Sunday, December 30, 2018
Would you permanently affix someone else's copyrighted intellectual property onto your body, so that you might have to pay that copyright owner royalties every time you exposed their property to public view in the course of your own commercial activity?
If you have artwork "inked" onto your skin, you might be in that situation. If you write about a hero or heroine with tattoos, they might have interesting problems.
Nicole Smalberger, writing for the South African legal firm Adams & Adams explains the complex legal issues around original ink art in "Listen: Who owns the copyright to the tattoo on your body." When you pay for your tattoo, you pay for the placement of the artwork but not for the copyright of the art.
If you aspire to fame, and may one day be photographed as part of your business activities, be sure to buy the rights to whatever permanently decorates your face or bod.
Whatever would be the situation if you got the lyrics of your favorite pop song tattooed on your back? You'd be a walking infringement of the pop singer-songwriter's copyright.
Thursday, December 27, 2018
When is Christmas not Christmas? When its equivalent appears under another name in a holiday episode of a TV series or movie franchise. TV Tropes has a page on this phenomenon:You Mean Xmas
It's not unusual for TV series to have "Christmas" episodes even if they're set in a time or place where Christmas doesn't exist. An episode of XENA, WARRIOR PRINCESS featured "A Solstice Carol." MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC has "A Hearth's Warming Tale," set on the holiday celebrating the occasion when the three types of ponies worked together to save the fledgling realm of Equestria from the terrible Windigos. (This story combines elements of A CHRISTMAS CAROL and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.) Then there's the infamous STAR WARS holiday special, set on the Wookie home planet at the season of Life Day. (I've never seen this film, so all I know is what's summarized on TV Tropes; it has never been re-aired, because it's so abysmal that Lucas himself loathes it.) The inhabitants of Fraggle Rock celebrate the Festival of the Bell in "The Bells of Fraggle Rock," at the time of year when the Rock slows down and would freeze forever if the Fraggles didn't ring their bells to awaken the Great Bell. The characters in DINOSAURS have Refrigerator Day, appropriately commemorated by lavish feasting. Although BEAUTY AND THE BEAST takes place in the world as we know it, members of the secret underground community where Vincent (the Beast) dwells celebrate "Winterfest" instead of Christmas. Print fiction features a similar phenomenon. There's a Midwinter Festival in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar universe. The people of Discworld have Hogswatchnight, as portrayed in detail in Terry Pratchett's HOGFATHER. The world of Steven Universe is an exception to this pattern. Its canon establishes that the invasion of the alien Gems thousands of years ago altered Earth so radically that Christianity doesn't exist, so there's no Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, etc. However, virtually every temperate-zone culture in the world has a winter solstice celebration with such elements as feasting, lights, greenery, and bells, so it seems likely that the people in this series would have one, too. If they do, apparently the producers and writers simply haven't considered it necessary to mention.
In the animated special ARTHUR'S PERFECT CHRISTMAS, Arthur's bunny friend gets so stressed out by his divorced mother's frantic attempt to make Christmas perfect that he wants to invent their own family holiday instead, "Baxter Day." An episode of SEINFELD popularized the anti-Christmas holiday of Festivus, which includes the Airing of Grievances (when everybody complains to everybody else about offenses committed through the year) and an aluminum pole instead of a tree. In short, the human spirit seems to crave festivity at the dark of the year.
A satirical essay by C. S. Lewis imagines what the ancient Greek historian Herodotus would have made of the modern British Christmas. Herodotus concludes that Exmas and Crissmas can't possibly be the same holiday, because even barbarians wouldn't go through all that expense and bother for a god they don't believe in:Xmas and Christmas
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
How To Use Tarot & Astrology In Science Fiction Part 2 - Now Speculate
In Part 1, we looked at how to do science using Astrology and History. The process is simple. Use what science (archeology, paleontology, literary preservations (such as stone engravings, or the Bible, Dead Sea Scrolls) is using for best current theory, then correlate that with a speculative application of Astrology.
Astrologers aver that planets have no effect on humanity (or do not correlate with Events in history) before they are "discovered." The "What if ..." we are playing with here, is "What if modern Astrology is all wrong?"
What if there's something to Astrology, but it isn't what the experts think it is, and it isn't what marketers of astrological "wisdom" peddle it as? What if ...?
What if this speculative idea depicts the actual real world, not some alternate or fantasy reality?
So we are exploring what if planetary movements have indeed correlated with historic movements for thousands (even millions?) of years.
One of the most recently discovered planets is Pluto -- and even recently, after decades of calling it a "planet" astronomers voted to demote it from planetary status (for various reasons, all of them perfectly comprehensible).
Neptune and Pluto are in fact different from the rest of our Sun's planets, but as far as their timing the cycles of human history goes, that probably doesn't matter. Or it might matter when we find out more, and see how their orbits correlate with some mystical energy ebb and flow -- who knows?
Since nobody knows, we get to speculate.
So we pointed to History (as well as it is known) in Part 1, and correlated the general outline of the pattern of Events in the current news with Events of centuries ago.
Human mass migration (and subsequent interbreeding), conquering, flowing around the globe, often prompted by glaciation, usually in response to a search for resources (and riches), has been mapped by paleontologists and archeologists.
The search for the origins of humanity, or modern humanity, is going on using DNA to trace population movements and interbreeding. We all bear traces of pre-modern-human DNA.
So humanity survives while thousands die, even huge percentages of a population can die off and humanity still survives (civilization not so much.)
We look at the Headlines of 2018, and look back for when "this" happened before. We have to think in terms of generations, even centuries, to see the patterns we can use to speculate about.
Currently, humans are once again upending the forms and purposes of government.
We've noted how this urge to invent or reinvent governing forms has happened in cycles of about 248 years (irregularly! Pluto's orbit is long ellipse - speculated to be a "capture" by our Sun). It's "speed" in orbit is not regular -- it goes faster, then slower. If we can't think of something new, we stage a revolution and behead the King, get a new King and start over.
The USA is about up to its Pluto return (where Pluto is at the same degree it was when the country was born.)
Meanwhile, the other planets have whizzed around more times than in any one human life-span, creating all sorts of "well, it's different this time" Events.
Yes, it's always different -- but underlying, there is a trace of a repeating pattern.
This time, we will go exploring Space, trying to live on space stations (do read C. J. Cherry's Foreigner Series), and alien planets.
Here's the Amazon link to the list of books in the Foreigner Series.
The Pluto in Aquarius motivation will carry us into space by the urgent need of the generation born with Pluto in Aquarius to seek FREEDOM, to find identity, to be individually sovereign and collectively free to practice any religion.
The need to get away from other humans waxes and wanes, but when it peaks it is very intense.
One can speculate that Climate Change will make Earth less friendly to human endeavor and drive some of our more freedom-seeking individuals to find a way to get OUT OF HERE.
But we have seen that living weightless in orbit is destructive to the human body, cells lose integrity and function, and ills accumulate. One can speculate that gravity varying too far away from Earth's (maybe the Moon, or Mars?) might be just as destructive to human cells and unlivable.
That's just another problem to be solved -- and our labs are hard at work on mastering cells, and creating whole organisms. It's just another step toward freedom to be able to re-engineer humans to fit other environments. Many Science Fiction novels have centered on that.
You know the people doing this work on genetics also read/watch science fiction -- they grow up wanting to do what the books depict, just as the current world is largely patterned on a drive toward STAR TREK (except we're trying to sidestep the genetics war).
What do you want this current crop of babies with Pluto in Aquarius to grow up wanting to do?
On the straight line extrapolation from where we've been (exploring and conquering The Americas) to where we are (fighting each other for resources, trying to damp climate change thus depriving undeveloped countries of resources), to where this leads "If this goes on ..." -- we can only see exploring space.
But how do we do that? What do we try that fails or is too expensive? What do we invent to sidestep that problem?
A) engineering human genome to withstand broader living conditions (gravity, air, water)
B) sending remote controlled Robots to scout (doing that already)
C) inventing Artificial Intelligence so we can send them exploring?
Well, scientists are madly working on AI, and business people are striving mightily to make enough profit off the first attempts to finance further inventions.
That's where we're going.
But what if AI is more than "Intelligent" -- actually becomes "conscious" and even "self-aware."
What if we send some AI equipped ship out beyond the beyond, and as it goes, it remakes itself and becomes self-aware?
What if biology can't reinvent human cells fast enough to let humans live on Mars? So we send AI to colonize and mine Mars, the astroids, etc for the raw material we need to fix Earth's climate disaster?
We're close to autonomous cars. Autonomous AI isn't that far off. Pluto is slowing in orbit and will be in Aquarius long enough for the general urge to explore to drive us beyond the beyond.
When the departed group (which might be human+AI+whoknowswhat), returns to Earth what will they find? (yes, PLANET OF THE APES scenario asks this question).
All space travel is time travel, too -- space and time as we've discussed while pointing to various articles, are deeply intertwined. There might, in fact, be no difference between space, time, and gravity.
All of this speculation is to be done with the various novels and series I've reviewed here -- most especially those I've tagged as not being Romance at all. Those anti-Romance science fiction novels are read by the current people doing the work on genetics and AI that we've discussed here, in Part 2 of this series.
Here are a few of the recent reviews of books where I discuss many of these issues - love stories, yes, but not focused on Romance.
And this one with a pretty strong setup for a hot Romance:
And this one with serious Romance plotting:
Think about all the other books you've read -- compare those written long ago with those currently being published, and consider two things:
a) where was Pluto when the author was born?
b) where was Pluto when the author's target readership was born?
Here are some of the Astrology Just For Writers series discussing Pluto and how to use Astrology in fiction writing without having to learn any.
Re-read this blog entry about Pluto and Expository Lumps in writing:
And here is the key one -- discussing Pluto's position by sign as each generation is born, and how you can use that information to target a readership, and extrapolate what those children will do when they grow up.
That's a lot of reading, but writers have to read both fiction and non-fiction, so get to it. Fiction and non-fiction are NOT two different things. They correlate.
Sunday, December 23, 2018
Right Of First Sale Does Not Apply To Digital
Fair use is, apparently, a rule that was created by a judge and later made law by Congress. However, fair use applies to limited portions of a work, not to an entire book or to an entire song (or tune). If someone creates a copy, and sells it in competition with the legal version created by the copyright owner or copyright holder, that is not fair use.
One of the best (most readable, most well-articulated) explanations of copyright infringment with regards to digital files is:
and is penned by Samuel J. Zeitlin and Bruce Rich legal bloggers for the law firm Weil Gotshal and Manges LLP
If you see that you have to register and log in to read the article, look for the orange text link below the invitation to "register" and click on the orange text to read the original.
Here is the orginal
Now, if only someone would do something about this:
Porter Anderson reports on the same court ruling.
As does Michael Cader for Publishers Lunch,
Also, Publishers Weekly
It is also worth remembering that Amazon has a patent on digital resale.
All the best,
Thursday, December 20, 2018
Acceptable Breaks from Reality?
The TV Tropes site has a page called "Acceptable Breaks from Reality," about the "unrealistic" things regularly allowed to happen in fiction and film in order to move the story along, even though the elements aren't true to life:Acceptable Breaks
This trope came to mind when I watched last week's episode of NCIS, a favorite series I've faithfully followed since its inception (even though I didn't completely like the star, Gibbs, at first and could hardly stand Agent Tony DiNozzo for the first season or two). Despite my fondness for the show, I'm often distracted or outright exasperated by some of their routine plot devices. One of the most "acceptable," which bugs me anyway if I stop to think about it, falls under the TV Tropes category "The Main Characters Do Everything." They seem to have only one medical examiner, Dr. Mallard, and one assistant, Dr. Palmer, doing all the autopsies. This large, busy organization has only one forensic technician, who literally does everything, including conducting DNA tests instead of sending them out to a specialized lab. In one episode, while the forensic tech was absent for some reason, two of the regular agents temporarily took over her lab and analyzed evidence. With no training or certification in that field? Yikes. Yes, I realize programs want to keep the focus on the stars and don't want to pay a lot of actors to play minor characters just to make the staff look realistically large. How much would it cost, though, to have a group of extras in the background or walking in and out of the picture so that the spaces devoted to autopsy and forensics would appear to be populated in a lifelike way? The program does that for the main NCIS office. In those scenes, the stars are far from the only people on the set.
Most of the time, I don't think about this issue while watching the show. Nor do I gripe too much about the "murder of the week" template, despite the fact that real NCIS agents (as far as I know from having been a Navy wife for thirty years) work more on such crimes as burglaries and assaults in Navy housing than on murders and terrorist conspiracies. The former types of investigations, admittedly, wouldn't be very exciting unless a body turned up before the first commercial. Some other "breaks from reality," however, actively grate on me. For instance,the agents frequently travel to other countries in the course of investigations, although they're based in the Washington, D.C. area, their presumed jurisdiction and operational purview. And they often go to other cities for brief interviews with potential informants instead of calling on the phone. That office must have a lavish travel budget! Last week's episode included several of my "pet peeves." Usually, the number of days covered by an episode isn't specified, so the audience may assume, with a little indulgence, that enough time has elapsed for lab tests to get done. This one, however, explicitly begins and ends on Christmas Eve. The forensic tech uses her superhuman skills to determine whether an unidentified baby is the child of a dead murder suspect. In real life, DNA analysis takes between 24 and 72 hours to complete. (I looked it up.) Yet she gets a result from the DNA paternity test in only an hour or two, judging from how much story time the rest of the episode spans.
Throughout the series, the agents constantly delve into official records that they shouldn't be allowed to access without warrants. Maybe that issue can be overlooked in the interests of streamlining the action. Entering private dwellings without warrants, however, is a more glaring violation. In the referenced episode, two agents talk the suspect into letting them into his apartment, even though they don't have a search warrant. So far, okay. But then they force their way into a closed room he has forbidden them to enter. No warrant, no permission from the occupant, no probable cause. In an actual case, any evidence they found would be tainted. At some point the suspect produces a gun, and one of the agents shoots him dead. We never hear a word about her being suspended pending investigation, as she would be, or even a passing comment about that possibility. For that matter, throughout the series the agents are continually involved in car chases and shootouts with no apparent repercussions.
Then there are the often unintentionally humorous "flyover country" slip-ups in occasional episodes. I know that in many movies and TV series, southern California stands in for almost everywhere. But couldn't film technology have deleted the mountains from the background of a scene allegedly set in Norfolk, Virginia (on the Atlantic coast, a half-day's drive from the nearest mountain range)? As a resident of Maryland, I was especially amused as well as mildly annoyed by an incident when the agents visited the Carroll County sheriff. (Why, I don't remember; that seemed like another interaction that could have been handled by phone.) According to its website, that department is "a full service law enforcement agency" with a staff of 260 employees. To the writers of NCIS, the word "sheriff" must have been free-associated with "Mayberry." They have the sheriff claiming he can't leave the office because there's nobody on the premises except himself and one deputy.
Minor "breaks from reality" to avoid slowing down the story are one thing, but critical research failures or the appearance of just not caring are another. What unrealistic details in movies and TV programs can you overlook for the sake of plot streamlining, and which ones make your teeth grind in exasperation?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
How To Use Tarot And Astrology In Science Fiction Part 1 - Real History
Tarot and Astrology Just For Writers are indexed here:
The Fantasy genre has focused on two major plot-drivers (some call these tropes).
1) Who Gets To Be King (depicting government by Aristocracy)
2) A Secret Society Of Magicians Co-exists With Normals (Muggles)
The secret, underground society that works hard to keep itself un-noticed by mundanes (muggles) tends to dominate "Urban Fantasy" these days.
That concept symbolizes the blurring effect we see with Neptune Transiting Pisces -- which Neptune "rules" -- and thus blurring the edges and meaningfulness of "facts." This has made "fake news" a feature of daily life, but each points the finger at the other screaming "fake." That's NEPTUNE on the loose, and is actually not the way Neptune functions best.
That is the "vice" of Neptune. Each Astrological planet has a way of manifesting as a "Vice" (an anti-life function) and a "Virtue" (a pro-life function).
Neptune is the planet of the "reality" behind reality, the astral plane where one simply thinks and believes and it is so. Thus as noted so many times in these posts, Neptune is the signature planet of the years of a person's life where Romance dominates.
When Neptune makes a transit contact with key points in a Natal chart, the person's perception of reality shifts -- kind of like the optical illusions that have become such popular memes. Blink, and it's one thing, blink and it is the opposite -- so "which is it?" becomes the question.
People rage into emotional arguments over optical illusions.
The argument over whether there exists such a thing as Soul Mate, or Happily Ever After, has the same emotional-rage flavor.
Consider whether the cause of the emotional-rage, adamant advocacy for one side or the other, both arise from the same "place" inside the human makeup.
Some philosophers give up and just declare that there is no such thing as "reality" at all -- everything is illusion.
Some adopt the idea that there exists an objective, hard fact, reality that can be discovered by Science -- therefore, "settled science" is to be obeyed if you want to survive. See the raging, terror-driven argument over Climate Change -- listen to the tone of voice advocating each side -- does it sound the same to you as the argument over "Fake News" or the argument over "Happily Ever After?"
Are all these emotion-fueled raging, adamant, life-or-death depends on forcing the other to accept, believe, act upon, MY VIEW OF REALITY?
Look at the Religious Wars raging around the Globe. We had the Catholic vs Protestant war in Northern Ireland spilling into London with bombings.
Now we have the Moslem Religion torn apart, sides taken aligning with whichever son inherited The Prophet's mantle, and as far as I've been able to discern the issue, it's all about which side gets the Divine Privilege of destroying all the Jews, ridding the world of that People and bringing the Islamic version of the Messiah.
On another front, we have serious shooting wars raging in skirmishes around the globe, brewing and stewing up Revolution - the exact same emotional tenor and tone as the "Fake News" argument over what is real (Saturn) and what is not (Neptune.)
Writing teachers teach that story is story -- throughout time, always the same -- because human nature never changes.
"Human Nature Never Changes" is an adamantly declared Universal Truth one must believe in to sell fiction.
Classics of Literature are "classic" because they outline, starkly showcase, some element of Human Nature that all of us must understand to be educated and wise.
As you all know, my series, Sime~Gen, (14 volumes and still growing) is a science fiction series based on the premise that Writing Teachers -- and High School reading teachers, and university Literature Teachers are just plain wrong.
Human Nature has changed, is changing, and will change.
Not only that, but we (as humans with that nature) get to choose what aspect of us to change into which aspect -- whether to go forward or backward in our Nature Evolution.
We can revert to unmitigated savagery, or we can progress toward unmitigated Kindness.
Sime~Gen is built on the premise that if we, as humans, don't choose to advance in Compassion, then we will be hammered into accepting Compassion, Soul by Individual Soul, whether we like it or not.
We must change our Nature, or it will be changed for us.
The premise that our Professors (what Fantasy Genre based on government by Aristocracy would term our "betters") are just plain wrong is formulated by using the thinking process of the science fiction genre. Thus the result (whatever esoteric, or fantasy elements might be included) is pure science fiction.
You do the same thing with any branch of science -- What If "They" (Authority) Is WRONG?
If Only ...
If This Goes On ...
Those are the speculations that science fiction is based on.
"If Only..." is the essence of Neptune's perception of reality.
Many esoteric thinkers regard Neptune influenced opinions as based on a "higher reality" -- a perspective of reality from farther away, from an angle which reveals the interlaced fundamentals of Body and Soul, the juncture of the spiritual and material.
Many call those who see that juncture, "Wise."
Tarot and Astrology are very old disciplines, much older than Science.
Tarot and Astrology are the science of the Unseen (unsee-able).
If you study the historical development of Science, you find that Alchemy is the predecessor of Chemistry. Now, Chemistry (and Physics) can do much of what Alchemy was believed to do.
In every way, the thinking processes that led to these early attempts to gain ascendancy over Mother Nature -- agriculture, genetics, materials science (flint, copper, iron, bronze) -- all lead to today's "science."
And all of them are rooted deeply into Tarot and Astrology -- but their social acceptance relies on their refutation and rejection of Tarot and Astrology.
Tarot and Astrology are about Human Nature evolving and changing upon interaction with the physical world studied by Science.
Science is about Mother Nature evolving and changing upon interaction with Science.
In other words, they are two halves of a whole.
Science reveals "the truth" about the physical reality in order to give humans complete command over their environment. That is why the Earth's climate responding to "human activity" is something so terrifying, so horrifying, that these very scientists who measure it can not accept it - the Earth is "out of control" -- and science must control.
Human Nature, on the other hand "never changes."
"What if ..." when human nature refuses to change, and insists on hammering Mother Nature into shape, Mother Nature responds by hammering back?
What if the solution is not to control Earth's Climate but to adapt human nature to the ever-shifting climate?
Look back into pre-history, using archeology and paleontology. Over many shifts of climate, we see primates adapting and adapting until we find "modern man." And "Modern Man" migrates and adapts, creates shelter, clothing, hunting tools, agriculture etc etc.
And through all that adapting of human nature (including learning to fight each other with ever-more-powerful weapons), we also developed the studies and wisdom of Tarot and Astrology (which are now disparaged).
So why aren't we accepting climate change and adapting - moving our cities back from the edges where water will rise, building habitats under water, mapping where the arable land will move to as ocean currents shift (farming tropical fruit at the poles?), learning to use the ocean as food source, etc.
Wait a minute. Who says we won't do this, eventually? Haven't the survivors of cataclysm done exactly that throughout pre-history?
What do we, today, know that they didn't know?
In Astrology, we know of the existence of planets beyond Saturn. In Tarot, we know that humans have Free Will and shape fate by choices. In Religion, we know that the choices that matter involve the Relationship with God developed over a lifetime. (We know that those who are in critical illness, or dire trouble, benefit when others pray for them.) Compassion matters. Kindness matters. We can't quantify it, but Love matters.
There is another dimension where all living things are "stitched" together into some sort of pattern we, with ordinary consciousness, can't see.
So a writer can "reveal" this interface between the esoteric dimensions of creation and the everyday, concrete world studied by Science, using both plot (events in the real world) and story (Character changes on impact of real Events).
The best genre for revealing esoteric truth is Science Fiction Romance -- a science challenge, "what if authority is wrong?" coupled to a Character Arc where the impact of one Character's Soul upon another Character causes them both to change in ways shaped by their ability to understand the sequence of Events.
One good example of this process is the TV Series, X-Files.
So what might such a couple learn as they become a couple?
Look carefully at our Neptune Transiting Pisces (its own sign) shaped world. Note also that currently Pluto is transiting Capricorn (not at all its own sign).
Neptune's vice is confusion, and Pluto's vice is power run amok (war).
We've noted above how Neptune's illusion and blurring of reality is sowing confusion over the whole globe. It's not a problem. It does that periodically, and humanity has survived it -- even learned a thing or two in the process.
Pluto cycles are about 248 years. Neptune cycles about 165 years, give or take.
So look at now, then look back at Pluto transits and History. Pluto was only recently "discovered" but that doesn't mean it wasn't active before that (many astrologers accept the idea that a planet is active in human affairs only after it has been discovered -- what if that's not true?)
When the USA was formed, Pluto was in Capricorn (where it is now). The USA was formed in revolutionary war, and immediately launched a foreign war (Tripoli of Marine Corps Hymn fame).
The USA Natal Pluto is at the end of Capricorn, so the expansion of the 1800's was accompanied by the transit of Pluto into Aquarius, the sign of the USA's Moon and MC. Aquarius is about Freedom, sudden explosive change, independence, and the "Flower Children's" mission of "Finding Yourself" (otherwise known as the Australian walkabout.)
After stewing through the Articles of Confederation phase, then the intense conflict over writing a Constitution to govern two incompatible ideologies, the Colonies launched a campaign of exploration, conquering the continent. It was the era of the Mountain Man, the Buffalo Hunter, Gold Discovery in California, Wagon Trains, Oklahoma Land Rush, and of course Indian Wars.
If you know Astrology, you see immediately how all the historical elements in that list are manifestations of Pluto.
The incompatible ideologies that are blended in the USA Constitution are:
A) Government Is Order Imposed By Aristocrats Who Know Better Than the Uneducated In Classics And Science (they wanted George Washington to be King)
B) Government is Order That Protects Citizens From Government (domestic or foreign). (they wanted Freedom)
The dichotomy is rooted in two incompatible takes on Human Nature. A) Human Nature Never Changes, and B) Human Nature Rises To The Occasion
A) Humans can't be trusted to govern themselves, but the best among them can Rule better because they are educated.
B)Humans don't need Rulers. Humans, even the uneducated in classics and science, are good at judging the Nature of other humans, and thus can choose who to hire to run government according to their assessment of Character.
Putting these two incompatible ideologies together was the Pluto in Capricorn innovation (Pluto's virtue is innovation, vice disruption). A new form of government was established, and to date, at the verge of the USA Pluto return to its place, no other Nation has adopted this Constitution.
So a new governmental form launched a century of Exploration of The Unknown Continent. And in that century, the 1800's, many other governments went exploring, searching for minerals and resources, and conquered peoples.
The Science Fiction Writer looks at this Pluto through Capricorn and into Aquarius as it manifested last time, and looks back and back through many cycles, seeing innovation and exploration (and war) periodically through history -- usually over resources which were hidden or revealed by advancing or retreating glaciers.
What will happen to human civilization as the oceans rise once again, glaciers retreat revealing what?
Do you see the potential for Science Fiction Romance in postulating what might be revealed by retreating glaciers? Buried civilizations, UFO, time-travelers time machine?
Tracing the cycle of Pluto backwards through the epochs when it was in Aquarius, extrapolate what might come about this next time, in the 2000's?
Surely we will explore space. We already are sending robots and remote-controlled devices to planets, asteroids, moons, and telescopes or probes beyond our solar system.
There may be other planets to discover, too. Maybe that long-long cycle of outer-planets will trace the way Human Nature has changed and point the way toward future changes. Are we becoming more vicious and ferocious, or are we becoming more kind and compassionate?
Or are some of us becoming one, and some the other?
Does encountering Reality change the human Soul? Or does encountering a human Soul change Reality? Or both?
Formulate an answer to those questions and you can create a THEME which will support a very long series, such as the ones I've been reviewing for you here.
Sunday, December 16, 2018
EBay is still profiting from copyright infringement
Do the sophisticated people at ebay seriously believe that Scholastic gives or sells licenses to Ebay sellers to sell up to ten copies at a time of a legal ebook?
Moreover, their "have one to sell" appears, in the context, to solicit copyright infringement.
"Bad Command" And The Perils of Petitions
Apparently, if the petition is online, there may be other reasons for lack of support, or overwhelming support.
For instance, last evening, this writer was mildly inclined to sign a petition asking the new Congress to support copyright owners. How many times, though, does a mildly enthusiastic person keep going back to sign a petition (for the first and only time) when entering the first couple of letters of ones first name crashes ones computer, logs one out of all sites, and closes ones browser?
I tried four times before giving up on my right to support copyright. Interestingly, it was the "firstname" block that was boobytrapped. If one started with ones zip code, nothing happened. Apple called the issue a "Bad Command".
Imagine a dystopian world where one tries to vote, but if one votes in a way that ones internet provider or a sponsor of the site opposes, that vote would be called a bad command, and would be blocked.
Hacking democracy happens. Online polls and referenda have been manipulated.
Previously, there's been news about tricky campaigns where people who are not eligible to lobby someone elses parliamentary representative (even one in another country) find ways to geek around the rules.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul does not really need to worry about how someone in Scotland would like him to vote on copyright issues. And European MEPs (apology for the tautology) should not be tricked into voting according to the wishes of someone with very busy fingers and geek skills who is domiciled in California, USA.
Even more shocking is this allegation about foreign political fund-raising at the expense of American taxpayers:
However, there is another peril of petitions and surveys. The petition launchers and survey creators may sell your private information and your private opinions to unscrupulous others.
One outfit that appears to purchase petition and survey results could be mylife.com. Check it out. They display the most intimate results about individuals (which are not always accurate), and offer to suppress this "information" for a monthly fee. The foreign operatives of this site will ask dissatisfied customers not to contact their credit card providers. Be sure to disregard such requests.
All the best,
Thursday, December 13, 2018
The Monsters of Christmas
On Facebook I came across a link to an article about the dark side of the Christmas season in many European folk traditions. It includes some creepy illustrations:Why Monsters Haunt Christmas in Europe
The page describes Black Piet, Krampus, Belsnickel, and several other horrifying creatures that roam the world around the time of the winter solstice. It quotes some observations by Stephen Nissenbaum, author of my favorite nonfiction book about the holiday season, THE BATTLE FOR CHRISTMAS. Before the nineteenth-century reforms that converted the REAL "old-fashioned Christmas" into a family-centered occasion for giving presents to children, Yuletide was "a disorderly time" dedicated to celebrating the post-harvest leisure period with feasting, drinking, making noise, wassailing (begging from door to door), and dressing up in grotesque costumes. In this period of "misrule," the social order often got turned upside down, with ritual defiance of authority. A tamer remnant of that pattern, mentioned by Nissenbaum, survives in the custom of officers in the British Army waiting on enlisted men on Boxing Day / St. Stephen's Day (December 26), as depicted in one Christmas episode of the TV series MASH.
Works that showcase the scary side of Christmas include the movie NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel HOGFATHER, in which Death has to substitute for the vanished Hogfather (that world's Santa figure). Not surprisingly, Death's idea of a suitable winter holiday is a bit odd. This book, by the way, has been filmed:Hogfather Movie
Here's a page devoted to all things Krampus, where you can find, among other features, a list of cities that hold Krampus celebrations:Krampus
On reflection, it's obvious that grim figures such as Black Piet serve a useful purpose in the celebration of Christmas. If St. Nicholas has a dark sidekick who punishes naughty children, Santa himself doesn't have to bear the burden of the punitive role implied by "he knows if you've been bad or good." Instead, he can be the completely benevolent gift-dispenser.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Reviews 43 - The Late Great Wizard by Sara Hanover
The Reviews have not been indexed yet.
The success of the Romance Genre in penetrating Science Fiction and Fantasy genres is beautiful to see.
The Soul Mate issue, and all the aspects of Relationship that are fueled by or form the foundation of Love (True Love), are working their way into plot, story, and world building.
In Reviews 41,
we discussed Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio, and how the Galactic Civilization is depicted using a loose, sprawling style, making the book much thicker than it had to be. It is a story about a guy, an aristocrat, who gets tossed into the lowest, grimiest level of his civilization, and climbs back up. Along the way, he meets a girl he really loves - then she dies and he goes on. But her memory is one of the driving forces that propels him to galactic significance again.
In Reviews 42,
we looked at the conclusion of Simon R. Green's two long, intertwined Paranormal Romance series, where the Romance spans the two separate series and unites them. Night Fall is the title of the combining novel, and it is very strongly driven by the slowly developed Romance.
Now in Reviews 43, let's look at another Fantasy Genre (maybe Urban Fantasy) novel, this one a marvelously good read, a page turner with great promise for a new long-running and complicated Series, The Late Great Wizard by Sara Hanover.
The Amazon page indicates a second author, but the pre-publication cover and title page on my ARC copy does not, so I will reference Sara Hanover as the hand behind this (wonderful) book.
The Amazon page also indicates a sub-title, giving this a Series title, Wayward Mages. The plural Mages, gives me vast hopes.
Hanover demonstrates a writing technique worthy of close study. She takes a beaten-to-death, modern Urban Fantasy premise -- (among normal people such as you deal with every day, there exist some people who practice magic and other paranormal talents who do everything to keep you ignorant of their existence and affairs (and wars)).
Hanover then mixes in another beaten-to-death modern plot element, The Phoenix, being not a bird or god, but a person, a human, who dies in fire and must use a magical ritual to return fully to life and functioning.
She shakes the mixture and pours out something new.
And as you read, you learn once again the oldest, truest maxim of story craft: Setting, Time, Place, Plot, and Action Do Not Matter.
Reader enjoyment arises from the Characters and their Relationships.
It is the story that matters - and you can write and sell to any genre by telling your story in whatever Setting, Period, or World that genre needs.
Yes, we have discussed, at tedious length, how the World must be integrated with Plot, Story, and Characters.
Characters are shaped by their environment, and morph into hero or victim or bully according to the experiences their World throws at them.
In Romance, we prefer the Character who gets whacked by a Problem, and Rises To The Occasion.
In Science Fiction, likewise, we want a Character who starts off as the last one you'd expect to be able to do something -- then Rises to the Occasion and conquers.
Likewise, in Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance, we want to see the Character rise to the occasion and do what would have been impossible without confrontation with a challenge.
The element that raises Sara Hanover's new Phoenix novel far above most of the others I've seen lately is that the female lead Character, First Person Narrator, Tessa, is surrounded by deeply knit family. The Father is currently missing (they find out what's happened to him), but though there were issues with his pre-disappearance behavior, the love is staunch, unflinching amidst the apparent betrayal he perpetrated.
Tessa's goal is to get her college education completed and find her father.
Tessa and her mother are just scraping by in a college town which could be anywhere in the USA, but is near Washington DC, which they visit (a place famous among the esoteric community for its ley lines).
This location is interesting because the author seems to live in New Zealand.
To help out with expenses, Tessa accepts a job delivering (by bicycle) meals to the Elderly. One of those Elders is "The Professor" -- who turns out to be a Phoenix, and a Wizard being targeted by a warring faction among the supernatural community. He incinerates himself to avoid a worse development, but reincarnates as a younger man. He staggers into Tessa's presence as he comes to in his back yard, house in cinders, memory gone. From what we know at that point, "wayward mage" sounds like a reasonable sobriquet.
He is a wizard, but barely knows he has such power. To restore his memory, he must perform a ritual -- the required components are scattered and hidden by his former elderly self. So Tessa must help with the treasure hunt, hazy lack of memory, and assortment of friends, enemies, frenemies from his paranormal community.
This elderly wizard who was a warm friend is now of her age-group and very handsome. He knows and admires her for herself, and that basis of relationship matters -- but now there's more.
At the end of this first novel in what I hope will be a long series, Tessa has a much more accurate idea of how her world works, and what's actually going on. She has the full support of her mother, and a solid notion of what's going on with her father. She has an Aunt with an odd talent for luck, which Tessa seems to have inherited. And she's made her mark in the paranormal world.
Now she has to go back to Classes. How will she concentrate, knowing what she knows?
The very best part of this novel is the Relationship between Tessa and the Wizard, and how plausibly it shifts. The next shift will come when the Wizard has his full powers back.
Sara Hanover has made two old, out-worn, tired story ingredients into something new. That in itself makes this book worth reading.
Sunday, December 09, 2018
Trojan Horses For Kids, Rampant Scraping
There are also strict rules about authors' contests. All wise authors considering a promotion to build up a mailing list, or to attract social media approbation ("Likes"), should read this article.
In nutshell, it might be illegal in your State, province or neck of the woods to run a "contest" where there is
1) a prize,
2) an element of chance in selecting the recipient of the prize,
3) a requirement that all contestants provide something of value to the contest organizer as a condition of entry.
This author has never yet seen another author sued for running an illegal sweepstakes where the prize is a free copy of an e-book, no skill is required to enter, and a chance to win the e-book is entirely conditional upon joining a Facebook group (or the like).
As for those Trojan Horses filled with geek warriors aiming to get the goods on little kids, PJ Media columnist Phil Baker shares some shocking data about forced scraping, dossiers, and data-mining.
Allegedly, all too many schools force K-12 children to use certain products that are deliberately contaminated with the vendor/developer's spyware. The children and their parents have no choice, either they accept the devices and the risk to their children's privacy, or they have to home school.
Also allegedly, school employees in Pennsylvania have been given permission to remotely access school computers that have been provided to children... when those computers are being used in the students' homes, without the knowledge or consent of the children or their parents.
Maybe every parent should stick an address label over the camera hole in their offspring's school-issued
Scraping children is especially bad, because many of the credit monitoring products are not available for youngsters.
Targeting advertising at little children is also, in this author's opinion, immoral because children's brains and powers of critical reasoning are not fully developed, and won't be until the children are about 26 years old.
What about businesses scraping other businesses' data? Is that theft or fair game? Without addressing the rights of a minor public figure who might wish to have a presence on book-lovers social media site X, but not on advertising-heavy social media site Y (and yet Site Y might create a presence for the public figure without permission), there have been legal skirmishes between businesses fighting over each other's inventory of members and their basic data.
Legal blogger Scott L. Satkin, writing for the law firm Newmeyer and Dillion LLP discusses what, if anything, counts as "unauthorized access" to "publicly available" data.
It is interesting to consider what, if any, rights a person or business that has collected "data" on members (or subscribers or users) might have over that data if that data is visible on the internet
Scott L Satkin and the lawsuits he discusses are about social media businesses and their subscribers. Authors seeking to build up a following might join a more successful author's social media group, and scrape the contact info and demographics of reader-members.
Scraping is rampant. Is it expected?
The authors of this blog do not (to the best of this author's knowledge) collect or save or otherwise exploit any information about any readers or visitors. From time to time, we do warn visitors that our host (Blogger) does place tracking cookies on visitors' devices.
All the best,
Thursday, December 06, 2018
One of my favorite authors, S. M. Stirling, recently launched a new alternate-history series with BLACK CHAMBER, published in July of this year. His website has begun displaying sample chapters from the first sequel, due in spring of 2019. Reading them started me thinking about the effects small or large changes might have on the historical timeline. The POD (point of departure) for the Black Chamber universe—the moment when it diverges from our reality—occurs in 1912, when President Taft dies prematurely and Theodore Roosevelt returns to the White House (instead of Woodrow Wilson becoming President). With no constitutional term limits for the presidency at that time, Roosevelt has free rein to shape the nation according to his principles. Not only the circumstances of U.S. involvement in World War I but the direction of the entire twentieth century will change. The main story line of the novel begins in 1916.
If you could go back in time and alter the twentieth century for the better, what single action would you take? Killing Hitler before he can do any damage immediately springs to mind, of course. However, aside from the ethical problem of murdering a person who hasn't yet committed evil deeds, killing Hitler never works. TV Tropes even has a page on this topic, "Hitler's time-travel exemption." One example: In an episode of the later incarnation of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, a time traveler from the future installs herself as a servant in the household of Hitler's parents. She finally manages to kill baby Adolf along with herself. The nursery maid, however, is so terrified of Herr Hitler's probable reaction to the loss of his son that she substitutes a look-alike infant taken from a beggar woman. So history still plays out with an Adolf Hitler, just not the original one. Nonviolent ways of eliminating Hitler might work, such as preventing his parents from meeting, kidnapping the baby and having him adopted by a nice English couple, or giving young Adolf a scholarship to art school. Would forestalling his political career actually prevent the war, though? Some authors speculate that, given the conditions of post-World-War-I Europe, the Nazi Party would come to power anyway with a different, possibly worse tyrant in charge.
Arguably, the most productive single thing you could do to avert the catastrophic events of the twentieth century would be to go to Sarajevo in 1914 and arrange for Archduke Franz Ferdinand's car to be re-routed so the assassin would never have a chance to shoot him. But would the erasure of the assassination definitely prevent the Great War? The nations of Europe, with their weapons development and entangled alliances, had been building toward that conflict for decades. It's not unlikely that some other spark would have set off the conflagration anyway. Various speculative fiction authors disagree about the ease of altering the timeline. Do we embrace the "Great Man" theory, where the removal of one person makes all the difference? Or do we lean toward Heinlein's position that "when it's time for railroads, people will railroad"? In Stephen King's novel about a time traveler who tries to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy, saving Kennedy creates a major disruption in the flow of history, but not for the better.
Jo Walton's fascinating novel MY REAL CHILDREN takes a unique approach to the theme. The protagonist, as an old woman in a nursing home, remembers two different lives in two worlds (neither of them our own timeline). In one, the more prosperous and peaceful version of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, she suffers through an unhappy marriage. In the other timeline, which verges on dystopia, she has a generally happy life. If she has the power to make one of them definitively "real," which should she choose?
In most of Heinlein's time-travel fiction, he reveals that no change actually occurs, because the traveler's actions simply bring about what was destined to happen anyway. The past as we know it already includes whatever input we contribute—as in, for instance, THE DOOR INTO SUMMER. Some other writers postulate that history inevitably tries to repair itself when "damaged." Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series illustrates the elasticity of the timeline. Claire (a visitor to the eighteenth century from the twentieth) and her husband Jamie can make small changes, but all their attempts to prevent or mitigate Bonnie Prince Charlie's disastrous 1745 campaign fail. The ultimate example of this principle may be "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed," by Alfred Bester. The time traveler assassinates a series of successively more important personages without ever managing to make a permanent mark on the past.
The opposite approach postulates that the slightest change will have vast consequences—the "butterfly effect." Appropriately, Ray Bradbury provided the classic example of this theory in "A Sound of Thunder," when a member of a tourist group traveling to the age of the dinosaurs alters his own future by accidentally killing a butterfly. The trouble with this story, alas, is that if a small change that far back could shift the entire direction of history, by the traveler's present day the alterations would have snowballed to such an extent that his native time would become unrecognizable, not just subtly distorted toward a dystopian outcome. On the same principle, consider the many alternate-history stories whose authors introduce famous people from the past in different roles from their real-life ones. Actually, depending on how far back the POD occurs, random alterations in meetings, matings, and conceptions would ensure that most if not all of those people would never be born. But what fun for writers and readers would that be?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, December 04, 2018
Reviews 42 - Simon R. Green's Secret Histories and the Nightside Series Conclude
The Reviews series have not yet been indexed. These reviews often discuss topics we've explored in other sequences.
On many occasions, I've mentioned the well styled and absorbing Series by Simon R. Green. They are Fantasy Action novels where enemy action is the driving force of the plot.
The Paranormal Romance at the core of the Secret Histories (and originating in the Nightside series) is between a Drood Family Field Agent and a Witch widely acknowledged as the most powerful Witch in existence.
This final novel bringing the two locations together shows how this Romance confronts its final test. The previous Secret Histories novels show how the Relationship between Drood and Witch develops from "mortal enemies" to "lovers" to "partners" to "married."
The long, complex novels give the writer space to set the tempo of change in both Characters to something that seems realistic. Each of them must change, mature, grow, come to understand their world differently, then they must become a Couple. All of this maturation and change is handled stepwise in a psychologically plausible way.
The action and fantasy writing, plus the deep and solid characterization are what have made these two series extremely popular, hitting The New York Times Bestselling status time and again. They're well constructed, tightly woven, with elements of Mystery and Suspense that you get addicted.
When you spot the Simon R. Green byline, you look forward to a visit with an old friend, his allies and enemies, and his personal evolution as a person as well as a member of a difficult family (filled with difficult but lovable people). And none of the books disappoint that expectation.
As I've long understood, both series as well as Green's ghost-hunter series, belong in the same "universe" -- a well crafted, complex, universe with magic and supernatural creatures as well as inter-dimensional intrusions into our world. The "rules" Green teaches you persist with logical consequences you can anticipate (dread) and remember.
The imagery is vivid, the banter up to the style of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, and the Characters (even the bit players) memorable.
The tongue-in-cheek take-off on well known Series (like James Bond) is always good for a startled laugh, and provides a feeling of camaraderie with the Author who tossed in a bit from the reader's everyday life.
In this concluding novel, Green brings together the Characters and Locations of the two (otherwise separate) series, Secret Histories and Nightside.
The Nightside is a magically created segment of adjacent reality, nestled in and accessible via the city of London in England.
The Secret Histories begin in London, and are about a Family (the Droods) fighting to protect our world from anything that might threaten us. The Droods wear "golden armor" provided from another dimension by a (presumably) friendly visitor befriending the Family.
The Nightside is the location of a "Free Port" such as Pirates might create, a place where "Law" is sparse and just barely enforced. It has many Magic features and caters to every warped taste in entertainment.
Green finishes off both series by showing what happens when The Nightside boundaries expand (inexplicably) and the Droods invade to put things right (the Drop idea of right, you see). The Nightside inhabitants object to being invaded, while the gods who inhabit a particularly famous tourist street, desert the Nightside (inexplicably), so much of the "power" has gone.
Read to find some of the answers and explanations.
There is an afterword that wraps up some of the loose ends -- there could have been more novels in the joined-universe, perhaps, but here is where the Romance becomes the "Happily Ever After" which makes Night Fall the correct place to end the Series.
Therefore, this is another long running, successful Paranormal Romance Series to study carefully. The "world" you build around the Characters is a big part of what makes a novel or series appeal to a broad readership. Most people who buy books read more than one genre - at least over a lifetime of reading. Often people read the same genre for years, even decades, before branching out. Give your readers a reason to branch out, and they will memorize your byline.
Here are some previous posts on this blog exploring some techniques in how to create the sort of addictive reading experience Green has managed.
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Heloise Wood and Natasha Onwuemezi wrote about it recently for The Bookseller.
If you are an author or a reader, perhaps you have attended a convention or event at a major hotel chain. It is likely that a lot of SFWA members, or Authors Guild members, or Romance Writers of America members, or Romantic Times convention-goers, or have been to a Marriott or Starwood Hotel or convention center in the last five years.
You surely will have heard of the latest data breach:
One surprising revelation is that some unfortunate, sociable people may have had their passport numbers, drivers license numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers and more exposed.
Do you have Malwarebytes? A professional genius suggested to me that Malwarebytes is a superior product to keep Apple products safe. No one has offered this author any incentive for saying this, but it does work well, it scans often, and unlike rival products that might or might not have the word "Trust" in their name, one can have Malwarebytes on and not be automatically blocked by banks and brokerage houses.
Malwarebytes gave subscribers an early heads-up on the Starwood breach. (RWA was next quickest to alert members.)
By email and by link, Malwarebytes offers great advice for anyone who might ever have had a Starwood hotels account. Their Data Breach Checklist is worth saving.
Of course, we all know that we ought to reset passwords.... and many of us procrastinate. In fact, before blogging today, this author logged in to her SPG account and discovered that her username had already been reset to a new one. The password could then be reset, but only by someone with access to the email account on file.
Credit accounts etc should be monitored. Anyone with a DISCOVER card can receive very good, free credit monitoring and an updated FICO score every month. Fifth Third Bank offers a credit monitoring service which costs approximately $7.00 a month. That's cheaper than Lifelock, which is about $12.00 a month. Those affected by the SPG breach are being offered Webwatcher for one year. Make a note of when your anniversary date with Webwatcher will be, or you may be surprised with an automatic renewal fee.
Credit freezing is now free, so is a good option if you aren't planning to sign up for a new credit or debit card or to take out a new mortgage.
No one wants to say it, but does one really need to share one's birth date with anyone who asks, including store clerks? I don't need a $10 Vera Bradley coupon mailed to me on my birthday. Every week through the snail mail, I receive coupons from all manner of vendors for all manner of apparel and accessories.
By the way, your doctor or dentist may ask for your social security number, but you do not have to give it to them. You don't have to give them access to your smart phone number, either. Just because they ask you to write a review of their practice does not mean you should. Do you want Google and Facebook to know approximately when you visited a gynecologist, and which office it was?
Speaking of HIPPA, the law firm of Hall Render Killian Heath and Lyman PC penned an interesting article some weeks ago about hospitals being fined for allowing a film crews to film patients without the consent of the patients who were filmed.
And, totally off topic, but to do with privacy, did you hear about the female student whose landlord evicted her just before her final exams because her suite mates (apparently inspired by the student's choice in political millinery) conducted a search of that student's room and private possessions in her absence and without her permission, and discovered a legally owned and safely stored gun, and complained to said landlord? This, in a State where gun ownership is lawful, and in a rental where the lease was silent about gun ownership.
All the best,
Thursday, November 29, 2018
As we do every year at Thanksgiving, my husband, our youngest son, and I spent the weekend at ChessieCon (formerly Darkover), just north of Baltimore. Guest of Honor was Jo Walton, author of FARTHING, TOOTH AND CLAW, AMONG OTHERS, MY REAL CHILDREN, a trilogy in which Athena tries to create Plato's Just City as envisioned in the REPUBLIC, and other great books. Walton read a chapter involving the exorcism of demons from her forthcoming novel LENT. On the basis of that selection, I'm looking forward to the book.
At the Broad Universe rapid-fire reading, I read a short scene from my humorous ghost story "Haunted Book Nook," recently published in the new anthology SWORD AND SORCERESS 33. Les (my husband) appeared on two panels, on military SF versus the real-life military and on the advantages of writing a series versus stand-alone books (including how to handle a stand-alone piece in an ongoing series). I led a discussion session on STEVEN UNIVERSE. Although the group was small, the conversation was passionate, and someone brought doughnuts. If you're not familiar with this animated series about a half-human boy and his guardians, the Crystal Gems (alien life-forms who are literally sentient gemstones, their humanoid bodies being essentially solid holograms), do check it out. At first, it looks like a typical children's cartoon, but as the series progresses, layers upon layers of depth unfold. Next, I participated in a panel on "Good Art, Problematic Artist," a fraught topic with much potential for conflict. Fortunately, we had an excellent moderator, and everyone who spoke (both panel and audience) addressed the subject with intelligence and sensitivity. Whether a creator's abhorrent attitudes or evil actions can be separated from appreciation of his or her art depends on many situational factors and is a nuanced question each person must decide individually. Is the artist alive or dead, recent or classic? If alive, does he or she benefit from our consumption of the art? Do reprehensible attitudes or opinions make themselves visible in the work or not? How much should authors and other artists from previous eras get a pass on their prejudices for being "of their time"? Naturally, we mostly discussed writers, and, not surprisingly, H. P. Lovecraft came up. However, we did touch upon problematic performers, mainly Bill Cosby.
Les and I took part in the group signing on Saturday evening. We had some nice chats with people passing by and actually sold a few books. I like that system (as opposed to individual book signings) because we get to see what other writers have to offer, and with all of us in one place at the same time, we lesser-known folks have the advantage of being seen by readers who come to check out the higher-profile authors.
If we didn't know better, we might think the hotel was getting tired of us, judging by the conditions this year. One elevator remained out of order the whole time. More critically, because of renovations in progress the heat didn't work right. The main downstairs corridor, the restrooms, and most of the meeting spaces didn't have any. Fortunately, the chill didn't extend to the guest rooms. On the plus side, it did seem that the speed of service in the dining room had marginally improved. We noticed evidence of under-staffing, though. Con attendance seemed to be down, judging from the low numbers of people in many sessions. Nevertheless, discussions were lively. The former members of Clam Chowder sang highlights from their repertoire, as usual, and the Saturday evening concert featured a pagan-inspired group called Kiva. From what I watched of their performance, I especially liked their version of the Yuletide folk song "Soul Cake." The musical guest of honor was filk musician Mary Crowley.
Happily, the ChessieCon tradition will continue next year. The Guest of Honor will be Charlie Jane Anders. You can read about the con here:ChessieCon
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Reviews 41, Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio - Fan Fiction Styling Has Gone Mainstream
Reviews posts have not yet been gathered into an index. Find them by searching author or title or Reviews or reviews.
Today we'll look at a huge, long, novel launching a new series THE SUN EATER Book One, Empire of Silence.
Here it is on Amazon:
You'll probably want the Kindle version because the font in the hardcover is rather small and crammed -- for a reason we'll be discussing here.
So as I was reading this book (all of it; it is a page turner!), I was also involved in editing the second book in a Trilogy in my Sime~Gen Universe, and there's a relevant story in that comparison.
This back-stage story I want to tell you is relevant to spotting trends in Publishing and figuring out their origins.
I have been involved in fanfic since I was in 7th Grade, wrote novels when I was in High School and college (thankfully unpublished), and dove right into Star Trek fandom when I first saw it because friends from Science Fiction fandom (Bjo Trimble among them) were pounding the table about this wonderful TV Series (yes, it was and is wonderful!)
So I wrote the non-fiction book, STAR TREK LIVES!
I aimed to rip aside the veil of contempt with which the general public shrouded all science fiction -- "kiddie crap" worthy only of comic derision.
I (and a cast of millions) blew the lid on Star Trek fanfic, and the world has changed.
As evidence that Star Trek had done something on TV that no previous Radio or TV drama had ever done, I footnoted my novel HOUSE OF ZEOR.
House of Zeor was at that time the first novel (but not first story) to be published in the Sime~Gen Series ( Sime/Gen was the logo then, but later changed by the fans to avoid the inaccurate "/" designation).
I had designed HOUSE OF ZEOR to appeal to the Star Trek fans who most loved the Spock Character, and to touch the same creative nerve that the broadcast TV series touched in them.
And as predicted, many Star Trek fans wrote Sime~Gen fanfic -- at one time there were 5 regular Sime~Gen fanzines being published offset and/or mimeo.
We have most of that fanfic posted for free reading on simegen.com.
My ambition was always to bring those fanfic writers -- and their original "take" on Sime~Gen -- to the wider readership who buy professionally published novels.
And we are doing that right now -- as I'm reading the currently published Hardcovers such as EMPIRE OF SILENCE from DAW books (which also first published several Sime~Gen novels in Mass Market Paperback originals.
So as Wildside picked up the Sime~Gen backlist, and also published the several novels that got swallowed in publishing house collapses later retrieved, we went ahead with our fanfic writers to put out the first anthology of original fan written stories (some from the old fanzines rewritten, and some brand new ideas the writers have had after years of writing Star Trek fanfic).
FEAR AND COURAGE on Amazon
That is THE CLEAR SPRINGS CHRONICLES - Book One is now available, and we were working on Book Two as I read EMPIRE OF SILENCE.
And the writing lesson is all about STYLE. The fanfic style, targeting an audience of those already steeped in the mythos of a fictional world (like Star Trek, Star Wars, vs. the professional writing style targeting a broad, or gigantic viewership.
CLEAR SPRINGS CHRONICLES on Amazon
Jean Lorrah, who joined Sime~Gen with her first published novel, FIRST CHANNEL (the third published in the series),
...has since been studying screenwriting craft and marketing screenplays (even won an award for it), and has fully internalized the terse, to-the-point, not-one-second of viewer time wasted or distracted with detail, STYLE required to tell a story visually. We were taught this style by Traditional Publishing's major editors, but visual story telling requires an even higher precision styling. Reading the SAVE THE CAT! series on screenwriting retrains the story crafting to the broadest of all audiences (the 4-bagger).
FIRST CHANNEL on Amazon
To broaden an appeal to a wider audience, ELIMINATE DETAIL, and "BTW" events, and decorative additions (detailed description etc). Put all that information in the plot.
The more TERSE the style, and the more clean and definitive the scene structure, the broader the potential audience.
SAVE THE CAT! on Amazon
That is true today -- but may not be true 20 years from now (say 2029).
The force moving to this direction of more lazy plotting, more larded on irrelevant detail, is the force that is making audiences for anything SMALLER (e.g. fragmenting the monolothic TV audience which had only 3 TV stations that broadcast only 4 hours a night).
That is STREAMING. All the different mega-giants in this industry of episodic story-telling (Netflix, Amazon - retailers of fiction) are trying all sorts of different topics, formats and styles that "narrow-cast" or more directly target a sensitive area of a small audience (creating fans).
In STAR TREK LIVES! I called that "the Tailored Effect" which is what made Spock fans love the show and never notice McCoy and Kirk (and Chekov) were equally mysterious and interesting.
Nobody calls it that now, but everyone is using that basic principle -- that the narrower your audience, the more intense their pleasure and resulting "glued to the page" behavior.
In other words, what is "popular" or "Mass Market" must, necessarily eliminate exactly what you most want in your fiction payload.
Science Fiction fans are always "unusual" people -- on the tail of some bell distribution curve. They may be at the norm in many attributes, but always have some specific attribute that is way off the charts. Most fans have more imagination than the norm of the bell curve -- are willing to suspend disbelief to read a Romance of a human and an Alien.
To appeal to the FEW, fiction has to be "cheap to make" because it must be made at a profit. E-publishing, and now Streaming media using digital cameras are RELATIVELY cheap to make. There are still the fixed costs of writing, editing, copyediting, and setting up the manuscript or recording the actors doing the play.
But those costs are coming down, and the means to create such salable items as e-books or YouTube video casts, are within the technological know-how and financial means of huge numbers of people.
Fanzines first arose using spirit duplicators and rapidly converted to mimeo (fans had Gestetner mimeograph machines and stencil cutting type writers in their LIVING ROOMS!!! -- equipment usually then found only in schools or corporate offices were obtained second hand by ordinary people for the hobby of publishing).
So, now, the means to professional produce and distribute (even publicize) fanfic are available to most people -- all you need to add is talent, skill, and will power.
Professional business structures (Traditional Publishers of books, Hollywood Studios), for-profit purveyors of expensively produced stories, are learning that there is profit to be made serving tiny markets but serving them well.
That lesson was the major point in STAR TREK LIVES! People with unusual taste in fiction are profitable.
One of Gene Roddenberry's major contributions to TV Science Fiction was the art of containing costs. He did a lot with very little money (yeah, and today that really shows, but on B&W small screen TV's it didn't show so much.)
Now the genie is out of the bottle. Tiny markets are being well served with stories in styles that please the taste of those tiny markets immensely (but might jar the nerves of many other markets).
To learn STYLE, a writer must read lots and lots of books they really dislike. It's the job. The more you dislike a book, the more you can learn to make your writing into something you will like - even love - 40 years later.
What Jean Lorrah did to Mary Lou Mendum's second draft of Mary Lou's Fanfic series which we published in an offset press run of a fanzine (about 1,000 copies) has not been done to EMPIRE OF SILENCE, Christopher Ruocchio's THE SUN EATER Book One.
Jean is broadening the potential audience by sharpening the craftsmanship (cut-cut-cut -- add back show don't tell in different places -- rearrange information -- rephrase more tersely). In the process, material cut from the fanzine version will be spun off into more stories.
That's what fanfic does best -- compress whole novel series into a few paragraphs and call it a scene in a larger story. That is, fanfic gives readers who know the Universe thoroughly a whole new perspective on what they think they know.
Star Trek fanfic gave readers a reason to view the shows again (and again) and go to the movies several times. Read a fanfic, go watch again and it's a totally different story you are seeing.
But to achieve this effect, fanfic lards in vast amounts of irrelevant detail, dwelling and dwelling on ideas, decoration, "depth" of characterization at the expense of plot movement.
Frankly, I like fanfic better than I like most professional fiction.
However, we now have a new audience, with new writers speaking to them about the problems of this new (tech based) world we now live in.
Christopher Ruocchio is one such writer who has plunged into creating a Science Fiction series, The Sun Eater, around a "colorful" Character (who might star in most Historical Romances!).
And to reach and grab this younger audience into his created world, he has not relied on the structures common in Gaming (which tends to emphasize plot, and opposing forces, at expense of Character Motivation). He has instead painted his world with excessive detail.
This novel, EMPIRE OF SILENCE,
Ruocchio uses the Historical Fiction technique of a Main Character, who was the key player in changing the course of galactic history, reminiscing about his early life and how he came to be that key player.
It is the presentation mode made famous in some Arthurian legend novels, and many very early novels in that legend. It goes back deep into the roots of human storytelling.
This is the kickoff novel creating a "world" -- as House of Zeor introduced Sime~Gen to the readers who had missed the short story in WORLDS OF IF Magazine.
But where House of Zeor is about 75,000 words, Empire of Silence is about 269,360 words and that doesn't include the appended glossary.
House of Zeor presents a whole new "language" based on perceptions that the reader does not have -- yet does not append a glossary.
In my estimation, about 25,000 words could have been cut from Empire of Silence without in any way impairing the visualization of this new galactic empire or the presentation of its historic movement.
Those 25,000 extra words are the reason the font in the hardcover is so small. Books can be produced only in certain page-counts. It is the job of the "book designer" to cram all the extra words into a page layout that comes out to be the exact number of pages in an integral number of "folios." A folio is the folded over unit you can see by looking down onto the top of a book. Printing machines can make only certain sizes of these folded over units - all the books from a particular imprint run through that same machine. So the book has to be expanded or contracted to fit the machines that print it. This is the reason some books have blank pages at the back. Think about that as you polish your final draft. The age of your target readership determines the optimum size print.
In doing such a line-edit cut, the Characterizations (and a nice Romance that is just skipped over in narrative), and the motivations as well as political concepts could have been brought to the surface in clean, unequivocal terms so that fanfic writers might pick it up and embroider on it.
Cutting, when done with deliberate craft to a specific point, can improve the art as well as broaden the potential audience which would revel in the romp of imagination.
"Deliberate craft" is what Jean Lorrah has mastered in screenwriting exercises. You will be able to see the results when the entire CLEAR SPRINGS TRILOGY is published. We are keeping the 3 Den & Rital stories online for comparison.
Mary Lou added the science for improving selyn battery technology to enable heavier than air flight to her previous fanfic plot-line of "launch a Sime Center out-Territory."
At some point, we might post the intermediate draft so you can see how Jean and I cut, polished, refocused, and cut-cut-cut, to make these novels both enjoyable (as the original fanfic) and conforming to professionally published Mass Market standards.
So, by reading this novel, EMPIRE OF SILENCE (which you will enjoy and will probably want the sequels), and by comparing it to Mary Lou Mendum's fanfic on simegen.com, and to the professionally published Clear Spring's Trilogy, you can (painlessly) gain a grasp of how fanfic STYLING has become DAW Hardcover Mainstream traditional publishing acceptable.
Once you can draw the line connecting all 3 "dots" (1970's Science Fiction Hardcover, 1990's fanfic, 2020's Hardcover/Streaming) , you can make a prediction of your own about how 2040's Science Fiction STYLING will blend Mass Market with Fanfic Styles.
Write the next STAR TREK LIVES!