problem science fiction (and Romance Genre, too) has been gnawing on since the 1940's and before: The fully transformed world (Asimov's vision of Robotics, colonies on other planets, Caves of Steel here) will be able to supply all human needs with only a tiny fraction of humanity employed in paying jobs. What does everybody else do?
Gene Roddenberry answered that question in STAR TREK -- art, exploration, creativity. No pockets in the uniforms because nobody carries "money."
So our 21st Century must address the problem of how do we get from here to there and avoid the pitfalls Asimov (and Heinlein) so ably pointed out.
Science is now showing how a child's activities (or lack thereof) configures the child's brain with synapses often shaping the adulthood the child will live. This produces the "generation gap" issue where parents in the 1970's couldn't program a VCR and today adult children are dealing with parents who can't use a smartphone. Can't not won't.
The technological generation gap will become most apparent in the next few decades as kids who had smart(phones; toys) as 3 year olds (and yes, I've watched kids playing educational games on handheld smartscreens), grow up to deal with their 90 year old parents who can't adapt to the next innovation.
By 90 years from now, we will have self-driving cars and household robots, and other outgrowths of the 1940's thrust to create "labor saving devices." We may have Lunar and Martian colonies and be exploring way beyond our solar system.
At the turn of the 20th century, science postulated that it should be possible to distinguish humans by measuring their Intelligence and ranking them by capability and potential, thus allowing government to avoid wasting educational resources on the incapable.
Today, science is exploring genetics and brain function to the point where "intelligence" is being redefined and redefined. (Emotional Intelligence, Mechanical, Artistic -- whatever). Bottom line: we know NOTHING about ourselves (yet). But we will before this century is out.
We have CRISPR now:
And in 2016 word has come out that the Chinese are experimenting with genetic modification of human beings. Their "one-child" Communist Government imposed limitation is about to cause their country to "implode" -- and they realize they don't need all their people, but only those capable of contributing to this new, highly complex, technology based world.
So what it comes down to is Power, it's use and abuse, a big topic on this blog
Science is producing technology which lays Power into the hands of human beings who have not evolved to be immune to the psychological need to dominate other humans.
Science is also simultaneously laying the Power to modify humans into the hands of humans.
Therein lies the challenge we are facing -- the configuring of the interface between the human Spirit and the technology we produce.
Science Fiction Romance is a fiction genre uniquely suited to explore the possibilities, and create "What if ..." "If only ..." and "If This Goes On ..." models of the futures we must choose among.
This blog is designed to reveal the potential of Science Fiction Romance Genre as a problem solving tool of the 21st Century.
3. Today I see a lot of Christendom caught up in what I call the Disinformation Wars or even more simply the Apocalypse Fever. What do you think is going wrong in our churches, and why?
JL: I don't frequent Churches, so I am not qualified to comment on this question.
4. What is your spiritual orientation? I ask for the benefit of the audience...so the real question is, why are we NOT enemies?
JL: Actually, I've written 5 books that nibble around the edges of this question.
Jean Lorrah calls me a Mystic, and I'd guess that fits. My degree is in Chemistry (with minors in Physics and Math) -- however, I really majored in Science Fiction Writing but didn't tell the University that (because they basically despised it and held any fan in utter contempt.) I did not take a single English or History course in college, just passed tests to get the credit without attending classes (which was permitted and even encouraged for Math and Science majors).
To be a science fiction writer, one must know science. For that, University is essential because you need the expensive labs to do actual hands-on experiments and work your way through how all that we know was originally worked out, one tiny step at a time. You may not use scientific knowledge that you were TOLD -- you must PROVE IT for yourself, in order to possess it at a level where you can use it to create with.
Fiction, on the other hand, you can teach yourself easily and cheaply through Free Public Libraries (and now the Internet, with tools such as my blog.) To teach yourself, you only need the cognitive tools acquired through a University science education (wall-to-wall physics/math/chemistry) with an occasional bit of Archaeology or Linguistics, Paleontology etc so you know what to look up.
I wrote STAR TREK LIVES!
(see discussion on Facebook:
essentially to present my argument that the University Professors were wrong about Science Fiction, and I expect that is a gut-level reason Gene Roddenberry wrote Star Trek. Science Fiction is crucial to humanity surviving the next epoch, and survival means getting off this planet sooner rather than later.
Study of Science brings you an understanding of the physical matrix in which life is embedded. Study of Fiction gives you an understanding of the psychological matrix in which you live your personal Life.
Studying the interface between physical reality and psychological reality, we find grand and great Works (especially Romances about improbable Soul Mates) scattered throughout human history, spawning philosophies and religions galore. I've studied most of them in some detail -- and all that effort just led me back to where I started -- Kaballah, the Oral Tradition about the meaning of the collection or anthology we now call The Bible.
The traditional story goes that God offered the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) to all the other Nations before coming to Abraham. Sort of the same approach you've used -- try to peddle services to whoever is around, and then just do-it-yourself. He chose Abraham and then made of him a great Nation. And this is illustrated by the scattered bits and traces, the Ultimate Truths, you find in each and every civilization we've dug up or preserved. Every successful civilization has been fueled by a bit of the Torah.
I do not see a separation between the spiritual and the physical. I never have.
5. Part of the reason I created this ministry ( https://www.facebook.com/francis.carmody ) was simply so that I could teach myself how to be successful in earning my own living. Please name one service that my growing network of supporters and myself can do for you and Simegen.com that you would actually pay me for.
JL: Well, see that question is another reason I admire your spirit. THAT is the spirit that will fuel the successful negotiation through the coming century where we must create an interface between what is human and what humans create.
At this particular moment, Sime~Gen Inc. is not hiring and has no employees. That could very well change soon. We will need more Lawyers, Accountants, and Agents, maybe a Manager to interface with Hollywood. As the formats for tech delivery of text change, we may need techs to re-do all our books. And there is a graphic novel/video game project designed to take Sime~Gen into the space age. ( news breaks first on the Sime~Gen Group on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SimeGen/
6. What would you consider your ruling passion in life?
JL: Maybe an absolute greed for knowledge, to know everything, to understand everything. That's probably shared with most other fiction writers.
7. What about politics? What do you think of the upcoming Trump presidency?
I have to write a blog entry about this for the Science Fiction Romance Writers. I followed the election via Astrology -- many astrology websites predicted a clean Clinton landslide, and had evidence to prove their points. I, on the other hand, used a totally different analysis (it's that science fiction writer thinking - looking at life, the universe and everything as a STORY).
Point by point, day by day, throughout the entire year's campaign, all Trump's blurted mistakes and Clinton's failure to follow-through, or her dazzlingly gorgeous performances (the speech at the Convention was marvelous), all were easily traced by comparing various charts.
There was no astrological evidence about which candidate would become President.
That is the nature of Astrology and for that matter, Tarot. There is no "future" to "foretell."
There is no "power" to be attained by mastery of the Occult or any form of Mysticism. The future is determined by by the Creator of the Universe, and you may argue well in prayer and deed, thus altering His choices. But Free Will (of each and every one of us, plus all of us together) is primarily active in shaping our world and our personal destinies. So Astrological Natal Charts do now show "death" for example, because the universe goes right on spinning after you die. Tarot can't predict if you will succeed or fail, but only read your present emotional frame of mind and heart. Just like Astrology, Tarot can tell you only what you already know, (but sometimes don't know that you know.)
However, there are things you can learn that can be of great interest to fiction writers trying to craft a plausible plot.
Trump's natal chart has Relationships to the USA natal chart that are as distinctive (but different) as Obama's natal chart's relationship to the USA Natal chart.
And transiting Saturn is descending into the Obscure part of Clinton's Natal Chart, but Ascending into the Public (New Starts, New Career) part of Trump's chart.
But it was a Battle of the Titans, toe to toe, nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball. It is amazing it has not (yet) spread more destruction than it did. They are too evenly matched. And in the end they both "won" -- Trump the Electoral College (which is indicated by his connections to the USA natal chart), and Clinton the popular vote (indicated by her Natal Chart and derivatives of it -- she was at a lifetime peak of popularity and accomplishment but under a long transit that undermined her judgement).
So Trump is the man of the hour - on the hot-seat - has bitten off much more than he can chew, and is only now discovering that. He has much more humbling before him.
He will do very well indeed the first part of 2017, with disasters and spiritual defeats and sagging spirits maybe in February, but lots of blazing hot accomplishments up to maybe around August, and then a huge downsweep, overwhelming defeats -- and then up again into the end of 2017. We may not notice his sagging spirits or defeats. This reading is only about what's going on inside him, not what others see.
For the USA, his Administration is not a culmination but a prelude.
Look at the transits to the USA Natal Chart (I've done some blogs about this -- here's an index post to some blogs on Astrology Just For Writers) Pay attention to the two part entry called Part 6.
The USA has two distinct (equally valid) Natal Charts for the signing on July 4th, 1776, as two groups of men signed at different times. One describes the life-course of what we now call the Democrats and the other the Republicans. Those were not "Parties" but philosophies.
One chart is for 2:13 AM LMT, 1776, which I identify with our current "Republicans" and their philosophy of government (for various reasons in the chart's configuration). The other is known as (and mostly given much more credence) The Sibley Chart which is for 5:10 PM LMT, the second and final group of signatures. The Sibley Chart describes the philosophy of what we currently call "Democrats."
Saturn is going into obscurity for the Democrats, and rising above the 7th House cusp (into prominence) for the Republicans.
Trace back through History and you see the two factions (party names changing), which have different ideas about what Government is (especially the Federal Government, a government of governments), what it does, and what it is for, and see how well the transits of Saturn correlate to which party holds the White House and dominance in the Legislature.
What is worth watching during the Trump Administration is the transit of Pluto to both Charts of the USA -- Pluto is so slow that it's place is identical in both charts, but the house position is different. At the exact TIME of the 2008 mortgage derivatives collapse that gave the USA a financial Heart Attack, Pluto was transiting conjunct the Nation's 8th House Cusp (0 Deg Capricorn).
8th House in personal natal charts represents "other people's money" (a husband's income for example; parent's financial situation). It also represents not love but animal sexuality. And it is associated with the conditions at death, but that's difficult to assess.
My take on the significance of the 8th House in a nation's natal chart is that it represents Taxes, the public money trough at which politicians feed.
The USA natal Pluto is in the 9th House of that chart which predicted the financial crisis (and the connection to Obamacare is all there, too.) In BOTH political parties' USA Natal Charts, Pluto is in the same exact place. But in 1 it is 9th House (international affairs and philosophy of government; Natural 9th is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, growth, truth, justice, rulership). In that natal chart, 0 Degrees Capricorn is the 8th House cusp.
Here's the thing.
Pluto is lining up to do the USA's first Pluto Return -- where transiting Pluto gets to the place where it was on that fateful July 4th. That will happen beginning in February 2022, again in the summer through December 2022 and sustain through October 2023. The degree to watch is 27 Degrees Capricorn. Pluto transits typically manifest after the final contact, but in the case of 0 Degrees Capricorn, the financial collapse was right on.
That Pluto Return would be a Trump administration second term mid-term election result -- major structural power upset. Or maybe we'll change Presidents.
To figure what that might be like you must delve deep into the significance of Pluto, of Capricorn and its Ruler Saturn, of the 9th House (which I peg as a country's Foreign Affairs and governing philosophy), Sagittarius, Jupiter.
I've discussed Pluto and its relationship to "accounting for taste" in fiction, to the varying tastes in fiction through the generations, and how to use it to construct a plot.
You don't have to know astrology to use astrology in writing. Most people use it just fine by consulting their gut feelings. Trump calls this "good judgement" and he has it in spades. He listens to his inner voice. He launched his campaign at the most auspicious moment for success (when he came down that escalator) and every turning point in the campaign was right exactly as it had to be.
Astrologers point to the moment he gave his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention as being inauspicious for success -- and in fact it was, but Astrology is tricky like that! It was his acceptance of the Party Nomination and it was very inauspicious for the Party Establishment which took a grand licking for months afterward.
I don't think Trump is using an astrologer as Reagan's wife did. I think he just listens to his inner voice.
People point to his business failures to say they disqualify him for the work of the Oval Office -- but I suspect it is through those false starts and the consequences of various bits of immoral behavior that he has learned to listen to that voice. Like Reagan, he has only one talent -- and is a disaster at everything else. He is a keen judge of people.
We all know that Reagan was not doing the President's job. He was failing badly after being shot. Everyone else around him, people he'd chosen via his judge of character, did the actual work of governing. That's not the first time we've had a figure head for a president, and it won't be the last.
People view Trump with such fear, but what they fear is a fabricated image having nothing to do with the real man. The real man is much scarier but for totally different reasons. He is just a prelude to the President who will take this country through our Pluto Return (which no human being ever lives long enough to experience; which is why I love Vampire stories!). He's the set-up. The real blow comes next decade. The backlash against whatever Trump does will be a new experience in this country's history.
Other countries have survived Pluto Returns -- we can, too.
8. What is your view of gay marriage, and why?
JL: On this and many related politicized "social issues" my view is that humans have to learn to mind their own business. That's a hard-hard lesson, and does not come naturally to humans. Just watch 2 year olds playing.
We don't come equipped to understand the borderline between Self and Other. That border is depicted clearly in astrological natal charts -- we have access to it in that gut-feeling level without knowing astrology. By the age of 5, we have begun to grasp it. But I think most humans only gain the ability to grasp this fine point of existence in their thirties. Whether they then learn it, or not, often depends on the marriage situation.
All that modern-technology/human interface discussion in a previous answer above pertains to this. Big Data deep diving has stripped away the privacy barriers (read Alvin Toffler's books). So it is assumed anything you don't make public must be secret and therefore nefarious.
People don't know the difference between privacy and secrecy (hence Clinton's email disasters). The philosophical relationship between privacy and individual identity, the importance of individuality to the group (1st House vs 7th House), has all been wiped away for this new generation who, at the age of 3 or 4, are already learning via smartscreens.
There's an old saying that could be revived. Don't wash your dirty linen in public. Which also has a corrolary - don't wash your clean linen in public.
Today, there is the saying, "Too Much Information" -- a cringe written as TMI in social media because it's such a common communications problem.
This is an "editorial" function, more than a writing function. How much to reveal, and when and to whom. Getting that correct means knowing that line between Self and Other, and secrecy and privacy.
This secrecy/privacy dividing line and a raft of related issues about Identity and the role of humans in a roboticized society (as discussed above) is indeed that Single Issue Of Most Concern you referenced.
This evolving civilization is in the process of redefining very fundamental issues. But those issues are so fundamental people don't want to think about them, even don't want to know they exist. Because of human nature, humans focus all attention on the most irrelevant matters to avoid confronting the issues that do matter.
9. Do you know and understand what a LARP is? For most of my life, the Christians around me have had a very negative attitude toward popular movies, “secular” music, and especially gaming. What is wrong with this picture, and how has the interview changed your understanding of what I am trying to do?
JL: yes as a long-time fan I know LARP. In fact, there has been a Sime~Gen LARP, and I think one based on my novels MOLT BROTHER and CITY OF A MILLION LEGENDS. The novels are designed to be played, which is why there very likely will be a Sime~Gen videogame fairly soon.
My understanding of what you are trying to do has not changed.
I wouldn't say there is anything wrong with this picture. As noted above, we are swinging into a Pluto Return -- 8th House is also mysticism as is Neptune (which also signifies the state of mind necessary for Romance). Right now Neptune is transiting it's own sign, Pisces. The "Gates" are open to other dimensions of reality. Few can tolerate that. The level of confusion, the paniced grasp at belief as the cognitive tool to understand reality will increase, and not abate until maybe 2025.
I did an essay, (it is on simegen.com somewhere) about the precession of the equinoxes and how that correlates to the way Earth's various populations view God.
Once you understand that the majority around you are viewing the Ineffable through the one window with the curtains open, then it shouldn't disturb you to discover that you are peeking through a crack in the curtains of a different window. All of us are looking at the same thing -- what is OUTside this reality. But we all see something different. It is the Blind Men And The Elephant problem - to know what part of reality is, is not the same thing as knowing the entire reality.
All those people who see what you do not see, and do not see what you see, are doing fine. Mind your own business and all will be well.
10. If I asked you to help me make a Star Trek Connection, would you trust me enough to do it? What about Wil Wheaton?
JL: I doubt Wil Wheaton knows who I am or "follows" me, though I follow him on Twitter.
These people are actors (or writers, directors, producers) of a commercial product. The people are not the characters they play or create.
Study Hollywood and you will learn that actors and writers are at the bottom of the pecking order, people of no consequence. Talent is cheap and plentiful and they are utterly replaceable from the point of view of the Industry that reaps profit from their work.
Actors and writers don't want to hear from you unless you have the power to pay them or increase their popularity. If you do have that power, your Agent or Manager will contact their Agent or Manager. If you attempt to contact an actor directly, you are telegraphing that you have nothing to offer them (except fannish adulation, maybe, which is often felt as intrusive or inappropriate), have no clue how the Industry works, and will never have any place in that Industry.
This relates to my answer above emphasizing Individuality - privacy vs secrecy. Who are you? If you're a professional in my industry and have a business proposal for me, then you know how valuable my privacy is to me, and you know how to contact me to present your proposal. That is one of the most widespread prevailing attitudes, and it is an attitude rammed into their heads by force -- because of the impact of loss of privacy due to fame (and/or infamy).