Thursday, September 28, 2017

States of Insecurity

The president of the Modern Language Association writes in their fall newsletter about this year's presidential theme for the organization, "States of Insecurity." She ponders "what strategies...the humanities offer for navigating our current crises." After listing some recent threats to education, at all levels, she notes that the academic community known for the postmodern position that "reality is complex and anything but natural and transparent" suddenly finds itself on the opposite side of the argument. Now we have to defend the existence of objective reality by "maintaining the primacy of facts." She naturally mentions the importance of defending "freedom of expression." She also reminds us that the present state of "insecurity" belongs to "a category of similar events—neither the first nor the last in a long series."

We liberal arts majors (proverbial career path—"want fries with that?") often face the challenge of explaining what "use" our subject areas serve. Many potential employers, we might point out, welcome humanities majors because of the flexibility and critical habits of thought they've acquired in their studies. But that's a secondary issue. The liberal arts, of course, were originally so named because they're the studies appropriate to a "free" person, the fields of inquiry that precisely do NOT exist mainly to enable the student to earn a living. I've been rereading the Rabbi Small mysteries by Harry Kemelman, in which the rabbi mentions more than once that the Talmud declares learning should not be used as "a spade to dig with"—a means of making a living—but pursued for its own sake.

The Phi Beta Kappa society also frequently speaks out for the value of liberal arts and humanities studies as a good thing in their own right. Sadly, though, how many young people these days can afford to spend four years in college solely for the joy of learning? Nevertheless, it could be argued that this principle becomes especially vital in "states of insecurity," particularly when some public figures seem to take pride in ignorance.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Depiction Part 33 - Depicting Privacy by Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Part 33

Depicting Privacy


 Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of the Depiction Series are indexed here:

Privacy is an issue that leaps to the forefront of our cultural evolution in the age of cyber-spying.

We now have the tools to filter, vet, sift, or screen thousands or even millions of people for this or that behavior, trait, keyword.  The TSA screens travelers, the CDC screens for communicable disease, the CIA screens wireless transmissions (even planting fake towers to intercept signals), and "screening" is the go-to method for controlling the behavior of large groups.

In other words, the technology has given us the easiest way to reverse the maxim, "innocent until proven guilty."

This maxim was based on the logical impossibility of proving a negative -- you can not prove your innocence, but it is possible for evidence to prove guilt.

Today, modern technology reverses that and makes it easier to prove innocence than it is to prove guilt.

Big Data, algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence makes it possible that within the next 10 years, we will be able to spot and eradicate every "extremist" -- every single person who just does not fit the mold.

Science is using such data-reduction tools to prove things about humans that may be used to establish what parameters are desirable in good citizens.  And it will be impossible to have any sort of privacy (just think about drones, speed-trap-cameras).

Here is a study to think about with respect to the human spirit, and why we need both alone-time (privacy) and gaggle-time (one-on-one interactions plus group interactions).

Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach—even if it's off. That's the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they're not using them.

In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants' available cognitive capacity—that is, the brain's ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.

The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

Read more at:
---------end quote---------

So clearly when we feel "connected" we run a "keep-warm" program in our brains to be sure we don't miss anything.

When disconnected, we function differently.

Humans (and probably Aliens) need some of each kind of "time" -- to change functional modes.

In human history, this is a well known phenomenon, though never before have we had to possibility of NEVER being alone, or private.

Privacy has always been the signature of a Family -- "what happens between these walls, stays between these walls."  Families don't wash their dirty linen in public.

Anthropologists have long studied public and private behaviors, languages, body language, etc.  Humans do behave differently depending on whether they know or suspect they are being watched.

Establishing the boundaries of a family, a Relationship of Soul Mates, requires that humans establish and share rules of privacy.

Different cultures use different rituals to do this - I wouldn't say that one method is better than another, but it must be an effective method.

In polygamy, there is still a family, a "within these walls" -- things the group knows about each other that no outsider shares.

In the Soul Mate pair bonding, there must likewise be a circle that shuts out all others, and surrounds progeny with a "nest" of privacy.  "Use your indoor voice."  Be aware of where you are and who is listening.

Executives are taught never to criticize a subordinate before that subordinate's underlings -- for a good reason.

Behavior leverages human nature.  Establishing privacy is not the same as secrecy.  What is private might easily be known to others, and is no particular mystery.  No outsider can come to harm for not knowing what is private.  What is secret, on the other hand, is secret because of its potential effect on others.

What is private is private because of its effect on those within the privacy curtain, and irrelevant to those outside that curtain.

Privacy is essential to human mental health.

How this necessity grows through the teen years is another subject, but for the moment consider signals and rituals of monogamy -- both historical and currently being developed in the technological world.

The smartphone has invaded the family dinner table -- shattering family privacy.  When in private, a group will interact with each other in certain ways that members of that group will not use when the privacy curtain is pulled aside (as the smartphone does).

So modes of dress, speech, subjects allowed and disallowed, are all components of our privacy-signals.

Take for example the ancient practice of a woman covering her hair -- some Moslem communities use this, as do some Jewish segments.

Here is an article to ponder when setting up to depict privacy among an Alien Character's people.  A simple deed can mean one thing to some people, and another to a different set of people.

Note the anthropologist's surmise in the first paragraph of that article, and scroll down to the answer:

The hair-covering was never intended to make a married woman look ugly. Beauty is a divine gift, and Jewish tradition encourages both men and women to care for their appearance and always look presentable. Jewish tradition also encourages modesty; not in order to detract from our beauty, but rather to channel our beauty and attractiveness so it be saved for where it belongs -- within marriage.
-------end quote-----

Think about how opposite "ugly" and "beautiful" are -- and yet the exact same action can be interpreted either way, depending on cultural assumptions.

Most cultural assumptions are unconscious, so we don't even know we are assuming something, never mind what that assumption is.

But none of that matters if the objective is achieved, and Privacy is marked, curtained away, and distinguished from larger associations and public behavior.

Technology may have ripped that curtain aside, but technology may yet provide the brand new curtain to encircle the Family in privacy.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Attribute, Attribute, Attribute

And if you cannot attribute...obtain a license and a waiver.

Photographers have moral rights, unless they waive them. They also have copyright, unless they assign it. Do right by everyone, and above all, protect yourself.

There are two photographs of yours truly that are beyond my control on the internet. One is of "Rowena Beaumont Cherry" and was taken by Alex Law, an excellent Canadian photo-journalist. The other is of "Rowena Cherry" and was taken at a Pebble Beach concours d'elegance by the amazingly talented Robert Puffer.  In both cases, the photographers granted me eternal, unlimited, irrevocable written permission to use, publish and distribute the photographs of myself without attribution, and without payment.

I had good legal advice, and the privilege of being acquainted with true gentlemen. When Alex Law and Robert Puffer took their photographs of me, I was unknown and newly under contract to be published, and social media did not exist. Nor did copyright infringing pirate sites that scrape copyrighted photographs and use them to suggest that the author in question endorses their illegal activities.

For readers, this is not necessarily the case. If you desperately want a particular ebook, you would do well to acquire it from a reputable site such as Apple, Kobo, Amazon, Powells, Barnes and Noble,  Chapters-Indigo etc or from your local public library.  Or from the authors' own websites, or the authors' publishers' websites.

For authors, even if the best photographer in your world is your boyfriend, or husband, or girlfriend, or sister... get the rights in writing, and make sure your rights are perpetual and unlimited. You cannot  foresee what will happen to your relationships with your friends and family, and you cannot foresee who will use that photograph of yourself with or without attribution and whatever watermarks you might have tried to put on that photo.

Gigi Hadid, and also one of the Kardashians are an object lesson in what can go wrong if someone posts a photograph of herself --that was taken by someone else-- on a social media site such as Instagram or Pinterest.

Legal bloggers Njeri Chasseau and Jason Gordon for Reed Smith LLP analyse Khloe Kardashian vs Xposure Photos Ltd.

And... legal bloggers Howard Ricklow, Helen Ingram and Chandni Ranfior for Collyer Bristow LLP  discuss Gigi Hadid and her use of a photograph taken by someone else, without giving attribution to the photographer. 

As with the copyright case involving the monkey selfie, the person who takes the photo is the copyright owner, not the being who is the subject of the photo.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 21, 2017

IT on FIlm

I watched the theatrical movie of Stephen King's IT this week (more precisely, "IT: Chapter One"). To me, whether a film adapted from a book is "good" or not depends a lot on its fidelity to the source. In preparation for seeing this movie, not long ago I re-watched the TV miniseries and reread parts of the novel. So what did I like about the new movie? And which makes the better adaptation, the movie or the miniseries?

Good points of the film: The bonds among the seven kids in the "Losers' Club." The miniseries did this aspect well, too, IMO. The lovely scenery and contrastingly horrific special effects. The Gothic environment of the decaying, cobweb-infested Well House and the labyrinthine tunnels below, culminating in the lair of It (the only place we get a glimpse of the true extent of Its otherworldly power, as illustrated by the eerie image of the floating children). The chilling moments when adults witness attacks on the children, by either mundane bullies or supernatural forces, and react with blank gazes, then deliberately turn away.

What the miniseries did better: Having more time to work with, it developed all seven of the child characters more thoroughly. The climax showed It in Its spider form, which the movie doesn't, although the TV episode rendered that scene so inadequately that many viewers dismissed the creature as disappointingly "oh, just a giant spider." (The other-dimensional essence of which the spider is only a projection was completely omitted.) The series wove together the past and present, as in the book, so we see the children's experiences as the gradually re-awakened memories of their adult selves. Granted, if the movie had been structured that way, viewers might have found it confusing, especially since "Chapter Two," the adults' return to Derry, is apparently not going to appear until 2019!

Drawbacks of the new film: Again, the cosmic dimension is totally absent. We don't see the vision that reveals Its other-dimensional origin, when it came not "from space" but "through space" in the prehistoric past (a clear homage to Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space"). I've read a hint that this scene may appear in the second movie. I hope so, because without it so much of the story is missing. We do see one glimpse of the "deadlights," but viewers who haven't read the book won't get the allusion. In general, the Derry backstory that gives the novel such depth is covered too briefly in the film for my taste.

As reviewers have noted, the movie doesn't have time to develop all seven of the children as fully as desirable. In particular, I was disappointed that their individual methods of fighting It are almost completely neglected. What happened to Eddie's asthma inhaler shooting "acid," Stan's invocation of the bird names from his birdwatching guide, or Bill's preternaturally fast rides on his bike, Silver? (The miniseries included some of that.) Particularly, the character of Stan as the obdurate rationalist, who regards the supernatural as an unbearable "offense," needs better development. In the film version, he simply keeps repeating, "This isn't real." I was also sorry not to see Beverly's slingshot with the homemade silver bullets.

Beverly is a bit too old. In the book, she's on the verge of puberty, not yet there. One of the novel's major themes is belief. Children are especially vulnerable to It because they're still young enough to believe in the supernatural and suffer the simple, primal fears It feeds upon. That same capacity for belief, however, gives them the ability to destroy It, while adults wouldn't be able to. Therefore, it's important that Beverly remain on the "child" side of the line along with the boys. The central problem of the present-day story is whether they can resurrect not only the bonds that united them in childhood but also the power of belief that they've lost with maturity.

On the whole, I was pleased enough with the movie to plan to buy the DVD when it becomes available and look forward to the second half. But having to wait two years? Really?! Aren't the producers concerned that the prospective audience, at least the majority that aren't hardcore King fans, will lose interest by then? Or at least forget the details of the first half?

In case you'd like to read my essay in STRANGE HORIZONS on Lovecraftian motifs in IT, here it is:

The Turtle Can't Help Us

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery -- Lazy Writer Syndrome

Star Trek: Discovery 

Lazy Writer Syndrome


Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Science Fiction fans are focused on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY these days.

Before the debut, a lot of publicity was released, some of it misleading by accident and maybe some by design.

I have not seen any of the trailers or episodes yet -- I will, no doubt, devour them with special attention.

Alien Romance readers should think long and hard about how it came about that Star Trek (a much scorned and sneered at TV Series) became Iconic.

We discussed Icons and how to create them:

If you want to create an Iconic Science Fiction Romance that becomes a Classic, think long and hard about this discussion thread that emerged on Facebook in June, 2017.

A comment dropped on that post drew my attention because it mentioned Kraith (my Star Trek fan fiction series)


Maurice Kessler · Friends with Michael Okuda
DS9 fulfilled the promise of lead Trek characters at odds with each other in interesting ways, IMO. Perhaps this show will emulate that level of work; we're only now seeing marketing-filtered descriptions of how this show will be written. I'll wait until seeing the pilot to assess.

One thing I don't need to assess: How much I miss your Kraith storyline, and how sad I am that it was never finished. The best non-aired Trek, ever.

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

To which I responded:


Jacqueline Lichtenberg Maurice Kessler Thank you for the nod to Kraith -- keep in mind that there were 50 creative contributors to Kraith. I built the universe and set a main story-line, then invited everyone to play in my sandbox. I was honored by eye-witness reports of worn, well read copies of Kraith Collected sprinkled around Gene Roddenberry's office waiting room. You may find that the Sime~Sime – Gen Universe video game under contract to Loreful via Aharon Cagle will meet your "best ever" criterion as we are inviting and luring many writers into the Sime~Gen Universe on the pattern of Kraith. Loreful has licensed 150 years of the Sime~Gen Chronological timeline and has the target of telling the story of the gigantic SPACE WAR that lies ahead of the Sime~Gen Civilization. The idea is that HUMANITY has actually changed - that the average human has more inherent compassion than the average Ancient (us). We are collecting current science articles on the SIMEGEN GROUP to depict the "current" state of the world when the mutation takes down our civilization.

------end quote-----------
As I was reading the other comments, more comments kept appearing.  So I reread the comment I had put at the top of the link to the article about Star Trek: Discovery

On the original re-posting I wrote:

--------quote by JL------------
Lazy writers can't write interpersonal conflict without showing one of the characters in a negative light. Two perfectly righteously people (human or not) can be at odds, and generate amazing stories without either one being "in the wrong" or operating from a baser motive. Lazy writers don't bother to plumb the depths of the Characters or the Issues. So this show written by lazy writers might not be "my" Star Trek.

And under that a link to this item:

Star Trek: Discovery to ditch a long frustrating Trek rule

------end quote of JL-------

The article on says:

As part of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future (and one that Trek franchise executive producer Rick Berman carried on after Roddenberry’s death in 1991), writers on Trek shows were urged to avoid having Starfleet crew members in significant conflict with one another (unless a crew member is, say, possessed by an alien force), or from being shown in any seriously negative way.
-------end quote---------

The article also notes what I've been hobby-horsing on in these blog posts -- Conflict Is The Essence Of Story.  I didn't make that up, you know -- I was taught it, then discovered how it had been used consistently down the ages by the best story-tellers.  Drama is conflict.

For writers on Trek shows, the restriction has been a point of behind-the-scenes contention (one TNG and Voyager writer, Michael Piller, famously dubbed it “Roddenberry’s Box”). Drama is conflict, after all, and if all the conflict stems from non-Starfleet members on a show whose regular cast consists almost entirely of Starfleet officers, it hugely limits the types of stories that can be told.
------end quote-------

A bit below that is the quote that defines LAZY WRITER SYNDROME:

“We’re trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions,” Harberts said. “People have to make mistakes — mistakes are still going to be made in the future. We’re still going to argue in the future.”

“The rules of Starfleet remain the same,” Berg added. “But while we’re human or alien in various ways, none of us are perfect.”
--------end quote--------

"...none of us are perfect."  There it is folks, the source of the reason Romance Genre is not as respected as it should be, and the reason for the popularity of the scorn heaped upon the Happily Ever After ending.

This may also be the philosophy that has eroded the Family Structure of society as a whole.

"Family" is composed of relatives -- and it is true that humans generally just do not get along with all their blood-relatives.  In fact, the most acrimonious and life-long-grudge-holding conflicts naturally occur between blood relatives.

In-laws is yet another problem - the people you love probably fall in love with people you hate at first sight.

The Philosophical idea that is actually untrue, and thus prevents people from achieving a "Happily Ever After" life (or if they do achieve it, they do not recognize that they have, indeed, achieved happiness) is that PERFECT PEOPLE DO NOT CONFLICT.

But the most perfect, or perfected, people do conflict with each other, often adamantly, vociferously, publicly, and emphatically.

Humans are a mixed bag -- very complex -- very complicated.

It is possible for one component of a given individual to be PERFECTED while other components are sadly screwed up.

Some of us have achieved maybe 90 or even 99 percent perfect -- and such people become Historic Figures (such as Moses, Miriam, Abraham-Isaac-Jacob, Joseph,  and a few other Biblical Figures.  Every culture has these Iconic Historic Figures held up to children to emulate - Buddha, etc.

We all have our Ideals, and one or two examples to emulate.

And we have living examples in every generation of people who have perfected one or two aspects of human nature.  We discussed a biography of one such individual of the 1900's known as The Rebbe.  Different people who knew him personally saw different aspects of human nature that he had perfected.  This biography we discussed (and there are a lot of biographies!) pinpointed some of his most famous disagreements with others of similar stature (not fame, stature).

And previously mentioned here:

Such people who have finally "got it" very often come into conflict with others who have likewise perfect that certain aspect of their Nature.

But they don't lock horns as ENEMIES -- they don't go to war with each other, or deride or denigrate each other.  They may not wholly respect each other or each others' opinions on certain specific matters, but they do argue (a lot).

Sometimes, they even change their positions as a result of arguing.

That, more than any other evidence, indicates the individual has perfected some aspect of their Nature -- the ability to persuade another to change a position on an issue without gloating or counting coups (without WINNING, thus rendering the one who changed their mind a LOSER).

And likewise, the ability - willingness, even eagerness - to change your position on a matter because of the influence of another person's views.

Such change is not just change to accept new information as fact.  It is more akin to Spiritual Enlightenment than to scientific proof.

If you need a real world example of how such people, who have perfected some aspect of human nature, interact and argue, read The Talmud which is a series of excerpts delineating the disagreements among great Rabbinic Scholars of various epochs.  Comparing the opinions of different generations across hundreds of years with more contemporary commentary, lets you watch how such people drill down to expunge every last tiny contradiction from a view on a given topic.  There is a podcast of the Orthodox Union's Daf Yomi that is very revealing on this subject.

You can find similar examples in every known civilization.

So, humanity has produced a few notable examples of perfected humans.

The statement "nobody's perfect" is untrue.

A Lazy Writer would never notice that commonly held untruth.  A Lazy Writer does not do the homework necessary to discovery examples that contradict commonly held beliefs.

A Lazy Writer is only interested in affirming or confirming the Lazy Reader's ideas of how the world is.

Science Fiction is the Literature of Ideas (by some definitions), and like all Literature exists for the purpose of challenging any or even every idea the reader/viewer has.

"What if ...?" everything you think you know is actually wrong?
That is the essence of what makes science fiction fun reading -- and fantasy, and especially Paranormal Fantasy -- what if what you are most certain of is actually totally wrong?

What is "the real world" really?  What is reality?  And who cares? Why does it matter if you're wrong?

So Einstein theorized that it is not possible to "go" faster than light.  Therefore, science fiction writes about galactic civilizations using FTL transports like The Enterprise to explore.

The scientific community universally accepts a theory because the proofs look solid and they seem to work when applied experimentally.  Science Fiction takes that theory and builds a world where that theory has been proven wrong.

That is how you write science fiction.  You read (and comprehend) science articles, research papers, speculation by theoretical mathematicians, etc., and the more reliable the thesis, the more widely accepted that thesis, the better it is for a building block of a "different" universe.

Biology studied life on Earth, and from decade to decade, revised the opinion on whether the can or can not be life on "other planets" (especially extra cold ones, ones without water, etc.)

When the majority is certain there can not be any "life as we know it" on other planets, science fiction writers tell stories about Aliens.

When the majority is convinced there must be life everywhere, science fiction will be telling stories about Humans Alone In The Galaxy.

The same technique applies to human nature.  When all your readers are convinced "nobody's perfect" -- write stories about a few perfect people.

The problem the writers of Star Trek Discovery are having is a lack of imagination.  Gene Roddenberry could imagine -- and he imagined "the impossible" which is what made Star Trek both Iconic and Classic.

He imagined that HUMAN NATURE HAD CHANGED -- and the reasons implied in his world building were A) the Genetics War of the 1990's and B) the impact of technology on the economy.

Most human misbehavior is rooted in the economy -- "Gold or Money Is The Root Of All Evil."

OK, so "What if ...?" nobody uses money any more?  What if everyone can have any "thing" (material objects, food, clothing, shelter, education,) they want in abundance.  What would "people" do?  So Roddenberry showed us people who worked (and took risks) voluntarily.  They didn't join Star Fleet because they needed the work.  They were there because they wanted to go beyond the horizon.

Roddenberry's postulate, often repeated in the speeches he gave, was that "When We Are Wise..." we will do, work, see, learn, and be very different.  We will have plenty of conflicts, but we won't have an inner need to conquer and control.

He showed sports with score keeping, but no shame in losing.

We are now very close to the kind of technological "singularity" which could releave all humans of the necessity to work for a living.  Artificial Intelligence may reproduce itself, run the factories and farm the land, and bring everything you ask for to your door.

Then what will you do?  Die of boredom?

Stephen Hawking says we must explore the stars now, settle other planets.

From that article - down the page --

More From BGR
NASA just found 10 new Earth-like planets
Elon Musk is planning a city on Mars, and here's why
NASA wants to probe Uranus in search of gas

"The human race has existed as a separate species for about 2 million years," Hawking said. "Civilization began about 10,000 years ago, and the rate of development has been steadily increasing. If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before."
------end quote--------

And it also says Hawking knows it is currently impossible to colonize the stars - we don't have the technology, know-how, political will, whatever it takes, we do not have it now.

Look back at history and pre-history, and you can detect very little (if any) change in human nature.  Culture and technology, values, religion, varieties of government come and go, but humans still produce geniuses and the learning disabled, with a majority in between.

We all, each and every one, belong to some 1% demographic, and to varying degrees to all the other 1%'s -- we are each unique, yet all the same.

And the distribution doesn't change much over millennia.

Lazy writers don't study all that history, pre-history, archaeology, anthropology, biology of animals, plants, life in boiling water at volcanic vents under water, or preserved in permafrost.  Lazy writers can't write science fiction because they don't study enough science -- or for that matter, often they don't study enough fiction.

Yes, Lazy Writers don't read widely and deeply enough in fields other than their specialty.

If you are going to write the Literature of Ideas, you have to know Literature and you have to know the history and present state of Ideas.  I often use the word, Philosophy, to indicate Ideas of all sorts.  In truth, that word represents the Ideas of just one Ancient Greek.  The actual word might be epistemology.

Hard Working Writers learn a lot of extant epistemologies, invent and create a raft of original epistemologies, and spend most of their time studying what might be termed, Comparative Epistemology 101 for non-majors.

This is hard, time consuming, tedious, even on occasion boring.

Hard Working Writers study the phenomenon of boredom very closely -- because it is a good idea to avoid boring your readers.  If you just throw in a sex scene every time the action drags, the sex scenes will become boring.

Writing is hard work, but most of that work is done long before, "I've got an idea for a story!"  The hard working writer spends little time writing and lots of time learning, dreaming, and thinking.

The hardest part of a writer's job is cultivating the habit of "thinking outside the box."  Or maybe the hardest part of that process is finding the box.

You are inside a box, a group-think, a consensus reality, and you don't even know it exists, nevermind how to get outside it.

You see news articles indicating climate change will destroy human civilization as we know it, and you think, "Oh, the A.I.'s will be thrilled to have the place to themselves."

"What if God ordained that human souls must shift from anthropoid bodies to Artificial Intelligence Hosts?  Robots?"

What if humanity decided to shift ourselves into Robot bodies against the Will of God?  What would happen then?  What if we could prove that God does not exist?

Being a Science Fiction Romance writer, perhaps you would think, "How could Love conquer that All?"  What would an HEA ending for an A.I./Human Romance look like?

"What if ..."  What if human nature changed?  What if some aspect of human nature became "perfect" for everyone?  How would that change the forms of government possible, the laws, the kinds of work, talents, skills most valued?

Gene Roddenberry postulated that human nature would change in the area of Wisdom -- we would all be wiser.

STAR TREK: Discovery is worth giving a chance.  Roddenberry was locked into the economic model of old Broadcast TV which made enough money only on Anthology format shows (where each show in a series was a stand-alone, so you could view in any order).

Babylon 5 broke that business model, following up on the Prime Time Soap "Dallas."  Actually, Dallas is getting a remake!  No new ideas under this sun.

So now we have many TV Series, especially in the Streaming Originals, that use the series format of Soap Opera -- where to get the real meaning of the Characters' lives, you must view the shows in the original order.

Thus STAR TREK: Discovery breaks out of the anthology format into the story-arc format where the episodes build on one another.  To make that work best, they want to start with flawed Characters in conflict, and resolve the conflicts.

The handling of these inner-Starfleet conflicts will still draw inspiration from Roddenberry’s ideals, however. “The thing we’re taking from Roddenberry is how we solve those conflicts,” Harberts said. “So we do have our characters in conflict, we do have them struggling with each other, but it’s about how they find a solution and work through their problems.”
--------end quote------

Working Writers should read and ponder this illuminating article on

Now imagine what story possibilities might emerge with the next fiction purveying business model.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Advertisements You Cannot Trust

Honestly, could you ever trust an advertisement?

Maybe you could. (Put the emphasis wherever you please, if reading aloud.) Perhaps today's consumer of advertisements is less critical and more credulous.

GEICO spoofs medical advertising rather well... maybe too well. I had to look up "gassy girl" to remind myself what is really being advertised.

Can one believe the bottom line? Or is it an example of misdirection? That is,  "Look how tricky those medical advertisements and claims are. We're telling you that they are bad, so we must be accurate in our own claims..."

(This, by the way, passes for a review or commentary on advertisements IMHO.)

While searching for my all-time favorite advertisement (featuring a hunk on a bicycle), I came across this about lies advertisements tell you.
Apparently, calling bad breath "halitosis" makes it sound more serious.

Perhaps acronyms have the same effect. A lot of marketing companies, very seriously, tell you the initials of your complaint. Like "body odor" becomes a far more urgent problem if you learn that it is also called "B.O."

A new wrinkle in the law is that Federal Trade Commission (or FTC) lawsuits may now be aimed at the advertising agencies that create deceptive advertisements, where those adverts are not (not) based on claims made to them for their use by the product manufacturer.

Legal blogger John C Greiner for Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP writes about an extended format for an advertisement that--I infer-- was not recognizable as an infomercial, and in which a medical doctor is alleged to have used his status as a medical doctor to recommend a product that he allegedly never studied (or never studied more critically than the alleged script that he was allegedly paid to repeat.)

Read more at:

Don't be thrown by "Pepe The Frog". The advertising article is there.

There is also commentary at analysed by David O. Klein of Klein Moynihan Turco LLP

Authors are their own "product manufacturers" and their own "marketers". Usually. Some have a publicist.

Authors advertise. They can buy "keywords" such as the names of more famous authors, to suggest that their books might appeal to fans of the more famous authors. If I wanted to do so, I could add "labels" to this passage of prose such as "bad breath", "flatulence", "body odor", "irritable bowels", "aliens"... ( I am not doing so, but in the interests of science, if you were lured here by the appearance of those free "key" words, please leave a polite comment about how and why you were misdirected here).

I'm not sure that the FTC is at all likely to take an interest in literature, or in the honest marketing of it. However, if you will pardon the pun, it's always good to know which way the wind blows.

On that happy note....

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Cookies We Do

That is a Yodaesque reminder, as required by our kind but somewhat condescending hosts, for our European visitors (who, one would have thought, would be up to speed on mandatory cookies), that Google puts cookies on your devices when you visit this blog. And every other blog.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mundane Psionics

Many characters in fantasy and science fiction possess psychic superpowers. They can read thoughts, view events at a distance or (maybe by touching an object) in the past, or see the spirits of the dead. In a sense, we don't have to fantasize about having such abilities, because we already do, sort of. Through writing, we can transmit our thoughts directly into the minds of other people we'll never meet face-to-face. While reading, we receive the thoughts of the writers, even if they died centuries ago. Film allows us to travel in time, in that it shows us scenes from the past. We can even see dead people in the prime of life. Through recording technology, we hear their voices.

Psychologist Steven Pinker, in "The Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" (a chapter in his book THE STUFF OF THOUGHT), speculates on why taboo words—profanity and obscenity—have been forbidden or restricted in most human cultures. Often against our will, "dirty" words force images into our minds that we may not want to entertain. Unlike eyes, ears don't have "earlids" to shut out objectionable sounds spoken by other people. Also, as he points out, "understanding the meaning of a word is automatic"; "once a word is seen or heard we are incapable of treating it as a squiggle or noise but reflexively look it up in memory and respond to its meaning." Language equals thought control. The official Newspeak dialect in Orwell's 1984 strives to make heretical thoughts literally "unthinkable"—at least as far as "thought is dependent on language."

Many fantasy novels postulate that magic depends on a special, often secret language. In one of my favorite series, Diane Duane's Young Wizards stories, learning wizardry consists mainly of mastering the Speech, the universal language of reality understood by all creatures, including those we ordinarily think of as inanimate. A wizard affects the world by using the Speech to persuade an object, creature, or system to change. However, some speech acts in the mundane world also alter reality. Enactive speech not only describes an event but makes it happen, e.g. taking an oath of office or uttering the words, "I now pronounce you husband and wife."

A prayer in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer titled "For Those Who Influence Public Opinion" makes this petition: "Direct, in our time, we pray, those who speak where many listen and write what many read, that they may do their part in making the heart of this people wise, its mind sound, and its will righteous." A heavy responsibility for authors, especially in this divisive, volatile era!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Reviews 33 - Sime~Gen Seen From Outside

 Reviews 33 - Sime~Gen Seen From Outside

I found this review of the first book in the Clear Springs Trilogy by Mary Lou Mendum -- a Sime~Gen Series trilogy - on Facebook and Amazon on June 29, 2017.

The second in the trilogy will likely be available soon, so I thought this review from the outside -- by someone who has not been writing Sime~Gen fanfic -- could be useful context for writers who have been following my commentary on what goes on inside a writer's mind.

We have explored how to take a news item, mull it over, turn it into questions, look at it from outside the framework of your own culture -- maybe from all human cultures -- and cast the resulting idea into a Theme you can use to build the World for an Alien Romance.

This thinking process is common to science fiction, and turns up in all the genres.  But it does not always produce something that resonates with a readership.  When you do hit a readership, sometimes you don't know it for decades to come.

We have also discussed how you know if you're writing a "classic"

When a work stands the test of time, it can become a Classic.  If you want to write a Classic, you need to study Classics, but also the writers and their processes that produced that "Idea."  You can't use another writer's process, but you can use your understanding of their process to invent a process of your own -- and test it in the marketplace of Ideas.

Here is a view of the end result of the Sime~Gen Process by someone who was not involved in it.

He has given permission to post this review here.

-----------Review By Joseph Baneth Allen----------

Just finished reading "A Change of Tactics: A Sime~Gen Novel -Clear Spring Chronicles #1" by Mary Lou Mendum, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and Jean Lorrah released by Wildside Press.

 A Change of Tactics cover image
I was delighted when Wildeside Press began reprinting the classic [previously published] Sime-Gen novels by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and Jean Lorrah. along with the previously unpublished ones that Jacqueline and Jean had written. Due to the success in sales of the reprints and previously unpublished Sime-Gen novels, Wildside Press has rather smartly decided to publish more new Sime-Gen novels, of which "A Change of Tactics: A Sime~Gen Novel -Clear Spring Chronicles #1" is hopefully the first in a long line of original Sime-Gen novels.

Mary Lou Mendum first began writing her Clear Springs Chronicles, which highlight the adventures of Tecton Donor Den Milnan and his cousin First Level Channel Rital Madz, in the Sime-Gen Fanzine AMBROV ZEOR back in 1990.

So when Wildeside Press wanted a new Sime-Gen Novel, Jacqueline asked Mary Lou if she wanted to expand her first two stories about how Den and Rital arrived in Clear Spring to expedite/herald a technology exchange of Selyn Batteries.

Now I may be wrong in this, but I do believe that it was Jacqueline Lichtenberg who first broke ground in the publishing industry by not only allowing fan fiction of her universe to thrive - but also allowing another writer, Jean Lorrah to co-write joint and solo novels in the Sime-Gen series. There is a strong argument to be made that shared-world novels and anthologies flourished because of her willingness to take a step, at that time, I don't recall any other author and/or publisher doing. Without Jacqueline Lichtenberg paving the way, I strongly suspect that the co-written novels of Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and other science fiction writers would have gotten off the drawing board. Success does tend to encourage more success.

"A Change of Tactics" examines who to adapt to the dual new situations of outright hatred and violence, and the willingness to chuck established procedure out the window when it doesn't work. It also challenges Den's and Rital's long traditional beliefs about how to reach out to people who have to worry about offending their neighbors. It also looks unflinching at religious prejudice and how to effectively combat it - something the Jacksonville Community Alliance could definitely benefit from.

How Den confronts and fights against the religious prejudice of Reverend Sinth and his followers is something rarely portrayed in science fiction - thought more in fantasy novels.

I am eagerly looking forward to the next Clear Spring Chronicle.
Highly Recommended!
Five Stars!

-----------end Review---------------

 Sime~Gen Series On Amazon

And don't forget, Book 13 in this Series is an anthology of stories by various writers, including Mary Lou Mendum.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Read The Fine Print

According to a New York Times article from 2014, over a third of all internet sites have "Forced Arbitration" clauses, and "Class-Action Ban" clauses.

This week, one hundred and forty three million Americans learned that a site that collects private information without consent had been hacked. A few days before the announcement was released, the same company (to the best of my belief) started television advertising of its own proprietary service to protect its paying subscribers from identity theft.

Following the announced breach, potential users of the site are also being encouraged to register with the site in order to discover whether or not their own information was part of the leak.

If you set up an account with that service, you explicitly agree that you will not take part in a class action lawsuit against that site.

How's that? (!!!)

Talking of fine print, The Manward Press (and this does look like an advertisement) suggests that every cellphone user should read the fine print. There's more.  And more.

Here's a site with a short cut to the fine print you may never have noticed.

And finally, alien romance publishers (in fact, almost all book publishers) make use of fine print, too, and most book "users" never notice it. It's called the front matter, and it is on the first or second or third page, and it informs readers who owns the copyright of the work, and it forbids copying, publishing, distributing the work without written permission from the copyright owner.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Surplus of Time

Occasionally I read a humorous manga series called MISS KOBAYASHI'S DRAGON MAID. The heroine saves the life of a dragon who, in gratitude, decides to take human form and become the heroine's personal maid. In a recent issue, another dragon who happens to be visiting remarks that dragons have a "surplus of time" because of their long lives. Therefore, to him, consorting with humans and exploring their culture is merely a "whim."

Paranormal romance often includes friendships and romantic attachments between human characters and long-lived or immortal ones. Often one side effect of the extreme disparity of the characters' lifespans is skimmed over or left unmentioned: Can somebody such as a vampire, a "Highlander" immortal, a pagan deity, or a very long-lived extraterrestrial truly "love" a human partner in the sense ordinary mortals understand that emotion? The immortal or long-lived person may look upon the human lover as more like a pet, particularly since the immortal has lived through a vast realm of experience unknown to the short-lived partner.

With proper care, a domestic rabbit may live eight to twelve years, a ferret five to nine. Some large dogs typically don't live longer than nine or ten years. Of course, human pet owners love their dogs, rabbits, or ferrets, but can one have the same relationship with a creature whose lifespan is about a tenth or less of one's own as with a human partner? Likewise, an immortal may cherish his or her human lover yet realize in the back or his or her mind that the relationship will last a small fraction of the immortal's lifetime. After the human "pet's" death, the love relationship and the sadness at its loss will eventually fade to a wistful memory.

I've encountered quite a few books and movies that highlight the problem of a human lover's growing old while the nonhuman partner remains eternally youthful. Fewer works seem to tackle the more basic issue of the emotional effect widely different lifespans would have on such a relationship. The commitment required of the human partner must inevitably be deeper than that offered by the nonhuman character. Once in a while I have come across a vampire romance in which the human character doesn't want to be transformed, and the vampire's attitude is something like, "I can spare a mere sixty or seventy years to make you happy." How would a human lover feel about being viewed in those terms?

Of course, in a story that tackles this issue, the long-lived hero or heroine would have to be the exception, a character who somehow comes to value his or her human partner as more than a pet. What elements in a cross-species relationship could draw this character outside the normal comfort zone of his or her kind?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Depiction Part 32 - Depicting Brain To Computer Links - Online Bullying Prevention

Part 32
Depicting Brain To Computer Links
Online Bullying Prevention 

Previous parts of this series on how writers can depict (eliminate details, sharpen symbols, transform "reality" as observed into enjoyable fiction) what the writer observes in their real world are indexed here:

Writers are born observers of "reality" -- people watchers who can spin a life's history from a few details seen on a shopper at a Mall.

It doesn't matter whether the tale spun has any relationship to the actual reality of that person -- it is a story, a potential possibility, a flight of imagination far more interesting than the person's reality.

Writers look at people -- and see Characters.

Getting good at the craft of writing means perfecting the ability to distinguish between people (readers, for example) and Characters.

We all look at people and see someone other than the person who is really there.

We all fill in the blanks, make wild and unsubstantiated assumptions, and then deal with the real person as if that person is actually the Character we have imagined.  All your readers do it -- and most people who do not ever read fiction do it, too.  

The human brain is hardwired to take shortcuts, to recognize patterns from a few real details then imagine the rest of the details to fit that pattern.

That's how viewers guess the criminal in a TV whodunit.  It isn't TV (or videogames) that cause us to learn to do that, nor is it novels.  We do it in all our life's endeavors.

Consider a hunter in a jungle -- gotta bring home dinner.  He's got to spot the game animal and kill it, then retrieve it before scavengers eat it all up.

How does the hunter sort the cluttered jungle mess into information?
Like distinguishing between people and Characters, we must learn to distinguish between data and information.

These skills are developed at the brain's circuits, synapses, and even the sizes of brain regions, are developed from infancy through maybe 20 years of age.  

A writer's depiction is information.  What is being depicted is data.

Today, there is a massive push on among (swiftly grown to vast proportions) Tech Companies to create Artificial Intelligence that can learn to depict!  
I'm not sure any of them knows that is what they are doing - rewriting the world  - but the analogy between what a fiction writer does and what a self-driving car must do seems crystal clear to me.
In childhood, we learn to understand our world (green jungle, concrete jungle, down on the farm, King's Court Aristocracy, street smarts, etc.) by internalizing an Archetype -- a pattern, a "template" of reality around us that we then keep plugging data into, trying to transform data into information.
The current war between and against Media News can be described as a war between "Reality Templates" -- one template describing a well governed world where life is tranquil, and another describing a well governed world where life is strife-conquered-daily.

Anything that challenges the compartments of the template (think Microsoft Powerpoint or Microsoft Publisher where you download templates divided into little boxes, then insert your own images and text which magically re-formats to be beautiful), is immediately rejected with a glaring and stubborn error message.

Everything in one Media News template rejects every single bit of content from the other Media News template.  It's wrong. It's evil to disturb or distort the template of reality because that is what allows either tranquility or strife-conquered.

The two templates are incompatible.  One belongs to, say, Powerpoint and the other belongs to, say, Adobe In-Design.  There is a lot of acceptable material overlap, but incompatibility produces a mess or nothing at all.

We live in a reality where some people have internalized one template, some people the other template, some people have switched preferred templates, and others are trying to invent new templates and promulgate them.

Humans seem to thrive on this jungle like lifestyle.  It is now called multi-culturalism where each template is a culture.

Can we expect A.I. (robots, androids, smart thermostats and autonomous cars and trucks) to master all our templates, mix and match them to create new templates, overlap them and use two incompatible templates at once while ignoring incompatibilities?

The single most distinctive trait modern primates possess is adaptability and nowhere is that more evident than in the homo sapiens species.  

We might be the most adaptable intelligent species in the universe -- or the least adaptable -- and many grand Science Fiction Romance stories can be spun against backgrounds built from either premise.

But to spin such stories, the writer has to create a "template" that is being used by a Character to sort the tangled jungle of data, the heaving sea of data, the firehose of data, into information upon which to act.

Information is critical for survival, while data is not so critical.

Think about "Big Data" -- the enormous product of the Internet is massive tangles of data, but it becomes useful only when Google sorts it for you.  That's why Google has become so dominant - they solved the problem of "how do I find what exists on this topic?" and then they solved the problem, "how do I get rid of this spam."

Both solutions were based on algorythms that "crowd sourced" data collection and used their proprietary template to sort that data into information, then sort the information into organized files that could be searched.

Some of you may not remember the ludicrous answers Google search first came up with, or the world where to determine if an answer was online you had to use at least 5 search engines stating the question in different terms.

Then social networking became a possibility, a mere glimmering of an idea.  Facebook probably was not the first -- there were many forums and email Lists, and so on before Facebook.

The Prodigy Forums and Fido Net connections were all based on the existing ways that humans formed social groups.

Family, city, town, county (geographical regions where everyone has something in common - the Old West's Barn Dance), plus idea based groups (the Masons, Churches, Knights of Columbus, Science Fiction Fandom), and political parties, -- readers of a certain magazine or newspaper -- or people who bought from the Montgomery Ward Catalog or the Sears Catalog.

People who owned race horses, people who were accepted at Court -- whatever binding a group had in common, very often economic success depended on being an accepted member of that Group.

We are hard wired to seek acceptance in a Group.  Primates are not loners, though as a Group we do produce individuals who go out exploring (Mountain Men, the pioneers who found a way across the Rockies, etc. around the globe).  Those loners will probably be the first to settle on Mars.

But socialization is our primary survival trait.  So while it is true that, "You didn't build that," it is also simultaneously true (different Templates sorting the data into information) that "The Group didn't build that."

Among all primate species, there has always been an uneasy truce between the individual and the group.  No group can survive without strong and independent individuals -- but no group can survive without taming, harnessing, civilizing the strongest of those individuals.

The process of taming and harnessing those individuals starts with Romance, and all its associated elements from the highest spiritual plane of soul mates, to the grittiest necessities of physical sex.

It is the FAMILY UNIT that "tames" the wild individual to the purposes of the Group, so that individual survival becomes identical to Group survival.

The root of it all is testosterone and related gender identity hormones, all working in harmony (or disharmony).  

We discussed some articles about the effect that being bested by a woman has on a man - or being bested by another man has on a man.  Conquering or being Conquered actually has a lasting, permanent and continually reinforced effect on behavior and self-image.

Here is an entry in this series citing scientific research about depicting the married hunk - the hugely gorgeous, testosterone perfected, male molded into a father.

And here is an entry discussing how to use what you learned in Part 19 to expand the romance to include Aliens.

What happens in that transformation of the wild male into a father can be viewed as a Template Replacement.  

Before replacement, the Male sees the world as one thing - afterwards, as another.  Same DATA, same world, arranged differently.  

You can do this to a blog on by changing the "template" and suddenly all your words take on a different arrangement.  At one point in history, doing a template transformation wiped out all the comments that had been made.  The exact same world just looks so different, and new meanings emerge.

Humans in our civilized jungle undergo several template transformations, but at increasing intervals. It is called "growing up."  

A lot of the template shifting occurs because of physiological brain growth -- as the capacity increases, more data can be arranged and rearranged into more templates, giving wider, bigger, deeper, richer pictures of reality.

The more that inner picture of reality aligns with the actual data reality pours onto us, the more likely that person is to survive to become a parent.  

The more conscious the child is of the process of acquiring, sorting, and combinging templates into a personalized view of reality, the more flexible the adult will be as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things changes what it takes to survive in the world.

It is possible the generation being born now, the generation that will regard your current W.I.P. as boring, antique, false because it is old fashioned, will live in an Artificial Intelligence world, a world crafted by and for A.I. and thus demanding humans adapt.

In every generation for the last few hundred years parents have adamantly refused to "let" their offspring do whatever new-fangled activity was now possible because of technology.

In other words, "good" parents prevent children from acquiring the adaptations that will insure their survival.  

Parents do that because we have survived dire threats to our survival only because of the adaptations  (the templates that transform data into information) we have internalized.  The goal of a loving parent, therefore, is to transmit the successful Template to their offspring.  

Because of the increasing tempo of change in the world (Alvin Toffler, Future Shock explains this), each recent generation has had to mix-and-match and create new Templates, new survival strategies, new ways to transform data into information that is actionable intelligence.

In the 1950's grammar schools forbid children to take ball point pens to school and insisted on teaching fine-motor-skills by using fountain pens.  The prior generation was forbidden to bring fountain pens and had to learn the proper way to dip a nib and not splash ink.

In the 1960's, college courses forbid electronic calculators and insisted students had to learn to do the calculations on a slide rule.  That insistence lasted fewer years than previous resistences to tool adoption.

And by the 1980's colleges began insisting each student must have a computer to log into the University's system.  Today live, real-time video courses are common, papers, grades, almost everything is done online.

When you choose the story you want to tell, you have to run up and down the sweep of history to find the decade that most vividly showcases that story.  Knowing the details of a historical decade is important, of course, but more important is understanding the connections among those decades.

It is not enough to depict the way parents resist the technology of their era, because you are writing for today's readers, and for tomorrow's readers.  Your story will have more verisimilitude if you explain (in show don't tell, not exposition) why these specific Characters are resisting whichever technology is swamping the development of their offspring.

Good parents have the objective of equiping their children to survive -- maybe also to thrive -- but to present grandchildren and great-grandchildren as soon as possible.  

Over the last century, there have been any number of books on how to raise your children.  Lately, there are more titles, not just because it's easier to publish now, or just because more people can read, or just because more new parents are so estranged from their parents that they have no source of reliable in-person advice, but because times are changing so fast.

New parents today know that whatever Template they acquired in childhood would lead their children to destruction because it is no longer valid in this world -- and change is accelerating in a direction that makes the truisms of twenty years ago deadly today.

So new parents go looking for books on raising children, new books based on current scientific research.

And of course, News Media interviews form a major source for stressed out, overworked new parents struggling to found a career.

The loudest thing new parents are hearing today is how Facebook Is The Source Of All Evil.  Facebook is rampant with Bullies.  Cyber-bullying on all the social networks is driving teens to suicide.

To me, this sounds just like the ban on ball point pens.  Ruination will be the result of allowing teens to access current, modern technology.

That is a result of sorting many dozen News Items through a Template of my own crafting, composed of a multitude of Templates I've mastered (if not adopted, just learned how to use so I can depict Characters who see the world differently than I do).  

Like ball point pens and electronic calculators, social media is something today's teens must master, not be protected from.  

But how does a parent who did not grow up on Facebook teach their child to stay out of trouble on Facebook?  You can see how the writer's mind transforms reality into a Plot Conflict and thematic statement.  The writer's mind poses questions nobody else is asking, nevermind answering.

What is cyberbullying?  Why does it happen?  What is the mistake being made, and what Template does a parent have to train a child to use, to avoid becoming a Bully or a Victim of cyberstalking?

Develop a theory that can supply answers to those questions and you will be able to extract, clarify and symbolize a THEME -- one large enough to support a galactic war and powerful Alien Romance.

Such a theme will be a statement of what the human primate really is, how it cam about that we survived to dominate this planet, and whether we are adaptable enough to survive in a galactic civilization.

There are thousands of such themes.  How do you find them?

Study people.  Invent Characters from them.  Find the Character's "story" and his internal conflict, then generate the plot that supports the story of his life.  

So we have a Character who we first meet as a teen of Romance-Susceptible age.

And we have a world of social media where Facebook Must Be Forbidden Because It Is Full Of Nothing But Cyber-Bullies.  Using Facebook turns you into a bully - it must be so because everyone on Facebook is a bully and generally, everyone isn't a bully.  Facebook must be at fault.  

Good parents must ban Facebook.  It is the root of all evil.

What will children raised under such a ban, ban their children from doing?

Is banning and preventing the best way to raise children to survive in a rapidly changing, A.I. world?

A first set of the Characters in your novel would affirm that thesis, and their Tempate would justify banning as a parent's duty because children are impressionable and can be harmed for life by a bad experience (which is a scientific truth we have to live with.)

Another, second set of Characters might reject the thesis out of hand, and their Tempate would sort the data stream into true and false based on the thesis that research comes out the way those paying for it demand.  It's not a "conspiracy theory" because nobody conspires with anyone to produce this behavior - it is intrinsic human nature to want to please your employer.

This second set of Characters might permit their children to do any sort of online thing the child wanted - including porn - and possibly online bullying, forming online gangs to beat the rejected child for the sheer joy of beating up on the weak.  After all, being beaten up is how you learn to hit back harder and become a strong adult. (that's a THEME)

A third set of Characters creating the conflicts in this novel-series might use a Template that was bigger, and required much more data to fill it up into a textured and nuanced picture of reality.

This third set might look at the natural growth stages of youth, look at the social networking scene, and use a Template which not only distinguished between data and information, but also distinguished between the Tool and the Tool User.

The first of the 3 sets of Characters (maybe 3 families?) would use a Template that arranges incoming data according to a picture of a well governed world where tranquility is the goal.  The way to craft such a world is, of course, to prevent children from experiencing strife and fighting their way to the top of the heap.  A fighter is relegated to the Template's compartment labeled Bully. All fighting is wrong and must be stopped by Authority (parental or governmental).  
Today, for example, there are a lot of STOP BULLYING campaigns. 

We all know (even the bullies) that bullying is wrong - but how many know why it is wrong?  How many know what in society has changed concurrently with the increase in bullying in schools -- and the advent of school-hall bullying leaping into Facebook and other social networks?  
Perhaps you know what is happening, but as a writer constructing a novel around a Conflict that is Resolved satisfyingly in the end (by Love Conquers All, to a Happily Ever After) you must also have a theory about why it is happening.

So lets back up to the science of what a primate is.  Basic Bonobo and Chimp behaviors include bullying.  

The most powerful and dominant male hammers his way to the top.  In other species, that dominant male acquires the top position by murdering the former top guy.

We adore werewolf romance where wolf physiology blends and sometimes dominates primate physiology, producing a pack led by an Alpha Male who recognizes and mates for life with an Alpha Female.

Romance loves a Bully!!!  

Why not raise our kids to be the best bullies on the block?  That's how you get to dominate the pack, how you get to mate and have lots of children, how we gain immorality -- by bullying, right?

But bullying is "wrong" and we must stop it.

Google up the plethora of images generated by the stop bullying movement.  It has become a cause -- alter human nature, don't master it.

We must expunge a behavior, not understand and harness it for the survival of the Group?  

Look carefully at the images you can find if you Google stop bullying meme.

They are about some figure with power and authority commanding those of lesser power or authority (adult to child for example) to go out and stop other people from bullying.  Or to alter your behavior so that I don't think you are a bully.  Nobody notices they are exhorting people to bully people into not bullying.

In that group of memes are also memes about those with issues pleading for others not to bully them because of those issues (weight, gender, ethnicity, a wide variety portraying their group as begging not to be bullied).

I see few if any memes noting that authority commanding bullies not to bully is bullying the bully into not bullying.  

What exactly is bullying?  And why is it wrong?  

The answers to those questions become your THEME.  There are hundreds of valid answers to both those questions.  If you are writing Science Fiction Romance using an Alien-Human couple, you have to invent the Alien physiology.  Consider primates incorporate the bullying behavior in all the species we know of -- what if your Aliens don't have the bullying gene?

At what age do humans begin serious bullying?

I'd bet it is sexual maturity.  Kindergarten kids jostle and fight for place in the pack, but until sexual maturity begins it isn't so much dominance behavior as it is currying favor with (parents, teachers) Authority.  

That jostling for position in the pack, tribe, or family becomes bullying when testosterone floods the virgin system.  Girls bully, too, but mostly other girls.  

In both male and female, bullying is a method of eliminating competition for a mate.  That's a THEME.  Or you could take the opposite statement as your theme -- that bullying has nothing to do with sex.

But consider that the worst bullies, alone or in packs, do it because they enjoy it, they get a physical endorphin payoff from making another human cower.  And they also love the feeling of power over others -- it is a rush.  

Some studies show how bullies become bullies by having been bullied -- as a way of getting revenge on their abusers, they abuse others who had nothing to do with abusing them.  

Thus, (THEME) parents who are too strict cause their children to become bullies because the parents have taught (by show don't tell) that Might Makes Right.

If you can force someone to behave as you prefer them to, then you are teaching them that in order to be able to behave freely, they must simply gain the strength to use that much force.  

One definition of bullying includes the idea that it is "bullying" only if the person who wields the most force (or authority) is using that superiority to alter the behavior of another, weaker person.  

PICK ON SOMEONE YOUR OWN SIZE used to be the school-yard mantra that taught pre-teens not to bully.

Why wouldn't a natural bully actually bully?  Because early in the impressionable teen years when social acceptance becomes the major goal of life, PICK ON SOMEONE YOUR OWN SIZE was shouted at them by mobs of other children, dripping contempt for punching down.

Fighting, and violence are just fine as long as it is kept between equals, each with the same chance to damage to the other.

Thus, if two toughs square off in a back alley, one with a gun and the other with a knife, they both throw their weapons aside and go at it bare knuckled.  The winner is honorable and the loser concedes.

Go read those articles on testosterone mentioned in the previous posts on turning a Hunk into a Father.  After certain definitive experiences, a man's testosterone level subsides -- losing a fight is one of those experiences, and losing a fight to a woman is emphatically more-so.

So the "bully" is formed from the childhood experience of fighting to the top of the pack in class, on the streets of the neighborhood, or just in the family or the orphanage.  The urge to keep on fighting a fight that's already been won is intrinsic in human nature.  So when testosterone surges in the teen years, it fuels the aggression of the male and sizzles through all the nearby females.

If the child has not grown up surrounded by other children who insist that a powerful person must never "pick on someone weaker" -- but may hammer it out with someone "the same size," -- then testosterone focuses that campaign for dominance on the weaker targets, the easier targets.  

Thus, with the understanding of how testosterone works in humans, we can understand why the oldest wisdom about stopping bullies simply is to stand up to them.  Beat the bloody hell out of a bully, and they will never touch you again -- if the bullying is testosterone driven.  
If the bullying is merely verbal - speak up, speak out.  
If it is physical, deck them. 

There is also the case of the weakest in a family or class learning the art of passive-aggressive bullying, playing the victim, framing others for their crime.  Wonderfully complex themes about the use and abuse of power lie in that.  

But consider carefully, how the world has changed, and the trajectory of change in the near future.  

Should today's parents ban the ball point pen of this age -- social media?

Are total permissiveness and total banning the only possible parental responses?  

They are the only possible choices for those who do not understand why teenagers are the way they are.  

Social media will have a worse impact on an 18 year old who moves out, goes to college, or joins the army if they have never been exposed to it during teen years.  But since social media never existed when these parents were growing up, they have no clue how to step their children through this adaptation.  

Think about what the teen years actually are for.  Watch elementary and middle school children in the school yard.  Watch the 7th graders and compare to the 4th graders.

The 4th graders run around, organize sports contests, climb and swing on the slides and monkey bars, and generally compete with each other to perform spectacular feats.

The 7th graders begin to spend their yard time standing around in circles, talking, sharing.  The girls start standing around in groups at a younger point than the boys, but they all end up grouping.  And then groups become rivals.

The early years are to develop a sense of self, of "I can do it," and the teen years are to develop socialization -- "Who Am I Among This Group" -- status, clothing, hair, sexual attractiveness, other-oriented thinking develops.

Young children have a circle of acquaintances, maybe from pre-school play-dates, through kindergarten, and then classes of 10 or 20 other kids the same age.

Generally, we now divide schools into elementary and middle-school to keep the naturally separate ages apart.  It's not developmentally healthy to mix too wide an age range -- never mind our great-grandparents grew up in the one-room school of all ages and one teacher.

So by the end of middle-school, children have a social circle of a few dozen people their own age, and even fewer than that older and younger.

The human brain develops gradually through the teen years, but critically.

A young teen can't do what an 18 year old can -- and the 18 year old is a crippled baby next to the 25 year old.

The purpose in the teen years is socialization, readying to join civilization.

The brain is being conditioned to the modern world (pre-agriculture, societies required different brain synapse configurations -- a person might never know more than 200 people in a lifetime).  

The teen brain is being wired to function, to adapt to, modern social requirements.

But the teen is driven by testosterone flooding a virgin system, prompting that system to develop aggressive tendencies.  (teens rebel against parents - it's what they do!)

So if you present your 12 year old with a smartphone, in about an hour or two, that 12 year old's social circle will have gone from 150 people total, of all ages, to hundreds of millions on Facebook.

That is way too big a shock for the human brain to adapt to.

Thiis is especially true if this teen boy has not had all his contemporaries circling around him shouting, "go pick on someone your own size." 

Not "don't pick on anyone, ever" -- but pick only on someone who can fight back in a way that will hurt you as much as you hurt them.

True, your 12 year old will "connect" first to others in his class, church group, family, people he knows -- but it is called a social network for a reason.  All the people in his class have relatives in other states -- in other countries, and they all have "liked" "pages" selling, purveying, explaining everything under the sun.

It is a culture shock situation -- overwhelming and horrible.  

It hits hardest on those teens who have been prevented from talking to strangers or otherwise walled and protected from the public square --- those without street creds.

THEME: proper parenting requires protection of helpless children even if that protection keeps the children from developing self-sufficiency, so children never grow up to become bullies.
THEME: proper parenting requires teaching children that they are responsible for the consequences of their actions.  Teach them to use tools, not to be used by tools.  The knife did not cut you; you cut yourself with it.

THEME: proper parenting requires gradual, stepped, programmed introduction of children into how to talk to, behave around, and interact with strangers, especially adults.  How to spot predators, how to disengage from seducers.  Proper parenting requires inoculation of children against predators gradually and systematically.

Now, consider all 3 sets of Characters with their different beliefs and different Templates sorting data into information.  All 3 sets of Characters identify their information as FACTS, and are dedicated to the reality of facts.

The three sets of Characters are fighting over control of a School -- say in a PTA Election, or a Board of Education Election (or even a Mayoral race).

Set just 50 years from now, you can weave in an Artificial Intelligence designed to run schools according to some world-wide agreed on (actually imposed by the U.N.?) nice-sounding but insidious curriculum.

How do the 3 sets of Characters vie for the attention of the A.I. -- how do they convince the A.I. the programming given to it is wrong, evil, monstrous, and setting humanity up for failure, death, extinction?

Worse, what if the A.I. already knows that's true, and is doing it to drive humanity (or at least the smartest ones) to extinction?

How can Love Conquer All and lead this group of 4 major conflicting elements (make it at least 4 long novels) to a Happily Ever After?  

Can the 3 groups (who loathe each other, of course) jointly convince this A.I. individual, and get this A.I. to go up against the swarm or gaggle of A.I.'s now running the world and enlighten them about why humanity is worth preserving (because we are capable of Love)?

Could the solution to countering a dictatorship of Artificial Intelligence be to directly connect human brains to machine intelligence, to communicate without words?  

To convince A.I.'s that humanity is worth saving, would you first have to expunge the bully-tendency from human nature?  Could that be possible?  Would you still have "humans" if they were incapable of bullying?  

Or are these Artificial Intelligences programmed in our image, to be bigger, stronger, faster bullies than we can ever be?

Presumably, an Artificial Intelligence would be the more powerful in a match up with a human, so any force the AI used against a human would (technically) by definition be bullying.

Would humanity, then, in logical self-defense adopt the passive-aggressive counter to bullying, sniping from the cover of being the victim?

Do we beg the A.I.'s to stop bullying us -- or do we beat the stuffing out of them?  

It is possible our entire food and energy supply will be run by Artificial Intelligence by then.  If we beat them into submission, they retaliate by turning off the food and energy we need that they don't?   White Mutiny?  Going on strike?  

Do the streets fill with robots demonstrating for equal rights?  

How can love conquer such a situation?  

Pick a theme.  Pick a time in future history.  Pick a Character and generate his opposition from his internal story.  What does he want to do, why does he want to do it, and who wants to stop him and why?

Can Love between a human and an A.I. actually resolve this problem?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg