Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Trends and Counter-trends Part 1 - Character Arc

Trends and Counter-trends
Part 1
Character Arc  

Here is something to watch for and think about.  Fitting your own stories into publishing is somewhat like jumping Double-Dutch -- it is all in the timing.

Whether you like it, or hate it, or don't care, there is a trend in fiction that appears in novels, movies, TV Series, and other forms such as the graphic novel, and games.

It is a story type trend.  Story is all about what is going on inside the characters, specifically the main character.

Often you see a novel explained as "the story of an orphan who finds true love" -- or "the story of a widow who moves West to start a new life."

Novels are "the story of..."

The plot is all about what this Character does and what those deeds cause to happen, to which this Character then reacts by doing something else -- until the conflict is resolved.

The conflict embodies the theme -- the statement about the true nature of reality that this novel explains and illustrates.

The story of "an orphan who finds true love" -- involves some sort of conflict woven from a strong spirited Character in conflict with his/her  loneliness, bereavement, helplessness.  The orphan "finds" (i.e. does something) to solve the loneliness problem, and love-conquers-all resolves the conflict.

The story of the widow who moves West easily houses the conflicts built from themes of "new starts" -- of having nothing to lose, of making a bold leap of faith.  The conflict is the strong Character confronting the bereft and hopeless situation and either running away or running toward a dream.  The conflict is resolved by finding a new community, and opportunities.

To fit into Romance genre, such a story has to end naturally in a Happily Ever After situation.

So the writer has to show-don't-tell what qualities this Character has inherent in them to make it possible, natural, or even inevitable for this Character to reach such a reward.

The classic method of showing the Character deserves Happiness is to show the Character learning a hard lesson the hard way, and along the way adoptiing the habit of Charity and Good Deeds.  SAVE THE CAT! (the book about screenwriting I recommend novel writers study) points out that the most efficient way to convince an audience that a Character is worthy is to "save the cat" -- to put the Character in a situation where he risks life and limb for the helpless.

So today's trends, if you slice and dice enough TV Series and novels, are the story of a Character who starts off with strong ethical and moral principles, would indeed save a cat from the top of a telephone pole, or rescue a kitten from a storm drain, but the story is about how this worthy person is brought to a point where they violate their own ethical standards.

Some expect to "get away with it" and others expect to "pay the price."

But the one story-form I am seeing the most is the story of the moral corruption and devolution of an otherwise strong and admirable Character.  Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter is a great series, very popular, huge best seller, and except for a few books, mostly very well written.  But it is the story of Anita Blake
violating all the precepts she holds dear in Book 1, and learning to make excuses, wallow in the practical necessity of surviving, and finally embracing all she loathed at the beginning.


Decades ago, the prevailing story was of the weak Character, vacillating, hesitate, out-classed and out-gunned who man's up, steps up, takes charge, and grows stronger for the experiences of the story -- a character who learns from the lessons life teaches, learns the basics of wisdom.

If you start with a Character that has perfected strength and wisdom ( Obi Wan Kenobe ) you have to devolve him or kill him off.

If you start with a wimp, you can build him into somebody worth knowing.

If you start with a Character in the middle, neither so wise or so weak, you can go either way.

Watch the publishing trends.  It is a pendulum swing.  Sometimes people want to read about Characters growing in strength and wisdom, and sometimes people want to watch the mighty taken down a peg or two.

And between these two swings, you will find a prevalence of stories about Characters who don't change (like TV Series Characters in an anthology series), they don't learn from their mistakes and adventures, but spiritually tread water.

Sometimes audiences just want to relax and have their lazy, static lifestyle validated.

Find the trend your story fits into and start submitting when the previous trend has hit peak.  Ride the trend waves.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Small Things, BIg Trouble... Or The Potential Thereof

"Little things please little minds..." the old proverb (attributed to Ovid) goes, and the riposte is, "while greater fools look on in amusement."

Take Tweets.  Or even, simply ReTweeting a Tweet. Writer beware.
Did you know that a Tweet can be libellous?  Mark Sableman of  Thompson Coburn LLP explains about the case where a single unkind tweet cost someone $430,000.

Or, take jokes. Or, better still, do NOT take jokes.

Jokes are --or can be-- protected by copyright. The legal blog for Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphries & Leonard LLP recounts the sad story of a late night host whose writers allegedly followed the Tweets of a joke writer, and allegedly pirated them.

It's a good cautionary tale!


Facts cannot be copyrighted, but punchlines can be, because the choice of words used to express an original idea can be copyrighted.

Of course, no one dares repeat the four or five copyrighted jokes, but they can be viewed in the court documents. http://www.djcounsel.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Kaseberg_v._Conaco_LLC_et_al_121-1.pdf

Given that the plaintiff has a Twitter account, and tells jokes for the enjoyment of his followers, he might be worth following.

Legal blogger Dylan J Price of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP presents a longer version of the same case, with added color from the Foxworthy suit against a T-Shirt vendor who tried without permission to monetize Foxworthy's "you might be a redneck if..." quips.


For authors, use your own quotable quotes on your promotional T-shirts, and make sure you set up free Google Alerts for your own quotable quotes.

Happy Memorial Day!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 25, 2017

About Lying

The cover story of the June 2017 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC explores "Why We Lie." A pie chart of motives for lying or deception includes almost a dozen categories, such as personal gain, covering up a mistake or misdeed, playing pranks, hoaxing people for entertainment, self-aggrandizement, economic advantage, and the "social or polite" lie, what's often called "little white lies"—to avoid minor embarrassment, making someone else feel bad, etc. Everybody commits dishonesty sometimes. Cognitive scientists view the emergence of the ability to lie as an important childhood developmental process. Sophistication in deceit requires a well-developed "theory of mind," the capacity to see the world from someone else's viewpoint. Perpetrating falsehoods seems to have a connection with the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in processing emotions. The more often we lie, the weaker the amygdala's response becomes, so lying grows easier. Because our default inclination is to trust other people unless they give us reasons to distrust, the liar starts with an advantage. Also, familiar information is more likely to "feel" true, so the more we hear an alleged fact, the more we're likely to believe it. That's why publicly refuting misinformation is a risky endeavor; by repeating the statement, even to disprove it, you fix it in the audience's mind. Yet one more reason to resist immersing ourselves in a social-media bubble of information sources repeating stuff we already agree with.

The article includes capsule portraits of famous deceivers, such as P. T. Barnum and Richard Nixon. Try to pick up a copy of the issue; it offers much to mull over.

Have you seen the comedy LIAR, LIAR? A boy wishes that for one day his father, a lawyer, cannot tell a lie. Naturally, chaos ensues. Not only does the beneficiary (or victim) of the wish find himself incapable of the deceit his profession demands, he can't withhold the truth by remaining silent or even ask a question framed in such a way as to evoke an untrue answer. He tries with little success to explain to his son why adults sometimes have to lie. It's hard to visualize human society functioning without occasional untruths. Carried to its literal conclusion, this gift or curse would make it impossible even to give an equivocal answer to avoid hurting someone's feelings on a trivial subject or, at the other extreme, to deceive the Gestapo or a slave catcher on the whereabouts of a fleeing Jew or slave.

A species incapable of lying would have a very different culture from ours. If they couldn't understand the very concept of untruth, they would of course be disastrously vulnerable in a confrontation with human invaders. The relentlessly rational horses in GULLIVER'S TRAVELS don't lie and have a very hard time grasping the concept of deceit when Gulliver mentions it. In the original STAR TREK, it's rumored that Vulcans never lie. They certainly understand what lying is, however, and in one episode Spock points out, "It is not a lie to keep the truth to oneself." The series later confirms that Vulcans, like every known sapient species, do tell lies when deceit seems logically appropriate. (We see Spock engaged in deceit on several occasions, in fact.)

From the opposite angle, societies may differ in their judgment of what constitutes a lie; outsiders may think locals are lying when the locals don't see it that way. In some Earth cultures (e.g., Japanese) a blunt answer of "No" is considered rude. Instead, a politely evasive reply is expected and understood. Foreign visitors may think they've been lied to when any member of that culture would clearly understand the courteous "lie" as a negative response.

Mark Twain's little-known story "Was It Heaven? Or Hell?" presents a thought experiment on what might happen if any form of lying, even for the most compassionate purpose, were condemned as an unforgivable sin. Two maiden aunts, nursing their widowed niece and her daughter through a fatal illness, lie to the mother for her peace of mind, telling her the girl is well and happy when, in fact, both are dying. At the end, the aunts finally die and face postmortem judgment. They have always adhered to strict moral standards, one of the most important being that "speech was restricted to absolute truth, iron-bound truth, implacable and uncompromising truth, let the resulting consequences be what they might." They refuse to make any distinction between "a lie that helps and a lie that hurts." They are also kind, loving women who adore their niece and grand-niece and were told by the doctor that the sick woman must be protected from all excitement. (The doctor also declares that he tells lies, "a million a day," and so does every physician.) Which principle should prevail? To the vast majority of twentieth- and twenty-first-century readers, the answer seems obvious, but apparently in the culture of that time and place, the dilemma was real. The question in the title remains unresolved.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Index to Worldbuilding From Reality

Index to Worldbuilding From Reality
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

When a series gets long, I post an individual post listing the parts of the series that are connected, though posted on different dates.

Here are posts in the series titled Worldbuilding From Reality -- an angle on romance writing that uses the principle "ripped from the headlines" to lend verisimilitude to the theme "Love Conquers All."

Part 15  - So What Exactly Is Reality?
Part 14 - Ripping a Headline For Theme
Part 13 - Making War Alien Style

Part 12 - Worldbuilding Focuses Plot Options

Part 11 - Worldbuilding Does Not A Story Make

Part 10 - Does it Matter If Arousal Is Gender Specific?

Part 9 - Conquest in Romance

Part 8 - Flamewars Over the Double Space

Part 7 - The Cord That Binds Our Hearts In Love

Part 6 - Ringling Brothers Closing - 2017

Part 5 is the "Realistic Happily Ever After" post from November 2016.

Part 4 - Creating a Story Canvas

Part 3 Creating Future History

Part 2 Advertising Video Writing


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Communication Rights; Reproduction Rights... Repeatedly Targeting Women With Smart Phones

For those who think I am going to talk about SEX... I am not. I'm banging on about copyright, as is my wont.

Copyright law gives authors the exclusive right to reproduce their own copyrighted works (or to authorize or prohibit any copy of their works). In Europe at least, it also gives authors the exclusive right to communicate, or to authorize or prohibit any communication to the public of their copyrighted works.

This author has known many authors who upload short stories to their own websites, intending the short stories to be free for new and established readers to enjoy on the authors' own websites, or, if the authors say so, for visitors to the authors sites to download for personal, private reading.

Anyone who snags those free stories and publishes them elsewhere for their own glory or profit is a copyright infringer, at least in the EU.  Anyone who downloads those free stories from an unauthorised third part is also a copyright infringer.

Blogger Luke Moulton of the law firm Wright Hassall LLP has penned a very helpful and quite lengthy article explaining Communication Rights and Reproduction Rights and much more.  He also has a very clear chart explaining the difference between legal and not-legal uses of other peoples' copyrighted work.

In Europe at least, it is also copyright infringement to sell "loaded" media devices, whether they are loaded with copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright owner, or whether they are loaded with links to pirate sites where copyrighted works have been uploaded illegally. And, it is copyright infringement for the purchaser of such a device to click on the links to pirate sites and to download the illegally uploaded works on the pirate site.

So, there you have it!

Thank you, Luke Moulton!

Prolific legal blogger Mark Sableman of Thompson Coburn LLP is worth following! With his Sweepstakes Law blog, he's hit at least three home-runs with recent fascinating articles.

In this one...

... he explains rules for news aggregators. I assume that my summary of the best of the best of legal copyright-related analysis could be an "aggregation". It's relatively easy blog fodder. Someone else does the leg work. All the aggregator has to do is read a week's worth of good stuff, and select the most interesting and most relevant to her audience.

The redeeming feature of aggregation is that the polite aggregator sends her readers valuable eyeballs to the original copyright owner's site though links and attribution. It's only copyright infringement if the aggregator copies so much of the original content that interested visitors don't need to click through to the original.

Mark Sableman does point out some exceptions to the etiquette, especially where Europeans are concerned.

Finally, please forgive the required periodic reminder to our European visitors about Google cookies.
You cannot avoid them. The authors of this blog cannot prevent Google from slipping sticky cookies into your devices.

European Union laws may require us (the authors using Blogger) to obtain your consent for Google to put their Blogger and Analytics and AdSense and Google "cookies" on your machines. Since we cannot do that, we advise you that we deem you to have accepted Google cookies by virtue of visiting this blog.

We may also be obliged by strict compliance with EU law to give you "information" about "cookies".  Cookies are some kind of code that leaps like deer ticks and leeches on anyone and everyone who comes within range. They tell Google who you are, where you came from, where you go, and what you appear to like. This is so Google can sell targeted advertising.  Therefore, if you don't want to be offered opportunities to buy stuff that you really don't want or need, and cannot afford, clear your cookies as often as you can stand to do so. You may do so by clearing your History (which will also probably log you out of your favourite sites), or by viewing your Preferences and deleting all the parasitic cookies. And, once you have done it, you may have to do it a second time, because, as I said, these things are sticky.

PS. Mark Sableman addresses something like cookies on steroids with an account of an outrageous case where the cell phones of women who entered a health clinic (for any reason) were bombarded for up to 30 days thereafter with unsolicited and "mobile" advertisements for "abortion alternatives".


And we all thought that pregnant ladies had the right to be protected from stress!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Early Hominids in America

Scientists have conjectured that a prehistoric site in San Diego County may prove relatives of early humans entered North America 130,000 years ago, at least 100,000 years earlier than commonly believed:

First Americans May Have Been Neanderthals

Researchers have been working on this discovery since the early 1990s. The ambiguous evidence meets with skepticism. Are the mastodon bones found at the dig evidence of human or prehuman hunters in the New World at that remote period? If so, they might not have been modern humans (Homo sapiens). They might be older members of the genus Homo such as Neanderthals or Denisovans (a distinct subspecies discovered in Siberia).

The idea of other kinds of human-like people sharing the world with us—Neanderthals, Denisovans, the Indonesian "hobbits" (Homo florensiensis)—fires the imagination. It would be like having aliens among us. An SF explanation of orcs, elves, and dwarves might be developed by postulating that those creatures were independently evolved humanoid species or subspecies. Suppose some of them lingered into historical times as the truth behind the myths? Or remnants of their kind live secretly in isolated wilderness areas to this day?

Personally, I'm holding out for the possibility that survivors of hypothetical early hominids in California form the basis of the Bigfoot legend. Why shouldn't a small breeding population of such a species continue to hide in the depths of old-growth forests? After all, mountain gorillas were discovered and identified as a separate species only in the early 20th century, and only about 800 are estimated to exist in the wild. Why couldn't other types of supposedly extinct primates have survived?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 7 - The Cord That Binds Our Hearts in Love

Worldbuilding From Reality
Part 7
The Cord That Binds Our Hearts in Love
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here are previous posts in this series:


Part 5 is the "Realistic Happily Ever After" post from November 2016.

Part 4 - Creating a Story Canvas

Part 3 Creating Future History

Part 2 Advertising Video Writing


The silken tie that binds our hearts in love is probably a fiber optic co-ax cable wrapped in serious insulation.

What do I mean by serious insulation?  And why do we need such a thing?

Love is intense, the vibration that carries the divine voice, or maybe the divine voice itself.  Remember the story of Mount Sinai where the Ten Commandments were spoken by the divine Voice and the hills danced, souls flew out of bodies, and senses were scrambled -- rivers flowed backwards.

Just consider what that imagery means.  What are those words trying to "depict" -- as we depict Romance wrapped in science?

Here is the series on Depiction:


And in the series on Theme-Symbolism Integration we examined the issue of "Why Do We Cry At Weddings?"


What happens inside you -- all the way from the purely animal body to the highest level of the divine soul -- when the tears just burst forth and flow down your cheeks?  Why is that effect so prevalent at weddings and when else in life is it common -- and why?  What exactly is happening in that moment?

We gave those questions microscopic examination and progressed to the use of symbolism.


So now let's glance back at everyday reality as a source of material your reader has in common with you -- the news headlines from which you rip your story.

As we are discussing Science Fiction Romance, the science of romance is a core source of story ideas.

The world you build around your characters has to include some real world science -- extrapolated just a bit, perhaps in defiance of a direction that the current science steadfastly endorses.

For example, a novel set in a Globally Warmed World - where everyone is fighting for their lives because of ocean rise and storms -- is not SCIENCE FICTION, but rather just science.  Science FICTION is produced by taking a theme such as A) aliens arrive and fix the climate for us (over our objections), or B) the science is all wrong and we're going into an ice age because of solar activity or C) the current science is correct but a genius arises who jiggers with the atmosphere (sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere) and for a while everything is fine -- except in the "now" of your story, his disastrous mistake is exposed.

And there are other possibilities -- but you get the idea. To write science fiction, you FICTIONALIZE the science.

Therefore, to write romance, you FICTIONALIZE the romance.

But to fictionalize, you must first grasp the real world version your reader lives with.

In our real world, it is very well accepted that the best, longest lasting and most inspiring marriages are based on trust.

Even when trust is betrayed a few times, the vast multitude of times it is faithfully upheld keeps a marriage together.

Over the last few years, lots of foundation grant money has been flowing into brain research - neuroscience.  So not only do we get an avalanche of papers in peer reviewed journals none of us read -- but they overflow into more widely distributed sources.

One such widely distributed source is the Harvard Business Review.

Yes, the Harvard Business Review published an article about LOVE CONQUERS ALL and the HAPPILY EVER AFTER -- though I seriously doubt anyone involved in the research or the publication had any idea at all what they actually said!  They thought they were writing about business.  I'm certain of that -- they really thought they were writing about corporate culture and business practices in managing employees.

Isn't it a marvelous world we live in?  They even illustrated the article with a LOVE CONQUERS ALL symbolism!

Here is the URL of the reality based article upon which you can easily build multiple fantasy worlds or fictionalized science based worlds for your characters to romp through.


The Neuroscience of Trust
Paul J. Zak

It says that employers are twisting themselves into knots to empower and challenge employees.

There are a number of wondrous fallacies embedded in the unconscious assumptions behind that opening sentence that are obvious to a science fiction writer and invisible to everyone else.  For example, nobody can "empower" someone else -- certainly not be "letting" somebody else do something!  If you "let" then you retain ALL the power, the power to set the agenda, to populate the dropdown from which the other must choose.  Employers and managers have to stop "letting" and start abolishing blocks.  Employees who are power-users will surge through the gap first chance they get (and terrify all the control freaks!).

Remember we discussed how a fiction writer can use fallacies in a sprawling discussion over many indexed topics.  Here are a few:

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration  Part 6 Fallacy, Misnomer and the Contradiction

  Here is the Fallacy of Safety

Here is the fallacy of trust

Always be on the lookout for fallacies embedded in culture, language, and even science itself, because "love conquers all" is not just a big theme envelope, but an actual fact of reality that connects you to your reader.

So neuroscience has been studying the human brain (and brains of various creatures) to explain how and why we respond to other people (or not) as we do.

I'm sure there are many objectives behind this, but be aware of the giant amounts of money directed into this research by Foundations championing a wild variety of political causes including things like proving that God does not exist, that there is no such thing as a soul (therefore no soul mates), or that there are many handy ways to control the behavior of humans.  Most of their activity is charitable or academic, so they are tax exempt foundations that occasionally lobby for or against political causes.

The gigantic sums (billions of dollars) involved in non-profit foundations and corporations, and the huge amounts of grant money for special activities is really the tail that wags the political dog.  Use the mysteries of "follow the money" accounting as a plot device to bring your couple together -- for ideas, watch the TV Series SUITS.

Oddly, SUITS is a TV Series that comes up on #scifichat on Twitter on Fridays, and like BURN NOTICE has garnered a science fiction romance fan following.  Watch how SUITS plots turn on forensic accounting.

Also on #scifichat on Twitter, we have discussed, in connection with SUITS,  George Orwell's 1984.

1984 is a novel with a vision of a future written in 1948 that presented what humans of the 1940's would do with the technology we have today (drones with internet connected cameras, every computer in your house able to see and hear you at all times, phones that track your whereabouts).

The Surveillance state is a reality waiting to happen...
...and people will grab for it to feel safe from their neighbors who might turn into terrorists overnight.

Technology is both the enemy and the safety net.

Star Trek, in the 1960's discussed the dire threats of technology alongside the vast benefits -- a 3 year long contrast/compare essay on technological advancement.  Technology is just applied science -- commercialized uses for odd things discovered in laboratories.

Was George Orwell correct that the ability to spy on everyone would inevitably lead to government spying on everyone?

Why would anyone want to spy on someone else?

In a promising Romance, do the people spy on each other?  Well, in novels, yes -- if you are rich enough, you hire a private eye to do a background check on anyone approaching in a romance.  The rich don't stay rich by being stupid.

But where gold-digging is not the prevalent danger in a new relationship, do the really promising relationships proceed through spying on each other?  Sneaking into their phone, riffling through a pile of mail on the hall table, dropping into the place they say they work to see if they are really employed there, chatting up neighbors to see how well they care for their dogs?

Do we fact-check people we meet casually at parties before accepting a first date?

How distrustful of our information sources are we?  Yes, most of us have developed a distrust of commercial news sources, but has that distrust (yet) leaked into our everyday relationships?

According to this article in the Harvard Review, lots of money has gone into a study of business management practices and the results of TRUST in the workplace.

Alarmingly, a substantial fraction of the businesses the scientists studied do not exhibit trust to their employees.  Predictably, such businesses have a harder time holding onto good employees, and their productivity is not as high as businesses run on trust.  Thankfully, many businesses (largely tech related) do emphasize trust, assigning projects and encouraging creative problem solving.

Likewise in marriages, as we all know, good families run on trust, not fact-checking.

And likewise in Romances before marriage.  If you detect dis-trustfulness in someone you are dating, you generally consider dropping them, just as an untrusted employees starts cruising LinkedIn and Monster.com .

Trust is the bedrock of relationship.  It's not something that develops over time, but something that must be there right at the beginning.

Trust is the silken tie that binds, one of the fibers in the fiber-optic cable that carries the force of  Love to blast through any barrier and conquer any challenge.

Trust is only one of those fibers, but if it breaks the others will fray with time.

---------quote from Harvard Business Review article-----------

Leaders understand the stakes—at least in principle. In its 2016 global CEO survey, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth.

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

In previous posts on the Art of fiction writing, we discussed how the artist's eye finds symmetry that others don't see, and how the artist's job is to reveal the import of such symmetry to readers.


Here's an example of such a symmetry -- all the political polls show the country divided on most issues 44% to 44% with the rest vacillating in the middle.  The most solid consensus you see these days is about 52% agreeing on an issue -- 55% is overwhelming agreement.  (that has not been the case in about a century -- consensus should be way up in the 60-70% range).

Note how this scientific study of corporate culture's usage of TRUST comes up with a mere 55% see lack of trust as inhibiting growth  -- while the science reveals lack of trust definitely inhibits growth.

The article is about the research involving a chemical, oxytocin, which we produce naturally (as do rats) and is abundant when trust is in play, and brain studies trace this neural activity.  This chemical, administered to humans via a nasal spray, inclines humans to exhibit more trusting behavior.

In other words, people can be forced to behave "properly" by introduction of a chemical agent.  The article is about managing trust by having managers adopt 8 behaviors.  It is a 7 page article, summarizing work done between 2001 and 2016, and it is quite dense but readable.

Former Herman Miller CEO Max De Pree once said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.”

The experiments I have run strongly support this view. Ultimately, you cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and getting out of their way.

It’s not about being easy on your employees or expecting less from them. High-trust companies hold people accountable but without micromanaging them. They treat people like responsible adults.
---------end quote---------

That quote from Max De Pree struck me as the perfect description of what a science fiction romance WRITER must do.  The way we say "thank you" to our readers is to deliver a plausible Happily Ever After.

But how can readers accept the plausibility of the HEA in today's world where distrust is rising?

Our media is fostering distrust, and our government appears to now run on distrust, alternative facts, fantasy reality.  It may not be a recent development but just a surfacing of an attitude shift that has been brewing for a generation.

Government is the last place you'd expect a trend to show up.  Family, and romance, is the first place a trend originates.

The silken cord that binds our culture -- trust -- going to shreds indicates a shift in the marketability of the idea that you shouldn't date someone who distrusts you.  And that you shouldn't distrust someone you're dating.

That prevalence (44%) of distrust in personal relationships could account for the divorce rate or the "living together" but never marrying rate.  Check the current numbers.  How can you marry someone you distrust?

If our modern culture has drifted as far as it can go into dis-trustfulness (letting fact become a matter of opinion, and your facts are as good as mine), then the science fiction romance writer has an opportunity to depict a future the exact opposite of what George Orwell depicted in 1984 -- a tech-surveillance culture where trust reigns supreme.

In other words, a tech surveillance culture in which everything is recorded, but those records are accessed only when the subject of the record demands it.  Build a world around that theme.

People could come to TRUST that dash-cam video etc would remain private and personal unless the subject wants it put into public record.

For example, in a car accident that isn't your fault, you can demand access to video proving it is not your fault but if it is your fault you can prevent access to the video proving that you are guilty of (whatever).  So the two people (or A.I.'s driving the cars) would end up head-to-head in court arguing over access to private records.

What kind of world would that be?  Maybe one where you have to prove your innocence but nobody has to prove your guilt?  That would be a science fiction premise because, as noted above, to fictionalize science you adopt a thematic stance opposite to the accepted reality.

Today, we still subscribe to the concept that nobody has to prove innocence because it is impossible to prove a negative.  The burden of proof lies with the accuser (or the government) not the accused.  The accuser must prove you are guilty.

Today, headlines scream "alleged" this or "accuses" that or so-and-so is "being investigated for" whatever.  The mere whiff of an accusation or investigation is immediately treated in the text of the article as presumed-guilty.  Surely nobody would waste taxpayer money investigating someone who is not guilty of something!

But with universal surveillance (1984 ) it could be possible to prove innocence but impossible to prove guilt.  And of course, what about hackers tampering with the recording?  There is so much for Love to conquer in these possibilities.

That leap to guilty until proven innocent ( and it is up to the accused to prove innocence) is rooted in that 45% of the people living in a distrustful world that mysteriously and inexplicably does not "grow."

It is not the kind of thinking employed by the 55% cited in the Harvard Business Review article as thinking that distrust inhibits growth.

To thrive humans must trust.

How can we repair trust in our culture when sworn enemies publicly threaten to put an invading army on our shores buried amidst refugees whose plight melts our hearts in love and whom we trust would make good Americans?

Consider the Romances currently happening among those millions of non-combatants fleeing explosions and starvation.  Babies are being born among them.  What sort of love-life will such children have after spending their formative years amidst such a ravaged culture?  Will they be able to trust?

Waft your answer to that question into the Galactic setting, and build a world where non-humans respond differently to trust, but meet up with humans who do trust (with certain glaring exceptions, of course.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Author Beware.... and Emoji have Rights, Too

In the desperate scramble to promote ones own works, it is all too easy to trample other people's rights unawares. Beware of the rabbit holes and quicksands that pockmark the online copyright landscape.

One might assume that, if Google or Facebook sells one a "keyword" for advertising purposes, they must have all the necessary legal rights and licenses to sell those names and words? Not necessarily!

In "Facebook's Misappropriation Problem: Selling Artist Names As Advertising Keywords", Chris Castle writes about the possible violation of celebrities' rights, in the selling of famous persons' names as advertising "keywords".

Chris Castle focuses on Facebook. When someone considers litigation, one usually goes after the entity with the deepest pockets. The trouble with defendants with deep pockets (such as Google, Facebook, Amazon) is that they could probably make the process so expensive that the plaintiff's resources are exhausted.

In "Using The Name Or Likeness Of Another", the Digital Media law Project offers excellent guidance on using --or NOT using-- another person's name (or likeness) for commercial purposes (or advertising).

This should be required reading for any debut author who is considering buying Facebook advertising "keywords" to suggest that fans of this or that (named) established famous author might like to buy the debut author's book.

A newbie might be safe from a lawsuit if he suggests that he writes like Shakespeare on steroids. Possibly the worst that could happen would be reviews to the effect that this newbie "is no Shakespeare". However, it might be considered rude to use the name of an author who recently declined the opportunity to write a cover quote for the newbie.

And  Jack Greiner of Graydon.Law chimes in with commentary "Could Key Words Mean Trouble For Facebook?"

The trouble is less one of trademark infringement, but more of "right of publicity"... the right to NOT have one's name used to sell other people's stuff without one's consent and without payment.

Perhaps, it would be wise and polite to obtain written permission from the owner of the name one wishes to use to promote one's book, or to reach their audience when a member of their audience searches for something related to the established author's books, and your stuff pops up.

It's not just the names and likenesses of real people that you disrespect at your peril. You have to watch what you are doing with other peoole's emoji, too. Even ones that are "free".

As Kimberly Culp and Juan Aragon explain (for Venable LLP), explain in "Copyright Considerations for using Emoji in Commercial Ads:

EmojiOne, for example, provides a free license for commercial use with attribution. EmojiOne requires that commercial users provide a link to their website: such as, “Icons provided free by EmojiOne.” For websites, the link must be somewhere on the website, but does not require a link on the specific page. For printed ads, the attribution information must be in small text at the bottom of the ad. If attribution is an issue for an advertiser, EmojiOne offers custom licenses, which requires contacting the company directly.

This author has no idea whether or not Facebook sells emoji as "keywords", or whether any author would wish to use emoji in a book advertisement.

For newcomers to copyright concerns, the law firm of Kegler Brown Hill and Ritter, Jasmine J. Hurley blogs about the 5 basics of copyright

BTW, Happy Mothers' Day!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Optimistic Disaster Fiction

In the current LOCUS, Cory Doctorow writes about his forthcoming novel WALKAWAY, which he labels a "utopian disaster novel." In a deliberate "rebuttal" of the disaster scenario or post-apocalyptic saga where civilization disintegrates into chaos and most people turn into raging savages the moment our technological infrastructure collapses, he has written a story "about people doing right for one another under conditions of adversity." He describes this book as "a weaponized counternarrative of human goodness":

Weaponized Narrative

After all, in the present state of society, do most people indulge in any greedy, lawless behavior they can get away with? No, says Doctorow, most of us are restrained by our sense of what's normal and decent. Although I applaud his message about empathizing with the people "who are picking up the pieces and starting over again. The helpers" (a term he borrows from Mr. Rogers' famous statement about how to discuss scary news stories with children), the word "weaponized" in the context of celebrating goodness irresistibly reminds me of the maxim, "Fighting for peace is like fornicating for chastity." The imagery contains a certain inherent dissonance. Still, Doctorow deserves praise for rejecting what he calls the "old narrative, the xenophobia story," which "makes crises into tragedies."

A good example of the kind of disaster fiction he favors can be found in one of my favorite series, S. M. Stirling's "Emberverse," which begins with the apocalyptic novel DIES THE FIRE. Granted, civilization does collapse, with a great deal of violence involved. As the inciting catastrophe, every form of advanced technology—electricity, internal combustion, nuclear reactions, gunpowder or any other kind of explosion, steam power—instantaneously and permanently stops working. Our large cities and their surrounding suburbs can't sustain themselves in preindustrial conditions, so of course millions perish horribly. The focus of DIES THE FIRE and the series as a whole, however, centers on the people who work together to save as many of their neighbors as possible and build new communities. Despite the mass die-off, the cannibalism (which we only hear about, not see firsthand), and the brutal gangs that seize power in some areas, this is the most humane and, yes, optimistic post-apocalyptic series I've ever read.

What other examples of optimistic disaster fiction exist in recent fantasy and SF? (With a positive tone overall, that is, not just culminating in a "happy ending" reversal at the conclusion like the "Hunger Games" series.)

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Marketing Fiction in a Changing World Part 25 - Understanding the Shifting Fiction Market

Marketing Fiction in a Changing World
Part 25
Understanding the Shifting Fiction Market 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous entries in Marketing Fiction in a Changing World are indexed here:


We have discussed issues of "Marketing" (a whole profession independent writers have to master) and we have discussed the nature of FICTION (storytelling) in mechanical detail and as an Art Form.  Under the topics related to Theme, we have discussed the everyday world your readers live in and what that has to do with their taste in fiction.

We have looked at these various topics as fairly static in time.  They are not static.  But to grasp the nature and shape of the way they change with time, a writer must first see the static flash-photograph.

If you've got that set of static images in your mind, now is a good time to start animating it.

The world is changing.

Science Fiction can be about the past, the present or the future, and so can science fiction romance or Paranormal Romance.

In fact the most interesting novels, and classics in the making, tend to involve glimpses of how the far past, the intermediate past, and the present combine to generate the future -- how a timeline is all connected.

To create this animated vision for your readers you need to do a lot of detailed worldbuilding that does not appear in your story, and that your characters (and readers) know nothing about.

The world you build for your Characters has to be more internally consistent than our everyday real world.  You achieve that by focusing on a singular Theme, or for a series, a Theme Bundle (set of related statements about reality which can be disproved by refuting any one of them.)

Science Fiction and Science Fiction Romance are genres that feature "science" foremost.  Today, that has translated into "technology."

Star Trek featured the technology of the future by naming devices by their function -- "Phaser" or "Transporter."  We use technology to create tools to do things so we can free up our capacity to do other things.

We, as a world, are in the process of leaping across a technological chasm even the writers of Star Trek could not envision.  In fact, some argue, the advent of that TV Series did a lot to spur the creation of the present world's technology (such as computers, the internet and even the Web).

Today, those who grew up since 1990 have coined the term "inter-web" because they don't have a clue what the difference is between the internet and the web.  They have no idea where the concept "browser" came from or how that concept changed everything about how we use computers -- and now mobile devices more powerful than desktops built in the year 2000.

And change is not "done" yet -- the pace is increasing toward self-driving cars and even autonomous cars.  Everyone I know wants a household robot to act as personal maid, butler, footman, gardener -- all by one walking device.

The flying car is furiously being invented.

We think of these things as the forces that will shape the future, and the readers now growing up on currently published fiction (and Netflix Originals streaming).

But as science fiction writers we have to consider an even larger, more stealthy force, and what that force might yet do to the way our future readers will live.

That force that must be factored into the swirling and conflicting forces producing A.I. and autonomous transportation (there go the truck driver jobs, and ALL the Romances about falling in love with a truck driver).

The entire "Internet of Things" or IoT is a bigger force for the change in the way we see the world and interact with each other, most importantly the way we govern ourselves -- maybe even for Religion as part of the social order.


The IoT is all about your connected Thermostat, household Security cameras and motion detectors, taking care of your kids who are at home while you are at work by being able to see them on your phone and talk over loudspeakers into your home -- being able to track their phones, knowing where your car is at every moment, how fast it is traveling, whether it did an illegal turn.  "Things" will come to include dishwshers, clothes washers, maybe clothes themselves which will tattle on you when you don't exercise enough.

On the one hand, IoT gives you command of many functions with very little effort (other than upgrade-hell and being hacked).

On the other hand, Privacy is a thing of the past.  Already government is claiming rights over your phone's contents.  How many generations until government wins the point because nobody is alive who remembers what it is to "be alone."

We use "baby monitors" to be sure our infant is still breathing.  How many generations until every breath you take your whole life long can become a matter of public record if someone doesn't like something else you did?

The key to understanding human behavior for the purposes of writing science fiction is to understand that the most powerful human survival trait is adaptability.

Even animals do not have the adaptability that humans have.

We are seeing animal species adapt to city life, or life in cages, and lose the ability to survive in "the wild" where the species would ordinarily live.  They are even adapting to a poisoned environment.

Life is adaptable -- but it generations and a lot of death.

Humans can adapt faster.  Not being instinct driven, we produce in each generation a few who can and do think the unthinkable and do the impossible, redefining parameters for the next generation.

But just like animals, we lose previously perfected survival skills.  How many of us city dwellers could walk across a continent without trails, paths or roads, without water fountains and motels?  Who among us is fit to go where no man has gone before?

Yet, humanity does keep producing that sort of person -- and many today are persisting in acquiring basic skills like metal working, quilt making, weaving.

Meanwhile, tides of everyday experience are sweeping toward the computer driven, artificial intelligence, world.

Sneaking up on us from the depths of that world is the tsunami of what is now called Big Data.

As noted  previously
all our governments, on whichever governing theory you choose, have for centuries been making decisions based on "statistics."

Statistics does not "work backwards."  You can accurately predict the behavior of a large group of people, but you can not discover anything at all about a single member of that group.

In other words, all "prejudice" that we take for granted today, is rooted in a false premise.

1. The Super Rich Do A Lot of Harm
2. Dick is Super Rich
3. Therefore Dick Does A Lot Of Harm

That's a false paradigm, not because of Dick's individual traits, but because it attempts to work statistics backwards -- to infer something about an individual member of a group by attributing a proven trait of the group to an individual member of the group.

Statistics will work well to govern nations provided the governors of the nations are willing to mash, slaughter, violate, and even annihilate pockets of individuals.

The stealth trend that science fiction writers trying to write "classics" that will be readable in the future (worth reprinting) originates at the junction of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.

Even today, the entire premise of Statistics as a governing tool is being discarded.  So far, we don't exactly have anything to replace it, so a writer trying to portray life 50 years from now has to guess what will replace Statistics.

The current scientific guess is Big Data.

To write science fiction, you can choose a Theme based on "Big Data Will Solve All Human Problems" -- e.g. no more poverty, drug addiction, murderous rage, road rage, sexual jealousy.

Or you can choose to write about the next huge shift, and choose a Conflict rooted in the crusade to replace Big Data and restore Privacy by discovering a new principle on which to govern humanity.

Or perhaps you might choose a premise based on genetically altering humanity to erase the combative tendency?

None of those choices would necessarily show up in your Characters, their Conflicts, or the Resolution of those conflicts.  It would be nothing but background.  If a character wanted to travel from one person's living room to another person's back yard for a barbecue, they might summon an A.I. driven Uber car -- or just step through a "door" projected by their pocket device? Or projected by a brain implant.

Whatever changes you depict as the way your Characters live and procreate, they may seem ridiculous to future readers -- or spookily prescient.

Mostly, science fiction writers working in their "near future" write "cautionary tales" -- depicting a world they really do not want to see realized.

We are currently living in such a world - predicted very accurately in the 1940's and 1950's science fiction novels.  But while predicting much of the difficulties we are dealing with (including global warming), they fail utterly to envision anything like the World Wide Web, or Web commerce.

This absence of smartphones and web commerce affects how a Scene can be framed, what the annoying difficulties a character faces are, and how quickly and efficiently they can discover facts.  Nobody predicted Google in your pocket!  Or Twitter and flashmobs.

A good place to begin thinking about where we are now, as opposed to where we were 50 years ago, and thus where we will be in 50 years from now (when your books will be reprinted if they are classics), is to watch some old movies.

Netflix will surface some of the great ones.  Check Amazon Prime video for old TV Shows.

Then read some of the novels popular at those times.  Science Fiction is not really the best field to read to nail a historical point to extrapolate from.

Romances written 50 years ago as "Contemporary" will give you a lot of information about how the world seemed, but you tend to get a lot of gut-churning cultural static embedded in old Contemporary Romance.  Women had a different self-image at that time, and taught their daughters a different self image (more child-like, to prepare for a life of dependence and perpetual pregnancy).

Humans are adaptable, and women have (since cave dwelling days) adapted to being the victims of their physiology.  Science has produced tools to get a handle on those problems (and we're still arguing over how to use those tools without abusing the power they bestow), and that has changed the world.

So reading old Contemporary Romance is good for learning how vastly birth control has changed the world, but the study is hard on a modern-adapted psyche.  Historical Romance set in the 1950's (or 1800's Europe) written today generally puts a female character with today's attitudes into that old world -- and thus loses verisimilitude.

Do a contrast/compare study between Contemporary Romance written in 1950's and Historical Romance written today but set in the 1950's.

You will see why, when setting your Science Fiction Romance in the future, you must change the Character's self-image to be a product of their time, not ours.

Today's kids, growing up with a phone in their pocket, are going to have a different self-image -- about what they can do, or not do, what they want to do or refuse to do, and whether or not anyone will ever know what they did.

That attitude shift about Privacy will definitely affect how you can plot a Mystery Novel.

Remember how often I've mentioned that Science Fiction writers often moonlight as Mystery writers (or Western writers) because the fields are the same -- and most science fiction readers also read Mystery and Westerns.

Mystery is allied with the 'science' aspects of science fiction and Westerns are allied with the "where no man has gone before" exploration of outer space, meeting Aliens (Indians), dimensions of science fiction.

Here is a very old Mystery series that depicts and reveals the contemporary world of the 1960's (a famous period of social change well captured here).

The Rabbi Small Novels[edit]
Friday the Rabbi Slept Late – 1964
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry – 1966
Sunday, the Rabbi Stayed Home – 1969
Monday The Rabbi Took Off – 1972
Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red – 1973
Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet – 1976
Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out – 1978
Conversations with Rabbi Small – 1981
Someday the Rabbi Will Leave – 1985
One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross – 1987
The Day the Rabbi Resigned – 1992
That Day the Rabbi Left Town – 1996

There are by the famous (then) best selling mystery writer Harry Kemelman, and here is his wikipedia page.


Read a few of these.  They are in Kindle and very cheap and easy to find (that old Internet Commerce change.)

In the 1960's people had to spend hours and hours in libraries, try to order books via inter-library loan, only to discover they were no longer available.

Revel in today's fingertip availability - understand what it means to the world view and self-image of the current teens.

Pick a few Historic points, draw the line connecting them and extrapolate that line into the future of 50 years from now.  How will Romance happen?  How will people meet each other?  Will "dating sites" turn into something more in the world of Big Data and lack of privacy?  Will marriages always work when arranged by a particular site?

Will a proprietary algorithm be hoarded by that particular dating site?  Will courts demand they give it away so everyone can benefit?

Will government take over dating sites and provide that free service as part of your health-care rights (after all a bad marriage can drive you crazy and stress your body to where you die young!)

What sort of ways will people find to do murder, and what tools will detectives of that future use to uncover the dastardly deed?

Isaac Asimov
 wrote the Black Widdow science fiction mysteries that were extremely popular, and Randall Garrett created the Lord Darcy character, a detective who used Magic

All science is detective work.  And it can be argued that all Romance is detective work - one must "detect" what is motivating the potential spouse.  "What does she see in him?" is the key question.

The answer changes with time and the depth and breadth of knowledge of the other person's behavior.

If you can develop and unfold a Relationship for your readers, you can develop and unfold an entire world for those readers.  The skills are the same, but the material differs.

Watch some old TV, and read some old books, then observe how you solve problems today -- a leaky roof, a car that won't start, a subway train that's late, an internet connection that does not work, a store that's out of a critical item.

What mysteries have you solved today?  Watch your mind problem-solve, and what tools you reach for without thinking, -- then see how your future self will target these problems 50 years from now.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 07, 2017

All For Nothing

Another week, another slew of bad news for creative people...

By nature, this "alien romance" author is a cup's-half-full type. However, am I alone in thinking that 50% royalties would be a fair deal for the person who puts the time, energy, expertise and talent into creating entertaining works. Works that middlemen call "content"!  After all, what would content distribution sites do, if there was no "content" for them to distribute?

A Bad Week For The Warners Of This World

Warner Musicians got screwed last week, mostly because the DMCA protects piracy by proxy. Can one really be called "a willing seller" (of one's work) if one's choice is to agree to accept crumbs for the legal exploitation ones work by others or refuse to agree to the exploiter's terms and get nothing, and still have one's work exploited?


".... compensation and control for our songwriters and artists continues to be hindered by the leverage that 'safe harbor' laws provide... user-uploaded services.  There's no getting around the fact that, even if YouTube doesn't have licenses, our music will still be available, but not monetized at all...."

Another perspective on the same leaked internal email.


Meanwhile, Huffington post blogger Brooke Warner sheds light on something similar taking place on Amazon, where used books can be sold "in new condition" by third party sellers, and these "in new condition" books can bump in-print, genuinely new and never-before-sold books made available by the authors and publishers so far down the page, they might as well be off the site.


Authors are not paid royalties for books sold "in new condition" by third parties. Authors are also not paid for "lends".

When Is Safe Harbor Not Safe Harbor?

Law bloggers Thomas J Kowalski and Alain Villeneuve (writing for Vedder Price PC) pen a heartening and useful article about five occasions when a bad actor cannot claim immunity from prosecution for copyright infringement under "Safe Harbor".


The article starts off discussing a case where a popular real estate related website that displays user-uploaded content was sued for copyright infringement and waited over a year to inform its insurance provider, thus forfeiting its insurance coverage!

Then, it turns to circumstances where Safe Harbor does not apply.  At least two (#2 and #4) of those circumstances would appear to me to be of interest to Warner Music.

Sympathy For A "Bad Actor"

Finally, and perhaps this author should add as a disclaimer that the only "reality" shows she watches are "Survivorman" and "The Weather Channel"... a reality show celebrity found herself in legal jeopardy (financially speaking) for posting a photograph of herself for her tens of thousands of fans to admire.  That hardly seems fair, does it?

Thanks to Jaimie Wolbers of law firm K&L Gates for the legal cautionary tale.


Whether the photo is of oneself, one's house, one's garden, one's cat or dog, one's book... if someone else took the photo, the rights belong to the photographer, and one must have the photographer's permission to use it.

Even a paparazzo has rights!  That is a useful lesson to us all.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 04, 2017


Last weekend I attended RavenCon in Williamsburg, Virginia, with my husband and youngest son. This was our first experience of that convention:


Weather was excellent. The location gave us special pleasure because we graduated from the College of William and Mary (as a married couple with small children, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth). On Friday night we had dinner at the historic King's Arms Tavern, one of our favorite places.

The guests of honor were Mercedes Lackey and her husband, author/artist Larry Dixon. Since Lackey is one of my favorite authors, and I'd never seen her in person before, this was a great thrill for me. Unfortunately, she had a bad cold. Friday night she introduced herself with, "I will be your disease vector for this weekend." However, she seemed to have recovered a bit by Saturday. I watched her appearance on a panel about using mythology in fantasy fiction, her author reading session, and an interview of her and her husband. The latter event included, among other topics, much discussion of wild bird rehab, which I found fascinating, and car racing, which I must admit left me rather cold.

I participated in the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading—ten authors with a four-minute slot each—in which I read an action sequence from the recently re-published fantasy romance LEGACY OF MAGIC by my husband (Leslie Roy Carter) and me. It wasn't a very big gathering, but chocolate was provided. For an hour I sat at the Horror Writers Association Virginia chapter's table and sold one copy of my Lovecraft-themed paranormal romance, SEALING THE DARK PORTAL.

Among other panels, I listened to discussions of world-building, "writing about horrible things," female heroes in contemporary media, the TV series SUPERGIRL, and looking "beyond the binary gaze" to consider people who don't fall into the typical masculine-feminine dichotomy, whether straight or gay. I also saw the second hour of a very detailed presentation, with slides, on what happens to dead bodies. The part I attended covered embalming, funeral, and cremation procedures. Saturday night featured a lively costume contest hosted by a stand-up-comedy pair of men. The half-time show (while waiting for the judges' verdicts) starred a singer of romantic-Gothic style music. Around twenty entrants appeared in the masquerade, I think. The youngest was a toddler dressed as a baby kraken on a leash held by his mother, costumed as a pirate. The winning multi-person presentation showcased the "Food Group Fairies," consisting of such personae as the bacon group and the cheese snack group. Best in show, a zombie nurse (from a series I'm not familiar with) brandishing a knife and garbed all in white aside from a blood spot over one eye on her white-shrouded face, was truly creepy. She moved in a weirdly jerky undead manner that produced a deeply uncanny effect.

We'll probably go to this con again, especially since it's only an easy half-day's drive from home (my approximate cut-off time for willingness to drive anywhere).

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Depiction Part 29 - Depicting The Global Village

Part 29
Depicting The Global Village
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

The index to previous posts in the Depiction series are here:

These days, people are saying that globalism is dead, or that we have to fight back against the protectionism model that is emerging.  Protectionism has been tried, and it has failed abysmally (several times).

How do we explain this argument to a visiting Alien from Outer Space?  Can Love conquer even the chasm of misunderstandings between our visiting Alien and our warring human factions?

If we can't even build a Global Village, how can Earth be allowed to join the Interstellar Community?

Why can't we build a global village?  What would a global village be like if we could.

In other words, how do we depict the Earth of the future that is ready to be invited to join the Galactic Village of a thousand species?

What exactly is a village?

We've all read hundreds of Romance novels set in small towns, or about Characters who come from small towns.

The TV Series Murder She Wrote is set in a small town, in case you want a reminder.  It is a town with an amazingly high murder rate, but that's the story.

A village is smaller than a small town.

It's more like a small Church Community - at most a few dozen families.  And even such a Community generally forms groups or circles somewhat isolated from each other.

Sociological research indicates this phenomenon may be rooted in human physiology -- which if true shows you how to create your new Aliens as people who do not have this limit and can't quite grasp what it is all about.

Here is a quote from a Wikipedia article on DUNBAR'S NUMBER -- some theoretical research from the 1990's.


Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships — relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person.[1][2] This number was first proposed in the 1990s by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size.[3] By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can comfortably maintain only 150 stable relationships.[4] Dunbar explained it informally as "the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar."[5]

Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 250, with a commonly used value of 150.[6][7] Dunbar's number states the number of people one knows and keeps social contact with, and it does not include the number of people known personally with a ceased social relationship, nor people just generally known with a lack of persistent social relationship, a number which might be much higher and likely depends on long-term memory size.

Dunbar theorized that "this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size ... the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained." On the periphery, the number also includes past colleagues, such as high school friends, with whom a person would want to reacquaint himself or herself if they met again.[8]
----------end quote------------

It's a long article with lots of links you can get lost in.

But there is enough to give you an idea of what to change to create your Aliens.

Remember the rule in creating Aliens for a novel is that you can change JUST ONE THING for the whole novel. Just one postulate differing from science as it is known by your readership is enough to support a 100,000 word novel.  In a series, you can add one more with each novel.

So a "Village" of humans consists of maybe 100 to 250 individuals.

The "small town effect" of everyone knowing everyone else's business and gossiping about it might interlace a few multiples of 250 -- and there would be people "out of the loop" on some bits of juicy gossip.

Somewhere between 100 and 250 humans, a group will become aware that they need to "get organized."  They need to choose a leader, form a committee, create a group treasury to pay for stuff the group owns.

Here is a book series about a very OLD small town where a very new, young, Jewish Community is forming, choosing leaders and forming committees.  Everyone who has joined a new church will recognize this social process, but if you like Mystery (and what science fiction aficionado does not!), then you'll love this old series.


That's the first in the series and there are more in e-book, audible, and paperback.  The Rabbi Small novels are a major, famous series would now be classified as "Cozy Mystery" as it is very domestic and the murder mysteries are more like procedurals (though the detective is a Rabbi who solves mysteries with Talmud reasoning).

So this shows you how a small community "gets organized" while embedded in a larger community -- a village within a town.

Below 100 people, humans do not feel an urgent need to "get organized" -- to operate by "law" (written rules, or agreed on rules).  Below 100 people, humans don't seem to need a formally agreed on "leader" or arbiter.

We don't need a "peerage."  Last week we discussed how Kingdoms get organized and how that basic organization of government is being changed from Statistics based government decisions to "Big Data" based government decisions.


With fewer than 100 people in a human group, you do not need a "peerage."

Above 250 humans, the group will not cohere without an organization core.

And above 300, any Leader will have to appoint or acquire lieutenants.

Think about the dynamics of a group of 100 or so.  I know someone whose family (parents, children, children's children) numbers over 100.  They do an annual group phone call to celebrate the Mother's birthday (as the Father has passed away.)

A family can number over 100 if a couple has 12 children, who all marry and have 8-10 children.  And there can be years when all of them are alive and adult.

It's a family, though, and its organizing principle is likely to be Eldest Rules.

Today, in the U.S.A., that is not always the case, and even large families don't stay in touch.

250 strangers -- such as you might gather on Twitter or Facebook --- will look for some other organizing principle.

For humans, the "village dynamic" is essentially that the culture they hold in common rules them.

A "culture" may be viewed as a set of dynamic, unwritten, non-verbalized laws and rules.  A family has had this set of rules passed down generation to generation -- and it is, "eat your vegetables before desert" and "pick up after yourself" and "don't hit people smaller than you" and "ask to be excused before leaving the table."

Everyone living under one roof (or in the case of a village, the circle of houses next to each other, sharing a commons) knows the operating rules of the group.  And everyone watches out to be sure everyone else follows the rules.

Break a rule of the group, and everyone knows about it before dinner, and you'll never hear the end of it.

In other words, the culture imposes behavior constraints as the price of being resident within that culture and protected by it.

Members may gossip among themselves, but they will close ranks before outsiders.  Before outsiders, no member of the group has ever done a wrong.

We see this all over the world today -- from Chicago gang neighborhoods to villages in the jungles -- humans in small groups close ranks before strangers, but within the group they are savagely strict in imposing the group's rules.

Awash in the sea of humanity, we join our small-group societies, form local communities, and join Facebook Groups.  The first thing you get on joining a Facebook Group is "the rules" (such as no posting self-promotion -- or this group is for self-promotion.  Maybe the rule is no off-topic conversation, or nothing is off-topic here.)

So we're always reaching out and pulling back.  That's how humans behave.

Classically, it has been said the only crime is getting caught.

In a Village community, you know for a fact you will get caught, usually before sundown.  So you don't misbehave.  This is especially true in Gang dominated neighborhoods where enforcement is by violent means.  But in a church community, or say a Masonic Lodge, enforcement is by gossip.

Now, referring to the changes discussed last week as Big Data replaces Statistics as government's source of information on citizens, think about what will be possible with A.I. implementing Big Data.

In a small, old fashioned village, the culture enforces good behavior on individuals because the moment you do something wrong, those you respect and those you despise will all know what you did, and you will be ashamed.

Maybe your Aliens lack the capacity to be ashamed, or to understand how that feeling can deter a human from an otherwise logical course of action.

The human Village is run on statistics, or small data -- most people want you to pick up after yourself, so you do.  "most" being a statistic.

Statistics, as pointed out last week, don't capture information about groups of 250 or fewer individuals.  Government runs the macro environment for the general benefit, and there will be pockets of smaller communities that suffer because of it.

Nobody in Washington D.C. knows who you are or what your problems are, but they say on TV News all the time that they were elected to solve your problems.

What if they did know you?  What if you were friends with them?

That's what Big Data allied with Artificial Intelligence is about to allow.

In that Big Data/A.I. world there will be no criminals who aren't insane.

A mentally ill person will do things that are criminal deeds, but can't actually be held accountable for the criminality.  But healthy people will all behave well.

Why will they all behave well?

Because not only will the people working in government know ALL about everything they do -- but all their neighbors, friends, family, and everyone all around the world will know everything that's going on in their lives.

Facebook already links people like that -- so does LinkedIn, and dating sites, and job search sites.  There will be many other such applications linking small groups of large groups of people.

The moment you step out of line (text while driving, drive drunk, have a screaming fight with your spouse, spank your children in public, fail to show up for a PTA meeting)  -- the WHOLE WORLD will know.

Not that you're a celebrity, but that the deeds will register and disturb everyone.

Already, people post their whole medical drama history online -- gossip about doctors who are helpful (or not) -- chat about hookups, and share political diatribes.

We are becoming a social-global-village.  It is entirely possible that the globalization of business/trade and immigration was just a bit premature, and is now backing off a little to allow the social-globalization to continue.

When we are more aware of what "everyone" is doing around the world, it will be easier to move across borders, work across borders, ship trade goods across borders -- and eventually shift to a globalized currency such as bitcoin or blockchain currency.

So create your Aliens with a trait that humans don't have, an ability to "bond" personally with more than 250 humans and not feel a need to "get organized."

Or perhaps you will genetically alter your humans to be able to bond with larger numbers?

Or maybe your Aliens can bond with fewer -- say 20 people -- before they need objective laws to govern the group?

Take a few thousand Aliens and Humans and strand them on a space station floating between the stars somewhere (maybe they don't know where) and see what happens.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg