Sunday, April 30, 2017

"Exploit The Work Of Others And Don't Pay Them"

This author does not recommend it... but it is, arguably, why the "P.F.A G.S." companies are making a financial killing... and Wall Street rewards them.

Will politicians continue to reward, encourage, and protect the "permissionless innovators", too?  HR 1695 passed in the House of Representatives, but passage in the Senate may not be easy.

HR 1695 addresses the question, "Should the Librarian of Congress (whose job description does not include a requirement for any kind of sympathy for copyright owners or any experience with copyright law) be the boss of the Register of Copyrights and The Copyright Office?"

Maybe about as much as a bean counter should be in charge of quality... or a proverbial fox should be in charge of the hen house.

Music Tech Policy's Chris Castle opines on the politics of librarians.

So does The Trichordist, with comments

As the Authors Guild points out in a recent article, the interests of Librarians and Copyright Owners are not the same. Librarians wish to disseminate as much information and entertainment as possible to the maximum audience, at the least possible cost.  OTOH, Copyright owners are enormously encouraged and incentivized if they are paid.

To digress on the topic of being paid, or of being *not paid*, read the Eccentric Eclectic, who quotes Karen Springen's estimate that in 2014, over $80,000,000 per year is lost to ebook piracy (and illegal file sharing)

For a balanced view on *not being paid* check out the vigorous debate in the comments section of:

(This author uses "balanced" with tongue in cheek.)

In case you are wondering, "P.F.A.G.S." are Pandora, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Spotify. The order of their initials is dicated entirely by a requirement that the acronym can be pronounced.

Chris Castle explains the abuse of "address unknown" compulsory license filings, what the loophole is, and five ways it could be plugged:  (Initially, I used "scandal" but changed it to "abuse", because something is only a scandal if a lot of people are talking about it.)

These companies are allegedly exploiting a loophole in the law (I assume with a nod and a wink if not active collusion from the current Librarian of Congress) to avoid paying musicians and songwriters any royalties at all... for older releases, and also for the newest releases.

According to Tech Music Policy, Congress could put a stop to this rank injustice. One would think that the Librarian of Congress could put a stop to it without waiting for Congress. But, the interests of Librarians are not congruent with the interests of artists and writers and creators.

For authors, this "address unknown" exploitation has echoes of "orphan works" (remember the "Hathi Trust" case, where libraries and a search engine alleged that they could not locate eminently locatable authors of works they wanted to exploit?)

As for compulsory licenses, there are few authors who refuse to create and sell ebook versions of their own print works, but there is an audience that believes that owners of Kindles or computers or smart phones have an absolute right to an ebook version of any work they wish to read.

Finally, for authors newly discovering that they may be pirated, perhaps by online so-called libraries, Robert Stanek provides advice and a good template of a DMCA notice:

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Self-Driving Cars

The science column in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, by Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty, is always entertaining and informative. In the May-June issue, the authors write about "Robots on the Road." In other words, the very-near-future advent of the self-driving car. Doherty reports on his experience of riding in such a car at the Google research facility. It differs radically from a conventional car at first glance, having no steering wheel, accelerator, or brake pedal. The vehicle demonstrated its ability to avoid a pedestrian, a bicycle, and another car. The current "street-safe" model does have steering wheel, etc., so the human driver can take over if necessary. The ultimate goal is to produce autonomous cars that "talk" to each other, to pedestrians' cell phones, and to the road infrastructure itself. Among other questions about unanticipated consequences of populating the highways with autonomous cars, the article speculates on energy use. Will more people choose to travel by car if they can relax and watch cat videos instead of driving? On the other hand, these cars should be more fuel-efficient than conventional ones, so maybe the overall result of the change will be "a wash." Then there are the ethical problems: If a crash can't be avoided, what should the robot car be programmed to hit? An animal or another car? A concrete pillar (injuring or possibly killing the rider) or a flock of pedestrians?

Like any other emergent technology, autonomous cars will pass through a transition stage when the new technology shares the environment with the old. It seems to me that this period, just before the "tipping point," will be the time of greatest hazard. When all the vehicles on the road are self-driving, with no human error to worry about, we should be much safer. If I live so long, I'll be glad to relax and enjoy the ride. During the transition, I'm not so sure.

Speaking of autonomous machines, Bill Nye the Science Guy has a fun new series, BILL NYE SAVES THE WORLD (available on Netflix). The third episode (I think) focuses on Artificial Intelligence—its current status, future prospects, and potential benefits and risks. Is a "smart" thermostat true AI? What about the personal assistant that talks to you on your cell phone? Could the entire Internet become a sentient being (or is it one already, and we just aren't aware of it)? How about those self-driving cars that communicate with each other and make decisions independent of human intervention?

In addition to "robot" ground vehicles, a Google-supported startup is also working on a flying car—sort of; it looks and performs more like an ultralight airplane:

Flying Car

According to this article, the FAA has approved the craft for use in "uncongested areas." The page doesn't say how that term is defined. Operators won't need a pilot's license, which sounds to me like an invitation to disaster. Consider all the accidents that happen on the roads daily, and imagine all those drivers moving in three dimensions. Of course, for the foreseeable future such vehicles will be so expensive we can't expect to see many of them around, fortunately.

For futuristic personal transportation, I'll take the driverless car (when it's perfected) over the human-piloted flying car, thanks.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Theme-Archetype Integration Part 5 - The Minority Speaks

Theme-Archetype Integration
Part 5
The Minority Speaks
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in this Theme-Archetype Integration series

Part 1 - The Nature of Art

Part 2 - How to Tell Hero From Villain

Part 3 - Showing Character Without Telling

Part 4 - Ownership and Marriage

And previously on Marriage:

Here are some posts on Theme.

This post is of use to Fantasy writers creating Kings, Princes, Dukes and other marriageable scions of high society.  It is the kind of thinking necessary to create original Fantasy, not derivative Fantasy.

We'll consider the plight of the minority. and how that plight is now changing fast.  

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.

Husband and Wife might usefully be viewed as an Archetype - The Couple.

The King, The Warrior, The Warrior-King, The Priest, The Hero, The Villain, and  are classic Character Archetypes. 

Just because you don't have a Kingdom doesn't mean you aren't a King.

We have the "Man is the King of his Castle" idea enshrined in law.  Even if you are just renting, you are King -- you get to kill robbers who break in and threaten your life.

THEME: Humans are territorial animals. 

ARCHETYPE: King of his Castle. 

Lord of the Manor:  Baron. 

Even in the U.S.A., we have established a Peerage, a Hierarchy of "importance" -- often based on wealth, as in any Aristocracy, but also very much based on "Rights" and "Privileges." 

Privileges are not rights -- they are earned. 

One must qualify for a privilege.  The theory in the U.S.A. is that anyone can qualify for any privilege, but you don't get the privilege unless you qualify. 

That theory is being altered by the adamant support for the idea of "White Privilege" -- that only "white" humans can qualify for, and that they qualify for it without actually doing anything but being born. 

In an Aristocracy, certain individuals are chosen by a King to be elevated to the Peerage. 

In the U.S.A., you are entitled to trial by a jury of your peers.

I've seen many juries empaneled who did not seem, to me, to be the peer of the person on trial.  For example, O.J. Simpson. Nobody on his jury was a celebrity of such renown, so not one person on that jury was his "peer."  So in what way do we get trial by our peers?

Note the relationship between the word Peer, and the word Peerage.  A Peerage is a hierarchy of aristocrats, a list of successors, a hereditary position. 

Peerage - Wikipedia
A peerage is a legal system historically comprising hereditary titles in various countries, comprising various noble ranks. Peerages include: ...

Peerage | Define Peerage at
Peerage definition, the body of peers of a country or state. See more.

Peerages - definition of Peerages by The Free Dictionary
The rank, title, or jurisdiction of a peer or peeress; a duchy, marquisate, county, viscountcy, or barony. 2. Peers and peeresses considered as a group. 3. A book ...

A Peer is your equal, someone born at the same "level" as you were.

To have a society arranged by Peers is to imply that not everyone is "equal" to everyone else.  We are not all the same.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the U.S.A. were written by Aristocrats steeped in British culture as well as a pioneering culture.  They came up with a blend of Democracy (mob rule: two lions and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch), and a Republic (the Roman Empire model).  Well educated men (all men) decided to invent an entirely new form of social organization.

Never before, not even in Biblical times, was such a free hand invention promulgated -- and it has worked (sort of) for more than 2 centuries (baby on the World Stage).

They had lived under British Rule, and so they understood the concept Peerage in ways you and I do not.  When they wrote "jury of peers," they knew what they meant.  We do not know.  Even modern day Brits do not really know. 

But we, Fantasy writers, can imagine or invent new meanings and create worlds inhabited by humans alongside non-humans (Fairies, Elves, Trolls, Zombies, Vampires, Gnomes, Griffins, Furies).

Last week, we discussed the TV Series, Lucifer, and the way Fantasy handles the archetype The Immortal.  And we delved into how your Self-Image (personally, as the writer) is visible to readers in your Theme, even when you can't see it yourself.

There we referred to an article on about scientific studies of Eastern and Western civilizations and how they think in profoundly different ways -- Collectivism vs Individualism.

Think now about whether Immortals form a Group - or a "level" -- a Peerage? 

What exactly is a Peerage?  What differentiates King from Duke from Baron?

Basically, it is wealth -- the amount of Land each level commands.  All Barons are peers as they control about the same amount of land (and number of peasants to work that land).  Dukes command (not own, as the King owns all) a number of Baronies.  And Kings command all the Dukes, Counts, every level.

Kings get to command them all by virtue of owning all the land, and then handing command of the various segments to the various levels.

Originally, (as far back as Biblical times) Kings got to be King by leading armies to conquer and just TAKE the land.  And then they would appoint men who had fought well and loyally for them during that campaign to command sections of land. 

In return, the appointed ones got to keep profits from their lands, but had to be able to muster troops for the King when battle might loom.

So a King is peer only to another King, Counts and Dukes are at about the same level, one step below the King, and Barons etc are peer to other Barons etc.  Who is heir to whom, and who inherits what depends a lot on who marries whom.

So we get to the "arranged" marriage -- and the social rules about marrying someone who is not your peer. 

It is all an imaginary way to create "levels" or "classes" or "castes" in human society. 

Can you imagine a society of humans, a state or country, where all humans are entirely and completely equal to, the peer of, absolutely identical to, every other human?  All have the same amount of money, the same square feet of apartment, the same clothes?

It is easy to imagine such a situation among Aliens from Outer Space, harder to see it among Fantasy creatures.  Most of our classical mythology depicts the society of the gods in a heirarchy under a King. 

I don't know any myth system that has more than One God that depicts all the supernatural beings as identical or in any way equal.

There is always a contest, a competition, to see which is more powerful than the other.  We see that in the story of the Exodus where there is a contest (of sorts) between the Egyptian gods and the Creator of the Universe. 

So even our Heavens are created in a hierarchy of non-equals.

The framers said "All Men Are Created Equal" -- but they didn't say that men had to stay that way (and of course never mentioned women -- boy, did they get blindsided or what?)

THEME: there is something in human nature that requires social hierarchy for health, but how hierarchy is created differs vastly.

Concurrently with the Framers of the Constitution being born and growing up, being educated and founding fortunes, France was brewing the ouster of its Peerage and science was gathering steam as mathematics and data handling became possible.

Change moves so fast now that we forget it took a century to accomplish what we have done in the last few decades.

Population is exploding, and with it the task of governing so many people has become nearly impossible. 

Therefore, we have resorted to dividing human population into neat little compartments containing humans who are all equal to each other.  But the inhabitants of a compartment are not equal to the inhabitants of another compartment.  The science of this is called Statistics.

Creating and defining "compartments" must precede "getting organized" or creating a government.  A government can't govern if it does not know what exactly it is governing and to what end it is shaping the behavior of that population.

Dukes needed farmers and ranchers to work the land, artisans to manufacture things (such as weapons) and soldiers and Knights to answer the King's muster.  Dukes might enjoy or just tolerate minstrels to keep the peasants entertained.  That was the mob they had to govern, and it was pretty simple as they knew almost everyone by name or surname.

Here is an article that traces the development of the information that government needed to govern as the Middle Class developed, nations conquered more territory, and Kings confronted other Kings further and further away.  It delves back to the 15th Century and shows what kind of change we are in the middle of now.

This article from The Guardian presents the thesis that Statistics has lost the confidence of the public because it is impossible to take small, local communities into account when measuring national level statistics such as unemployment and GDP.  It is a great article, long and complicated, but Fantasy Writers inventing Kingdoms and Wars (with Elves, Goblins, or whatever) need to read this article and understand what it says and why it says it.  In short, it says statistics is regarded as vulgar.

But at the same time as you read in The Guardian, keep in mind this item on statistics failing to capture cervical cancer rates, and why reports indicated the cervical cancer rates were lower than they really are.  I think THIS is the real reason people distrust statistics these days.

It is from a newsletter called The Skimm January 24, 2017.

--------quote The Skimm----

Important. A new study found that cervical cancer is a bigger threat to US women than people realized. For years, the mortality rate for the disease was based on data that included women who’ve had hysterectomies. Hysterectomy: the procedure that typically removes a woman’s cervix, and - yup - the risk of cervical cancer. Once the data excluded those ladies, it showed a different picture. Even worse, the death rate is much higher for black women than white women. Some doctors say that could be because black women don’t have equal access to screenings or health coverage. Big problem.

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

And here is an excerpt from the article in The Guardian about why statistics has lost public confidence.  Convey this information to your reader using dialogue in short, snappy sentences fraught with subtext.

There was initially only one client for this type of expertise, and the clue is in the word “statistics”. Only centralised nation states had the capacity to collect data across large populations in a standardised fashion and only states had any need for such data in the first place. Over the second half of the 18th century, European states began to collect more statistics of the sort that would appear familiar to us today. Casting an eye over national populations, states became focused upon a range of quantities: births, deaths, baptisms, marriages, harvests, imports, exports, price fluctuations. Things that would previously have been registered locally and variously at parish level became aggregated at a national level.

New techniques were developed to represent these indicators, which exploited both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the page, laying out data in matrices and tables, just as merchants had done with the development of standardised book-keeping techniques in the late 15th century. Organising numbers into rows and columns offered a powerful new way of displaying the attributes of a given society. Large, complex issues could now be surveyed simply by scanning the data laid out geometrically across a single page.
---------end quote---------

The thesis of this long document is that Statistics is now distrusted because it captures the aggregate behavior of large populations but does not address the experience of the individual.  Here's how the article puts it:

Blindness to local cultural variability is precisely what makes statistics vulgar and potentially offensive

Note this article is in THE GUARDIAN, so use of the word "vulgar" is possibly misleading to Americans. 

The writer of Fantasy Romance may gain a lot by being skeptical of the idea that blindness to local cultural variability has anything to do with why the general population of the 21st century "distrusts" statistics.  Again, consider the "scientists" and "mathematicians" who decided to lump women who had their cervix surgically removed with those who had not, to create a low-incidence statistic.

Would you choose to include women who had their breasts removed in statistics of the incidence of breast cancer?

Science is now and always has been under pressure by politics and religion to get the results that are most profitable or beneficial to those in political or religious power positions.  Science has fought against this, but we never know which topic will fail to resist pressure.  That trait is the source of wonderful plot twists.

One alternative idea to explore is innate in the mathematics behind statistics -- statistics only yields useful information when analyzed in one direction, but not ever in the other direction.

Prejudice, (ethnocentrism, racism, bigotry) are cognitive errors based on trying to work a statistical equation backwards. 

For Example:
1. Most Terrorists are Muslim
2. This person is a Muslim
3. Therefore this person is a Terrorist

Or another example:
1. White races have unique unearned privileges
2. This person is of a white race
3. Therefore this person has had advantages of privilege unearned

Statistics, plain math, counting, multiplying, dividing -- very simple stuff -- can determine that most individuals of a category of human share a certain trait.  But statistics can not determine if any given member of that category of human actually has that common trait.

Statistics can not work backwards.

 In talking of society as a whole, in seeking to govern the economy as a whole, both politicians and technocrats are believed to have “lost touch” with how it feels to be a single citizen in particular.
--------end quote-------

Yet most media outlets, even school textbooks these days, and general conversational English assumes that statistics does indeed work backwards -- what math can reveal about a Group can tell you something about any individual member of that group. 

Hillary Clinton became famous for the phrase, "Basket of Deplorables" - lumping all supporters of Donald Trump together as a category (basket) and assigning them all the quality "deplorable." 

You had only to have a certain Presidential Preference to get into the basket -- so if you were in the basket, you also necessarily shared an unrelated trait, deplorable.

Statistically, that may be accurate, but faced with an individual supporter of Donald Trump, you dare not assume that individual is a "deplorable."  That individual may in fact have non-deplorable reasons for preferring Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton, or they might just be wholly ignorant of Trump's misdeeds. 

Statistics can't tell you anything about an individual.  But it is a powerful tool for analyzing large bodies of data.

This article from The Guardian shows you the historical link between Liberal Democracy and Statistics via the history of government. 


Then it shows you the way Statistics as a science is being disrupted or rendered useless by the whirlwind of technological change.

For roughly 450 years, the great achievement of statisticians has been to reduce the complexity and fluidity of national populations into manageable, comprehensible facts and figures. Yet in recent decades, the world has changed dramatically, thanks to the cultural politics that emerged in the 1960s and the reshaping of the global economy that began soon after. It is not clear that the statisticians have always kept pace with these changes. Traditional forms of statistical classification and definition are coming under strain from more fluid identities, attitudes and economic pathways. Efforts to represent demographic, social and economic changes in terms of simple, well-recognised indicators are losing legitimacy.
-----------end quote----------

As we've discussed many times, the entire science of Public Relations (PR) and thus the big business of Advertising (getting people to do something against their own best interests and for your profit), is based on the mathematics and science of Statistics.

------------ to Definition - "Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics." Public relations can also be defined as the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.

Note that definition says "mutually beneficial."  If it requires "strategy" to make someone do something, then that something is not beneficial to the one strategized against. 

You use "strategy" to get people to do things that benefit you, and you tell yourself it is "for their own good." 

You don't need strategy to make people do things beneficial to themselves.  Strategy is a form of aggression and there's nothing micro about it.  Hobson's Choice is a strategy to make someone take an unacceptable option to the benefit of Hobson.

The essence of Story is Conflict.

Conflict illustrates or symbolizes Theme. 

So the problem is to govern a large and growing population of Individualists who don't know what's good for them (but you do). 

It takes centuries, but you finally get a handle on it via Statistics so you can predict how sub-groups of the population will react.

Then, suddenly, they don't react as expected (Brexit, Trump).

Why? What happened?

Twitter.  Facebook.  Big Data.

Read this article from The Guardian we've been discussing.
The rise of identity politics since the 1960s has put additional strain on such systems of classification. Statistical data is only credible if people will accept the limited range of demographic categories that are on offer, which are selected by the expert not the respondent. But where identity becomes a political issue, people demand to define themselves on their own terms, where gender, sexuality, race or class is concerned.
-------end quote--------

"Basket of Deplorables" is a demographic category chosen by someone other than a denizen of that basket.

The denizens of the basket, now living in a customizable world thanks to Microsoft, want to define their own basket. 

In recent years, a new way of quantifying and visualising populations has emerged that potentially pushes statistics to the margins, ushering in a different era altogether. Statistics, collected and compiled by technical experts, are giving way to data that accumulates by default, as a consequence of sweeping digitisation. Traditionally, statisticians have known which questions they wanted to ask regarding which population, then set out to answer them. By contrast, data is automatically produced whenever we swipe a loyalty card, comment on Facebook or search for something on Google. As our cities, cars, homes and household objects become digitally connected, the amount of data we leave in our trail will grow even greater. In this new world, data is captured first and research questions come later.

In the long term, the implications of this will probably be as profound as the invention of statistics was in the late 17th century. The rise of “big data” provides far greater opportunities for quantitative analysis than any amount of polling or statistical modelling. But it is not just the quantity of data that is different. It represents an entirely different type of knowledge, accompanied by a new mode of expertise.
-----------end quote---------

So suddenly the goal is no longer to predict the behavior of large groups of humans -- but rather to predict and prompt/guide the behavior of individuals. (Facebook ads; Google Adwords).

Facebook and Google show you ads for products you've been browsing, or related items others like you might have bought.  ("like you" is rapidly becoming much more accurate.)

THEME: This application of technology, Data Mining, is going to render the Character Motivations you use in your novels that you are writing, incomprehensible to readers 20 or 40 years from now.

Think about that.  If you wrote a novel today that used Character Motivations rooted in the culture that will grow out of being governed not by a government of statistics (GDP) but of Big Data, customized government, personally customized LAWS???  -- today's readers would not understand that Character.

The Regency Romances being written today depict the women as 21st Century, individually strong, independently minded humans.  They were not any such thing.  Even those with a character pre-disposed to independent thinking were emotionally crippled compared to today's woman.

Think about a writer 40 years from now depicting you, today, without understanding the statistics driven world?

What is the looming statistical horror of today?  Income Inequality -- the extreme difference between the 1% and the lower 50% of the population.

What is the biggest issue driving our collective concerns?  Women's health?  Minority Rights?  Women aren't quite a "minority" these days, but at times and in places we have been. 

We have had our first "minority" President in Barak Obama, and almost had the first woman President in Hillary Clinton. 

There is a yearning in the U.S.A. to place "minorities" in government, in "power" (though U.S.A. government officials have no power; only voters have power).

How would someone born and raised in a world where government uses Big Data to manage policies view our driving will to see Minorities rise in the Peerage?

Raised in such a world of the future, would they even know what a "Minority" is?  Or would they care?

From the perspective of that (not so far) future, your readers would be sorely puzzled by the antipathy to Donald Trump and his millionaire riddled cabinet. 

The media is brim full of articles decrying the absurd and insane wealth of the 1%.

The reader raised in our Big Data Governed future will look at those articles and then at all the articles about the unfair treatment of minorities, and be unable to understand why we admire a President from one minority (Blacks) and decry a President from another minority (1%). 

The Super Rich are a very tiny minority, so if we want minorities to take turns governing, then why would we object to the rich getting a turn?

THEME: All Minorities Should Get a Turn Governing

Explain, using symbolism and conflict, why certain minorities (Kings, Dukes) should govern and other minorities should not.

Remember, you are explaining this to a readership that has no concept of "statistics" and thus can not encompass the idea of a "1%" as a category, or a "basket," -- as a homogeneous group.  What do the Super Rich have in common with each other besides money?  Nothing.  So those used to a government guided by Big Data and Deep Diving into Big Data simply have no referent for the concept "the" Super Rich.  They don't have a concept for "Hispanics" or "Blacks" or "Asians" or "Muslims" or "Jews."  These words do no summon to mind a visual of a Group.

Grouping the way we think of it just makes no sense if you are managing individuals by knowing everything about that individual.

Differences matter more than Similarities.

As this article points out, attributes defining groups become "fluid."

Writers who live in that world will put Characters into our world who do not think the way we do.  So what will they think?  How can you explain us to them?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wild West Web... and Sympathy for The Charging Bull

On the subject of "www", pantsers and procrastinators might like to be reminded that your websites will be more searchable if you migrate from http  to  https.

Here's some info

Allegedly, if you (authors!!!) do not have https links, most of the popular browsers will flag your links as "not secure", which may mean that a few potential visitors will decide not to visit or not to follow your links.

At the same time, register your copyright agent!

This author needs to take her own advice!

Last Sunday, I wrote about the perils of curating content. If an internet platform starts to make active front end decisions on which user-uploaded "content" to post and which to suppress, (before any DMCA notices have been sent in from copyright owners about allegedly infringing files), those platforms may lose their Safe Harbor Protection.

I was reminded of this last week, when news commentators were discussing recent rapes and murders and other illegal activity being streamed on Facebook. The shocked commentators called for Facebook to actively curate "content" before it goes live, as most internet sites seem able to do for child pornography. Curating this or that might be the thin end of the wedge (or the camel's nose under the tent) for loss of "Safe Harbor" for sites whose business model depends entirely on "content" that other people provide at no cost to the sites.

The argument last Sunday, as I recall, was that if there is a copyright-claiming watermark on a photograph that a moderator actively decides to display, the moderator ought to be assumed to have "red flag knowledge" that the watermark says for example "Joe Doe owns the copyright", but Jane Blow has uploaded it purporting to have all rights.

As Joy R. Butler of the Law Office of Joy R Butler expresses it (in the context of featuring someone else, or someone else's property in a commercial advertisement )

"Ownership of a copyrighted work is not the same thing as ownership of the copyright in the work."

A lot of people don't understand that.

The same rule probably applies to internet memes, too. Most memes that I have seen, appear to be based on a copyrighted photograph of someone or something, with the addition of a quote.  Is that a "transformative use"? Or is it a "derivative work" and "copying", in which case, it is probably copyright infringement.

Ought you to be "liking", "sharing", and "retweeting" it? How about "memejacking" it? What if you try to monetize or make commercial use of other people's memes?

Claire Jones of Novagraf writes "One does not simply post memes without reviewing the IP issues".

Methinks some do!

Claire Jones recommends checking out the history of memes on

Finally, a puzzler. Does the placement of the statue of "Fearless Girl" infringe on any of the rights of the artist of "Charging Bull"?

I thank Joy R Butler for this thoughtful analysis of the legal and moral issues.

The bull used to be charging.  Simply charging. That's a good, strong, powerful, natural, even joyful activity. It symbolized "animal spirits" on Wall Street. (These are my thoughts). Now, that bull is charging AT a defenceless little girl. The bull has become a bully.

The Fearless Girl would not merit her title if she'd been placed on any other street in any other context. My view is, she should be displayed somewhere else, and her creator should create his or her own threatening animal as a companion piece.  What do you think?

But if you are pleased to comment, please use your own words and do not add copyrighted images or links without full and proper attribution.

Thank you.
And all the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Problem with "They"

Nowadays it's not uncommon to meet people who don't identify with either pole of the standard "he" and "she" binary. "It," our only singular neuter pronoun, doesn't work for sentient creatures. "They" is often used as a gender-neutral pronoun in these cases. My elementary school and high school teachers hammered into our heads (and your teachers probably did the same to you if you're close to my age) that singular "they" is ungrammatical and should never be spoken or written by literate persons. Those who hold the contrary position point out that singular "they" for subjects of unknown gender has been around for at least 600 years. I can grit my teeth, defy my early training, and accept that usage in a case like this:

"Somebody left their car keys in the lounge."

That sentence refers to a hypothetical or unidentified person. This example, however, seems fundamentally different to me:

"Lee left their car keys in the lounge."

A pronoun that's nominally plural applied to a single, known individual just sounds weird. The one exception that comes to mind, the "fusion" characters in the animated series STEVEN UNIVERSE (made up of two or three individuals temporarily fused into a composite person), isn't likely to be met in everyday life.

If we don't want to say "they" in place of "he" or "she," though, what do we do? (Well, aside from asking what pronoun a given person prefers, as the page linked below suggests.) The phrase "he or she" might work in writing but would be cumbersome in speech. Besides, as mentioned, some people don't identify with either one of those. We could repeat the proper name every time instead, as some church liturgies do to avoid assigning a sex to the Supreme Being (including the odd compound "Godself"). Madeleine L'Engle often refers to God by the ancient Hebrew word "El" instead of "He" or "She." In ordinary conversation, though, constantly repeating a person's name sounds awkward. What about inventing a neuter or inclusive pronoun, which has often been tried?

This page discusses gender-inclusive and gender-neutral pronouns, with a brief historical overview of these words and a chart of gender-neutral pronouns that have been coined and used in some speech communities:

Gender Pronouns

There's a surprising variety of neologisms proposed to solve this problem, and no consensus term has been adopted in popular speech. As linguistic scholars tell us, the basic building blocks of a language resist change. In the course of its development from Anglo-Saxon, English has freely adopted such parts of speech as verbs, nouns, and adjectives from Latin, Greek, French, and many other languages. A familiar joke declares, "English doesn't borrow from other languages. It mugs them in dark alleys, rummages through their pockets, and takes what it wants." Structural elements such as pronouns, however, are a different matter—with some little-known exceptions mentioned on the page cited above.

The languages of aliens with more than the two sexes displayed by typical Earth mammals would include other gender pronouns. Writers who create such aliens can invent words to match. Transforming languages actually spoken in our own cultures isn't so easy.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Self Image And The Tree of Life by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Self Image And The Tree of Life
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Many Paranormal Romance novels include the premise that Long-Lived or Immortal Beings walk among us.  Some are scary and some are yummy hunks.

There is something sexy about the Immortal, or near-immortal.

Check out the TV Series LUCIFER --

Here you have fallen angels, angels on a mission, certain they know their father's Will, then not so certain.  They have powers. They lose powers. They walk as mortals, get hurt, get confused, do wrong, experience remorse, struggle to complete a mission -- and just plain struggle.

Many viewers see Lucifer, himself, as the prime hunk - but others see some of the other Angel characters as riveting.

We find an Immortal, then wonder about ways to kill him.  In the TV Series Lucifer - a dagger is presented that can destroy body/soul/ -- even an Angel can be destroyed.  Uriel is destroyed by Lucifer using that dagger, and it is Uriel who brought the dagger to Earth to use, perhaps, on their Mother.

Vampire and Werewolf Romances often turn on the premise that the Supernatural beings strewn through our everyday world, hidden by subterfuge or magic or just human inattentiveness, are long-lived and/or Immortal.

The everyday reader is familiar with the idea that Souls (if they exist) are Immortal.  There is an "afterlife" -- and/or rebirth, reincarnation.  These are not within our everyday experience (except perhaps the Meet Your Soul Mate experience), so they make great "What If...?" premises for fiction.

The Tree of Life, in the Garden of Eden, is the source of fruit that confers eternal life.

Vampire and Shapechanger novels often explore the advisability or dubious value of "eternal life."

Which side of that argument you prefer to take, in fiction or in real life, may be a function of your Self Image.

What entertains us, and what writers put into their fiction, comes from deep in the unconscious -- sometimes of an individual, but often of our culture or even Humanity as a whole.

Artists depict
that non-verbal information about individuals and whole cultures (sometimes humanity as a whole) -- whether the artist knows it or not.  Usually, the artist does not know it -- at least before creating the work of Art, and often for decades afterward.

Reading what you wrote thirty years ago may reveal what you thought and felt back then -- but it also illustrates how you have changed.

Once you grasp that living a human life means CHANGE - you have a clue to what "Immortal" may mean, and why it might not be all good.

Your Self Image changes because your Self changes.

This is clearly depicted in your Astrological Natal Chart and the tools Astrologers use to evolve the potential at birth into the possibilities of today.  The "Self" changes.

If the Self Image does not change to match the Self's own evolution, psychological difficulties emerge.  Those difficulties will be externalized by each individual depending on how they are situated in "life" (e.g. waiting tables in a failing greasy spoon or sitting in the Oval Office).

Sometimes we become saner with time.  Sometimes we become less sane with time.  Sometimes we can handle everything life throws at us. Other times we cave in, get wiped out like a Surfer riding a tsunami.

The Art of Astrology is about figuring out which times are which, and what the available options are -- and how to update the available options list.

Writers don't have to know Astrology to use it in crafting a Character and the plot of the Character's story.

Here is the Index to Astrology Just For Writers.

Whether aware of it or not, all humans "know" Astrology -- we hear the still small voice prompting to do or not do; we feel great or depressed; we take risks or avoid them; we blurt out inadvisable remarks or keep silent.

Since your reader has had this experience, you must depict your Characters as either having and heeding that gut-feeling, still-small-voice, or being deaf to it.  There will always be Characters around your main Character who hear that voice.  We often call it Intuition - or other less admiring terms.

In March, we discussed an Interstellar War/Action series by Dave Bara

in which the main character (a Marty Stu type Character) is the most Intuitive around, and his Military uses a scientific method of measuring Intuition to rank people.

Intuition can be treated as a science fiction element, as can precognition (see Jean Johnson's series

In the Art which the writer creates, the writer's Self Image will be the key.

As in music, notes are selected to go together, creating a "key" and all the notes in a sequence have to be in the same musical key.

A novel is like a symphony -- and the novel composition is as formalized and set as the structure of a symphony.

The "key" you write in is your Self Image.  Your "Voice" as a writer is like a singer's voice.

Developing your writer's Voice takes exercise and training, strong breathing muscles, strong vocal cords (which get strong only by exercise), good vocabulary, command of grammar and syntax, and above all an "ear" for emotion, and an "eye" for reality.

We've talked about developing your writer's Voice for years on this blog, but have seldom touched on the elements of your self-image that you inadvertently reveal in your fiction.

Most of what you reveal comes into your fiction via Theme.

You may consciously think so-and-such is the theme of this novel, but the dialog and plot events speak of a different theme.

Likewise in the Worldbuilding that we have explored extensively -- how the fictional world you build has to be constructed of the elements of your target audience's real, everyday world.  This is especially critical for self-publishing authors.

Theme must be integrated into every element in the framework of a story -- every clever bit of dialogue or Character backstory, every detail of furniture or Alien Creatures, must be selected by the Theme.  Any stray bit that does not bespeak the Theme will jar the reader out of the story -- or get blue-penciled by a great editor.

So, since Self Image is the basis of all Themes you actually write (as opposed to what you think you are writing), that deepest self-image shapes everything in a story -- the World, the Characters, the Story, and the Plot:

And all of this integration, the nails that hold your fictional work together, come from your people-watching, critical observation of science, funding for science projects, politics, and every aspect of human behavior.

All of these elements you share in common with your target readership are filtered through the lens of your self-image and their self-images.

 The self-image quirks you have in common make your fiction "resonate" with your audience -- meaning they will recommend your novels to their friends.

So we've been discussing the components of a writer's self-image, where to get them, how to hone, define and strengthen those components, and how to discover which components the writer has in common with the target readership, for years.

Bit by bit, we've been building an image of self-image.

Self-image is the "key" you write in, sing your song in, and the color palette you paint your pictures in.

Know Thyself.

Are you an Immortal Soul on a journey through life, or on a vacation?

Do you inhabit your body -- or are you just your body and nothing more?

Do you have a Soul Mate?  Have you found (and maybe lost) your Soul Mate?

Have you been loved -- and known it at the time?

Have you experienced Life at its fullest?  Have you had the "time of your life" on some vacation, or perhaps at an awards ceremony where your triumphs were celebrated by people you didn't even know?

What moments have you lived that your readers also have -- or have not -- lived?

What do you know that your readers need to learn?

Where do you find out what your readers already know?  And where do you discover what your readers don't know that you can explain to them?

Many readers gravitate toward Science Fiction to meet "Alien" Characters, and to walk that mile in Alien moccasins, to feel what it is to be Alien (i.e. not human).

The closest we come to that experience is meeting someone from a different culture, a human who just functions from a different set of assumptions about Reality and the Human Condition.

Popular Science articles, such as appear all over the internet, explaining publications in Peer Reviewed Journals (and often misinterpreting those publications in order to get 'clicks') are one great source of discovering what your prospective reader knows is fact.

If you know that the reader's firmly accepted facts are incorrect, you can leverage your knowledge into Conflict and Plot that everyone will be talking about.

The art of contradicting is commercial art.

Does your self image include the archetype Skeptic?

Where does Self-Image come from?

Science is in hot pursuit of answers to questions about Human Behavior, just as other scientists are pursuing longevity, the Fountain of Youth, and even Immortality.

Here is a article ...

...about the contrast between Eastern and Western civilizations, and the attitudes toward "self" that prevail in Collectivist Societies vs. attitudes toward "self" that prevail in Individualistic Societies, and how geography may play a part.

Each type of self-image, collectivist vs individualistic, produces entire spectra of political and philosophical systems, attitudes, and movements.  So maybe this is the master key to the essential dichotomy in human history?  Maybe there really are two kinds of people?

The Skeptic would view this article with the question in mind, "How do you prove that Collectivists differ from Individualists?"  In other words, what proof is there that these two concepts are mutually exclusive, either/or choices?

The non-critical thinker would simply accept this decree as truth -- after all, it is the result of doing science.  What idiot would question whether science is reliable (after all these centuries of it being proven correct?)

Here is a quote from the middle of the article:

When asked about their competence, 94% of American professors claimed they were ‘better than average’ – a sign of self-inflation


Taken out of the context of this article - reduced to a factoid - this statement might be interpreted to mean that 94% of American Professors are self-deluded.  Some might conclude that being American means being deluded.

But think about it.  You get to BE a professor by being way-way-way above average.  You have to get a Ph.D. before you even start on a professorial career -- and "Ph.D." is defined as someone who has contributed something new and original to the sum total of human knowledge -- to the basic wealth of all humanity for all time.

The average person has not done that.  So professors are not "self-inflating" their importance.  Their importance has been hard won by impressing a jury of peers and producing something nobody has ever produced before.

Despite that shaky hole in the article's reasoning, there might actually be a usable point here, if your objective is to create a Science Fiction Romance story.

‘Weird’ minds
Until recently, scientists had largely ignored the global diversity of thinking. In 2010, an influential article in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences
reported that the vast majority of psychological subjects had been “western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic”, or ‘Weird’ for short. Nearly 70% were American, and most were undergraduate students hoping to gain pocket money or course credits by giving up their time to take part in these experiments.

The tacit assumption had been that this select group of people could represent universal truths about human nature – that all people are basically the same. If that were true, the Western bias would have been unimportant. Yet the small number of available studies which had examined people from other cultures would suggest that this is far from the case. “Westerners – and specifically Americans – were coming out at the far end of the distributions,” says Joseph Henrich at the University of British Columbia, who was one of the study’s authors.

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

In other words, "science" the touchstone of reliable facts, was doing it all wrong.  Therefore, they got wrong results.  (Why? Ask yourself that? Why were they doing it all wrong? Remember: Follow The Money.)

Now the study has gone to look at Japan where a government decision caused people to move to a deserted island that Japan had claimed -- fearing the Russians would come snatch it if it were deserted.  So, the article points out, this island, Hokkaido, was Japan's version of America's West (remember this is a article).

Few people living in Hokkaido today have ever needed to conquer the wilderness themselves. And yet psychologists are finding that the frontier spirit still touches the way they think, feel and reason, compared with people living in Honshu just 54km (33 miles) away. They are more individualistic, prouder of success, more ambitious for personal growth, and less connected to the people around them. In fact, when comparing countries, this ‘cognitive profile’ is closer to America than the rest of Japan.

Hokkaido’s story is just one of a growing number of case studies exploring how our social environment molds our minds. From the broad differences between East and West, to subtle variation between US states, it is becoming increasingly clear that history, geography and culture can change how we all think in subtle and surprising ways – right down to our visual perception. Our thinking may have even been shaped by the kinds of crops our ancestors used to farm, and a single river may mark the boundaries between two different cognitive styles.

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

And the conclusion is that Collectivist thinking is a survival trait acquired by those who grow crops that take large numbers of people to produce (rice), and Individualistic thinking is a survival trait acquired by those who grow crops that thrive with fewer hands (wheat).

The implication of this article -- really, go read the whole thing as I excerpted it out of order -- is that socialism vs the American Republic style of independence and self-sufficiency is an either/or choice based on which is more likely to produce survival and more children who survive.

It's all about The Tree of Life -- or survival of the fittest.  The fittest to survive may be determined by how vital dependency on others is due to environment.

But it is an either/or choice.

If you make such a choice, it becomes the keynote of your self-image -- both the fact of which option you selected, and the fact that you bought into the idea that the options differ and a choice must be made.

The determination that a choice must be made rests on a philosophical view of the universe which is very Aristotelian, very zero-sum-game.  The validity of the argument that something is "wrong" with society when some people are so much richer than others depends on the zero-sum-game model of life, of the fight for survival.  In that model of the universe, the only way to get that much richer than others is to suck all the wealth up into your coffers -- because there is a limit to the amount of wealth that exists.

In the Collectivist model base, the idea that there is a "pie" that gets "sliced" and "fair" means everyone gets the same size slice, proceeds naturally from the assumption that "you didn't build that" -- that whatever you have, you have it because of other people's hard work, and your individual contribution hardly matters.

In the Individualist model, if there isn't enough to go around, you just make some more, and if you make some more, then it is yours to keep.  The Individualist model means that you aren't dependent on the contributions of others, but rather you support others by giving 10% of what you make voluntarily.

Either you must depend on "everyone else" --- or you must depend only on "self."

That, too, is an either/or choice which is a false Hobson's Choice.

The article presents this view of the universe, which is vastly prevalent among your readers, as if it is a firm, and immutable fact of reality.

The Skeptic asks, "Is it?  Is it, really?"

Non-humans from way out in the galaxy somewhere may never have thought of this dichotomy, or even of the process of dividing the world into dichotomies.

As a science fiction writer, you should look around for other solutions to the mystery of why different human populations ascribe to different classes of self-image.

Through millennia, humanity has produced many answers to that question.

As I mentioned above, Astrology is based on a world view that is very useful to writers because, whether they know it or not, your readers are familiar with the Astrological model of the universe.

It is a model based on balance of opposites.  The zodiac is depicted as a circle, going all around the Earth (even to the night-side).  We are in the middle of a globe of stars.

The circle is divided into 12 sections or "houses" -- (the old, classic zodiac of 12 signs which isn't "real" anymore as the Earth and Sun have moved).

Because it is a circle with 12 sections, each section has an equal and opposite section.  They all meet in the middle, (Earth is the center point in a natal chart).  Each House has an opposite.

The meanings that have been experimentally discovered for each of the Houses shake down into 6 Houses representing the inside of the person (psychology or Story) and 6 Houses representing the world outside of that person (politics, world affairs, or Plot).

For example, the First House representing self-image is opposite the Seventh House representing other.

First House represents Self, Seventh House represents Spouse.

Fourth House represents Home, Tenth House represents Career.

It is not an either-or choice, but a choice of method of balancing and integrating opposites.

So by Astrology - well known to the Ancient Egyptians and probably even before that - Individualism (1st House) does not exclude Collectivism (7th House), but integrates and balances it.

Likewise, the current feminist issue of Work (10th & 11th House) vs. Home&Children (4th & 5th House) is not an either/or choice, but a choice of methodology of balance.

Astrology is an empirical science, a method of indexing and storage/retrieval of information gathered by experience over many centuries.  Like all old wive's tales and herbal remedies, some is worth paying attention to because it is correct, and some is plain nonsense.

Whether you know it is called Astrology or not, you already know most of the information codified in Signs, Planets, Houses, Cusps, Aspects, Progressions, Solar Arcs, and all the rest.

You learned physics by dropping your food off your high chair tray.  You learned astrology by screaming for Mom to pick it up.

If you found Math useful in understanding physics and falling objects, you will find Astrological symbolism useful in understanding human behavior well enough to write about it and convey your wisdom to the next generation.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter... and Save The Date... and Safe Harbor

A very interesting situation may be developing around "Safe Harbor", the provision in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) that was intended to shield internet service providers who act in good faith from liability for the misbehavior of their users.

Courts are now paying attention to the concept (in the DMCA) of "red flag knowledge", and whether an ISP can claim Safe Harbor protections on the grounds of "ignorance" (or lack of knowledge) when their employees or assignees "moderate" or "curate" or "select" the user-uploaded content that they will display, (as opposed to allowing the users to post everything and anything without interference or assistance or supervision.)

Perhaps (this author speculates) this may be an unintended consequence of certain sites trying to keep so-called "fake news" off their sites. Or porn. Or actual crimes being live streamed.

Armen N. Nercessian and Guinevere Jobson of the law firm of Fenwick & West LLP penned a fascinating blog about a case where the 9th Circuit reversed a district court.

Perhaps, if there are moderators, they ought to be able to recognize a watermark that indicates that a particular photograph is copyrighted.  This could be interesting. Apparently different Circuits have different views... this may go all the way to SCOTUS.

For those interested, (and I am sure that few of you are!) April 18th from 1:00 pm Eastern Time until around 5:00 pm, the Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force will be hosting a public meeting on Consumer Messaging In Connection with Online Transactions Involving Copyrighted Works.

The problem is that consumers who download copyrighted works appear to have a poor understanding of what they can legally do with those downloaded copies. Indeeed!

This author will be listening in. It's been 22 days since I last logged in to to check the current status of copyright infringement of my four works (Mating Net, Forced Mate, Insufficient Mating Material, and Knight's Fork). It appears that Amazon-owned Goodreads is being implicated for decoration of the pages.  The KROGER grocery chain is giving paid advertising support to a site called something like "colourpalette" that appears to be encouraging folks to infringe copyrights,
while deciding on perfect shades of colors for their artwork or websites.

If you do a Google search for ebooks (perhaps looking for a title and also for ".pdf" and "download" and "free"), there are multiple sites with gd.fs inside the url that appear to go to a page selling hardware. Huge waste of time!  There are also some "Very Dangerous" sites that either Google or Norton will block, if you have their help.

On the subject of warnings about internet nasties, authors who own Trademarks are often sent official looking notices through the mail that appear to demand that the Trademark owner pays a surprisingly large fee for overseas Trademark Licensing, or else for "SEO". Read the fine print. Usually, legitimate demands for Trademark renewal are sent to the Trademark owner's lawyer, and renewals are due every fifth year.

Mary Bleahene of the lawfirm FRKelly blogged recently about Trade Mark scams. If you own one, or are considering owning one, you might enjoy her expertise in "Trade Mark Scams - Beware of Unofficial Notices."

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Writing "Wild" Sex

Three books about animal mating and reproduction recommended as sources of inspiration for writers who invent alien species:

WILD SEX: WAY BEYOND THE BIRDS AND THE BEES (1991), by naturalist Susan Windybank. Each chapter covers a different theme, such as "Group Sex," "Mating Calls," "Promiscuity," "Strange Sex Organs," etc. Except in the chapter devoted solely to birds, the author leaps from species to species in almost a stream-of-consciousness style and spends anywhere from a paragraph to a page or two on each. The reader can discover all sorts of intriguing body structures and behaviors for further exploration elsewhere. The book has a glossary, an index, and a short bibliography. WILD SEX is a fun read if you don't mind the pervasive, often too-cutesy anthropomorphizing of its animal subjects.

At the opposite extreme stands BIOLOGICAL EXUBERANCE: ANIMAL HOMOSEXUALITY AND NATURAL DIVERSITY (1999), by biologist and cognitive scientist Bruce Bagemihl, the most technical of the three. Directed at both academic and non-academic readers, this monumental text (over 700 pages counting footnotes, index, and credits) explores alternative mating activities among a wide range of animals, focusing mainly on birds and mammals. These fascinating analyses of animal behavior are backed up by statistics and careful explanations of the limits of zoological observation. The first half of the book gives an overview of the field, with many specific examples. Bagemihl tackles problems such as defining homosexuality, transvestism, and transsexuality among animals and the hazards of equating these phenomena with human behavior. The second half, "A Wondrous Bestiary," organized by categories (e.g., primates, marine mammals, hoofed mammals, etc.) under the two classes of birds and mammals, devotes about three pages to each creature. Individual bibliographic lists appear at the ends of these reference items. If you want to construct a rigorous scientific and statistical background for the sexual biology of your aliens, consult this work.

DR. TATIANA'S SEX ADVICE TO ALL CREATION (2002), by evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson (which I may have mentioned in the past). The most entertaining of the batch, this book is structured as "advice to the lovelorn" replies to letters from various animals and even a few non-animals such as slime molds (which may have about 500 sexes—not that all 500 have to unite to reproduce, but the organism can have that many distinct kinds of gametes). It's divided into three parts, "Let Slip the Whores of War," "The Evolution of Depravity," and "Are Men Necessary?" Dr. Tatiana explores the sex lives of all kinds of creatures from microbes to arthropods to mammals and most classes in between. The answers to the letters are long and detailed, using each creature's question as a springboard to discuss a variety of organisms that use similar strategies. She even explores the most deviant sexual pattern, strict monogamy, and the question of why purely asexual reproduction is so rare. Footnotes and an extensive bibliography provide supporting material to verify the seemingly bizarre facts. In my opinion, this would be the most useful research source for non-specialists seeking a wide—and wild—overview of reproductive biology in all its variations.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Depiction Part 28 - Depicting A Grifter And His Mark by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 28
Depicting A Grifter And His Mark
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Index to the Depiction Series is here:

During this long series on how to SHOW DON'T TELL many intangible story elements such as Nostalgia, Love, Hatred, Fury, Alien Culture, whole battlefields, Paranormal Forces, and so on, we have delved into the major headlines of the times, searched history, read a lot of novels, and thought deeply about lofty topics.

Now let's examine a kind of Relationship that generates story both in everyday real life and in novels. 

As Romance writers, we know that one of the greatest turn-ons in a Relationship is a disparity of "power" (the dominatrix, the he-man hunk, Kings, Princes falling in love with Cinderella, Pygmalion, etc.).

A Power disparity can also be a huge buzzkill for Romance of any kind.

Humans easily hate people who are "different" -- and one visible difference is wealth which translates into the power to solve or avoid problems which literally kill ordinary people.

The Aristocrat drunken gambler who commits a crime, meets the constable on the street and is offered a ride home.  The day-laborer drunken gambler who commits the same crime is pilloried, maybe beaten and abused first, certainly doomed to death or a life as a cripple.

Disparity of social position, often denoted by gender, also has worked that way in some cultures throughout history.  Even today there are places where the law discounts a woman's word and disallows women from owning or controlling wealth and the power that comes with it.

We see many headlines, pushed by expensive and slick Press Releases so that the headline appears from a number of sources simultaneously, thus hammering home the impression that this item is a)true and b)important.

The world of the Press Release, and the world of media editorial selectivity are both closed to your average novel reader.

We are admonished to "check your sources" -- to disbelieve Fake News because it come from this or that media outlet.  This admonishment is, itself, suspicious -- as audience, you "pay" all those people to check the truth of an item before disseminating it.  You pay with suffering through commercials and occasionally buying something.

Media editors and reporters (and Press Release writers who are Public Relations experts) are paid (often not very well) to nail down 3 sources on each news item, and each of the 3 must be "independent" of the others -- in other words, not reprinting the same Press Release.

Reporters are paid to sift through Press Releases and find the things you need to know -- then make phone calls, go to events, interview real people (not Public Relations representatives) and determine if the Press Release is true and that the wording gives the facts, without spin.

Every news story arriving in your inbox has multiple hours of depressing, often futile drudgery and boredom behind it.  Or if it does not, then it should.

The writer has to discover a view of human society in general (through history -- based on human nature), then use the art of storytelling to select details that sketch that view for the reader.

Art is a selective representation of reality -- and the screen used to select which details to include (and exclude) is called THEME. 

Here are some examples of THEME for a novel about a Grifter and his Mark.

1) The Media Always Lies

2) The Media Always Tells The Truth

3) The Media Spins A Narrative Tale To Control Popular Vote

4) The Media Serves The Wealthy Masters Who Own The Outlet

5) The Media Panders To Its Audience To Make A Profit

6) The Media Hires Honest Kids And Turns Them Into Grifters

7) There Is Nothing Wrong With Being A Grifter If You Use The Talent To Righteous Purpose

Notice those are statements.  THEME can also be stated as a Question - and the story does not have to ram an answer into the reader's mind. 

The idea that a scam artist can be righteous is the core of many TV Series, very popular ones, such as

It Takes A Thief

Remington Steele


White Collar

The thesis behind these shows and so many similar ones is that the End Justifies The Means. 

You can lie, cheat, misdirect, fool, and manipulate people and it is perfectly righteous, justified, provided it is for their own good.

The thesis behind "for their own good" is that people don't know what is good for them. 

So humans who know what's good are morally obligated to do (any nefarious deed) to force ignorant humans to choose what is good for them - a free will choice. 

After so many decades of very popular, extremely well made TV Series based on the theme of "End Justifies Means" general audiences see nothing wrong with that. 

So you can use this ploy to depict truly admirable characters that the reader will embrace whole heartedly.

You can create a Character who believes that if you love someone, it is perfectly justified to trick them into loving you back. 

You dress to attract them, choose a perfume that doesn't make them sneeze even if it stinks to you, wear wicked high heels that sculpt your legs, laugh at their jokes, hide your intelligence, and pretend you like sports and getting drunk.  Wear a skirt you can't run in so they have you trapped. 

Or if you are a guy, you choose gifts to trigger gratitude so you can get her into bed, you take her to places you can't afford, laugh at her bad jokes, flatter and tease her into thinking you like her because of her formidable achievements not her bra size or pert ass.

In other words, when someone attracts your sexual interest, you may behave in ways you would not ordinarily choose to, for the purpose of attracting their sexual interest to you.  This is not considered dishonest until after the Honeymoon. 

Every human knows the "game" and is expected to discount the dis-information.  If you are naive enough to believe what you see, you get what you deserve. 

Most humans don't think those courting behaviors make the person into a grifter, or the beloved into a Mark.

Maybe your Aliens look at flirtation and the age old human mating dance that way -- as dishonest and abuse of power.

Yes, normal human behavior, perfectly well sanctioned by society and firmly counted on by the Mark, could easily be seen as reprehensible power abuse.

Aliens could easily define humanity by the disparity in "power" between the genders -- all women are weak, all men strong. 

To a human, a disparity of "power" in a relationship can be crazy-sexy or serious buzzkill.

The entire profession of Public Relations (PR) is founded on the use of advanced mathematics and "big data" to gain power over and control the behavior of large segments of the population (for their own good).

Statistics has been the mainstay of tricking people for a long time.  Things may be changing.

Tricking people pays very well.

So tricksters have become more proficient as audiences have become more savy.

If you are constructing a Romance novel, consider whether one of your characters is 'conning' the other.  Then decide when in the novel you want your reader to twig to the trick. 

One way to be transparent to the reader while making an admirable, smart, savvy Character completely oblivious to the trick is to use the False Hobson's Choice.

First establish that the Character to be tricked understands their life and the world as a series of Free Will Choices -- but all options are listed in a menu that this Character does not know is populated with the options a powerful person approves of.

To be well and truly tricked, a Character must feel perfectly free to choose otherwise.  At the point in the novel where you reveal the trick (usually 3/4 point), the Character comes to understand that all the options available for Free Will Choice actually lead to exactly the same result, "You Are Screwed."

The False Hobson's Choice has been discussed previously.

The Hobson's Choice concept of a Free Choice where the only item on the options menu is 1 thing is an old tradition explained here:'s_choice

By extension, if all the items on the options menu are actually the same thing by different names, you also have the ploy of the Hobson's Choice, which gives power over the naive victim to the perpetrator.

You could set a hot Romance in a political election where your Main Character sleuths out the hidden (by PR tricks) fact that both candidates are beholden to the same Big Money Donor, and will implement that Donor's agenda. 

The "aristocrats" who pull the strings on today's Earth (most all countries) don't care who wins, but only that the people gladly accept the aristocrat's agenda as their free will choice. 

You can translate that Situation and the set of Themes to a setting such as an online Dating Service that might be manipulating marriages for the purpose of guiding human genetics.

Politics set in a Galactic Civilization would qualify as Science Fiction Romance, as would Romance set in a Genetics Lab.

Maybe a dating service is funded by a University Department that obtained the Grant for genetics research.

Maybe the University Department head is an Alien sent here to reshape human genetics (to what purpose?)

Or you can rip an issue from modern headlines that will likely persist for many decades, and set the story on some planet lightyears away where some human colonists crash among Aliens.

C. J. Cherryh's fabulous Foreigner Series uses that setting to entangle the reader in Alien politics.

Maybe your Alien Planet, infested with a small but growing colony of humans, belongs to a galactic consortium of planets.  The humans are a problem - politically, maybe genetically, maybe disease breeders, maybe disseminating some religion.  The Consortium insists the planet choose between being Alien Dominated or Human Dominated (but humans are a minority).

It would likely be a human who notes that all either/or choices between two elements that are equally odious are attempts to dominate by mental castration.

Either/or choices are based on the Aristotelian model of the universe which views reality as finite and "yes" as precluding "no." 

Human creativity sees the universe as infinite and infinitely malleable.  You will find a great depiction of this human view of the universe in Star Trek: The Original Series ( ST:ToS ) and all of Captain Kirk's various creative solutions to problems.  He solved the problem even if it meant violating the Prime Directive and got away with it.

Humans don't accept limits readily. 
A vast majority may accept Microsoft's dropdown menu choices, shrug off the grayed out ones, and make a free will choice from the black ones.

But Hackers do not do that.  If the program doesn't behave the way they want it to, they rewrite the program -- and they do it with pure glee.

That personality trait now gravitating toward "hacking" has been active in human history, probably since before there were humans.

It is human creativity.  You can't keep humans in a box for long.  Someone will figure out that if you wet the cardboard, you can poke through to the wider world.  If no choices on the menu are acceptable, create some new choices and write your own menu.  That's what humans do -- and nothing spurs a man to do that faster than winning a woman's love.

Most humans can be convinced they are helpless and without any recourse than the ones on the menu populated by their manipulators.  What if, among your Aliens, most Aliens were like our Hackers and only a few would accept pre-populated menus as the only choices?

An Alien Interstellar Consortium could never get away with demanding a human/Alien colonized world choose between being human dominated or alien dominated.  They would invent other choices, or un-invent the very concept of domination.

Here's the principle to remember as you are plotting your novel.

The Grifter Character tells the Mark what the problem is, and then reveals the only solution.

The pattern is clear in the Gypsy Curse Scam.  The Grifter finds a rich Mark, arranges for accomplices to inflict some bad-luck incidents on the Mark, then explains to the Mark that this run of bad luck is due to the Mark's money being cursed.  But don't worry, I know a Gypsy who can cleanse that cash for you.  Perhaps a demonstration is orchestrated to show how luck changes after the tainted item is cleansed.

The Mark hands over the cash, or jewels, or whatever, and never sees it again -- never sees the Grifter or any of his assistants again, has no idea where to find them.

It is the same thing as the handsome suitor who finally gets the woman into bed -- has his fun for a while -- and one morning just leaves.

The Grifter's main tool in getting what he wants is the false Free Will Choice - the Hobson's Choice - either take this horse or no horse at all.

Both options are equally unacceptable -- be a human dominated planet or an alien dominated planet; go to bed with me or wind up an old maid.

Most humans readily believe the choices listed on the menu are the only choices there are.  They don't look in the back of the stable to see what other horses might be there.  They don't jailbreak their iPhone to see what it can do with third party programs. 

Can curiosity and independence be bred out of humans by an Alien genetics program run through an online Dating Service? 

Can humans stranded on an Alien world be bred for compliance or defiance at the behest of the Aliens?

The trick in keeping humans happy is to convince the humans they have a variety of free will choices.  Give them choices.  Just make sure all the items on the menu are equally favorable to your purposes, so it doesn't matter what the human chooses.

Grifters leverage this human trait.  What would your Aliens think of humans who manipulate other humans that way?

Old Science Fiction used to rely on the Aliens having heard our Radio or seen our Television to learn our languages.  Yes, Earth leaks signal, but somehow I doubt this would be possible unless the Aliens were very close to Earth (our signals are weak). 

So, what would your Aliens make of current Television News broadcasts -- or can they get Cable or Satellite?  Would they understand the trickery?  Would they admire successful tricksters?  Would they scheme to insert "fake news" items onto the internet and wait to see if they become TV News items?

How could a writer use Fake News to introduce Soul Mates to each other?  Kidnapped by a UFO?

Watch the real news for short lists of your options - either it is this way or it is that way - try to find another way.  If "they" tell you what options you may choose among, create another option or three and you will have your Science Fiction Romance blockbuster title.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg