Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Theme Element Giving And Receiving Part 2 Science of Science Fiction by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme Element Giving And Receiving
Part 2
Science of Science Fiction
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 1 is here: http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2012/05/theme-element-giving-and-receiving.html

Scroll down through Part 1 (which doe not have a "part" label) and you will find a list of previous posts discussing Giving and Receiving -- which is the subject of the Science Article published in 2018 that we will study in this post. 

We shall have to discuss "Strong Characters" in greater depth in future posts, but the source of Character strength in story, especially Romance, is Theme so we will analyze this science article in terms of science fictional themes it can be used to generate, giving your Romance Couple-to-be an obstacle to conflict with and conquer. 

The obstacles you can generate from this science article are genuinely "ripped from the headlines."  People are grappling with these problems, groping in a fog, trying to chart a life-path for themselves in spite of living in a world in turmoil.  Propose a useful analysis and they will memorize your byline and Tweet about your novel.

Where a Character stands on an issue (a theme) makes that Character a memorable individual whose name readers remember, and even make symbolic (like the strong and memorable Character,  MacGyver).

MacGyver refused to carry or use guns, so when he needed a weapon, he created one out of whatever innocuous bits and pieces were in reach.  This clearly demonstrates:

THEME: tools do not cause behavior.  Anything can be a weapon. 

The Strong Character's stance on a specific Headline Issue generates the Conflict for your story.  Your story opens when the Character takes up his stance on that issue to fling him/herself against some opposing Force or Obstacle, in order to achieve a Goal.

The Duke's Daughter fleeing an Arranged Marriage is one cliche that illustrates how a Strong Character can be depicted "taking a stance."

The segment of a Character's life that is "His Story" is the segment where the Character leaps (willingly or willfully) toward the bottom rung of the karmic ladder dangling from the Divine Helicopter come to the rescue. 

It is that vision of "this is what I must do in this life" -- this is what I will achieve that is worth my life -- that sends a Character into "his story" in do-or-die mode.  That is this individual's reason for living.  All else is commentary or gravy, or just noise (Red Herring) to distract.

Note how all of this is about Character, about people (human or not-so-much).  It can be about an AI - an artificial intelligence, a robot.  You could have a strong Character who is not biological.

The opposing Character also has a goal.  The nature of that Goal is what gives the reader a clue about whether the opposition is a Villain or just a different sort of Hero who can be won over.

But it is not just the nature of the Goal that defines a Villain.  Generally speaking, we view those who "want to rule the world" as Villains.  It is the methods the Characters are willing to use that distinguishes Hero from Villain.  Generally speaking "the end justifies the means" defines the Villain.

Thus MacGyver is viewed as a Hero because he finds other means to thwart his opposition rather than guns and killing.  He hurls himself into danger, takes insane chances, depends on his physical strength and agility - but never neglects to protect and rescue. 

So is MacGyver a Republican or a Democrat?  Is MacGyver a Conservative or a Liberal?

When the TV Series first came on the air in 1985 (keeping in mind "development" would have been 1980-1984)
the definitions of "Conservative" and "Liberal" were totally different than they are in 2018.

In fact, the two-party system in the USA causes the parties to redefine themselves continuously after each election.  So the definition of "Republican" and "Democrat" changes, as do those who "register" with one or the other party.  Most people probably don't bother to change registration as they change their minds and the Party changes definition. 

Few vote in Primaries which is all Registration matters for, so bottom line for a Science Fiction Romance Writer (even writing contemporaries) is that there is no definition of Conservative or Liberal -- you have to make up your own.

That means you have to know more about the philosophy behind "Conservative" and "Liberal" than your readers do. 

The stances on issues reverse rapidly between Conservatives and Liberals. 

As noted in previous posts, humans tend to subjugate themselves to a Group in order to "fit in."  This process is painful and what makes High School sheer hell for most. 

Culture-clashes are the meat and potatoes of science fiction -- the very definition of "Alien From Outer Space" is "From A Non-Human-Culture."  If the alien's culture complements the human's, it can work out peacefully.

But most humans, of any culture, are not so accepting.  What exactly does it take for a Strong Character to set aside preconceptions and explore the Alien?  Here are a few posts nibbling at the edges of that topic.



Currently, a number of scientific studies of human brains vs political leaning are trying to show a scientific basis for the right-ness or wrong-ness of certain views of what government is, what it is for, what it must not be used for, and why humans keep inventing government.

The "we have to get organized" chant that erupts whenever a random group of humans comes together to pursue a common goal (we must get Federal funds to fix this bridge -- we must attract a company to build a hospital in our town -- we must elect this fellow to get better funding to Community Colleges.  Whatever the community goal, "we" have to get organized.

Throughout human history, it has been shown that the better organized groups "win" or prevail in some way.  A single human really can't do much until or unless he/she attracts a following that "gets organized" to support him/her.

In other words, humans choose "leaders" and the followers get organized.

Labor Unions are a good example.  Mobs yelling and throwing bricks didn't do much good until they got organized.  Now they can hold huge companies hostage during a strike because the individuals all move together.

So science has been studying the difference between Good and Evil using "liberal" and "conservative" as proxies, trying to peg the brain configuration that defines the difference.


There have been a lot of studies on brain development which I've mentioned in passing, showing how experiences rewire the brain, how learning develops different brain regions, how sensory deprivation shrivels other brain regions, and how traumatic experiences change the brain and even genetic expression.

Human beings are among the weakest animals on this planet - no shell, no pelt, poor hearing, so-so eyesight, not very fast runners, very tasty eating.  Many have concluded that our main survival trait is our brains.

The idea is that the ability to think, to theorize, to make and use tools and language, to create records and teach the young, is our survival trait. 

At the moment, our tools and technology seem to be killing us (pollution, global warming, species extinctions among our food supply, over-hunting/fishing). 

So maybe our brains are not our biggest survival advantage.

Perhaps it is our adaptability that will get us through this?

The blows hammering our children from the environment reshape the children so that the resulting adult thinks differently.

Cyberbullying, tackled in...


...will, no doubt, produce a generation more adapted to the larger social structures forming online -- utterly alien to Middle Ages Villagers.

But as Science Fiction Romance writers, we are futurologists.  It's not enough to look back and find trends rooted in the 1980's like MacGyver (now revived).

We have to look deeply at the present and project what trends will become visible to the public 30 to 50 years from now.

One big trend is the movement to substitute Science for Religion.  Since it is "Settled Science" that humans caused Global Warming, anyone who doesn't believe that human activity is causing human extinction is a) stupid, b) evil, c) The Enemy of Civilization -- or d) worse.

If you think Global Warming is caused by human activity, you are excluded from the group.  If your conclusion is the result of thinking from facts, you might change your mind.  Those desperately dedicated to stopping Global Warming and saving humanity from itself can not risk that.

You must believe because Science says so -- just as Galileo was required to believe because someone said the Bible said so (which it didn't, and he knew it.)

Believing means taking someone else's word as truth, replacing what you think with what they believe.  Humans urgently desire this kind of agreement with their Group -- survival depends on being integrated into a Group (e.g.
getting organized).

Suppose that is the trait your Aliens do not share with humans.  What kind of Strength of Character will your Main Character (MC) need to Love across a gap like that? 

To discoverer where to find such traits in human nature, examine this research on the human Brain and political leanings.


Scientists have discovered the key psychological differences that can make you liberal or conservative by 
Hilary Brueck  Feb. 26, 2018, 10:50 AM

... Being scared can make you more conservative.
Being scared can make you more conservative.
Decades of research has shown that people get more conservative when they feel threatened and afraid

....A conservative brain is more active in different areas than a liberal one.
Brain scans show that people who self-identify as conservative have larger and more active right amygdalas, an area of the brain that's associated with expressing and processing fear. This aligns with the idea that feeling afraid makes people lean more to the right.

...On the other hand, feeling safe and endowed with strength might make you lean a little more liberal than you otherwise would.
Groundbreaking research that Yale psychologists published in 2017 revealed that helping people imagine they're completely safe from harm can make them (temporarily) hold more liberal views.

...Liberals are less squeamish about looking at yucky stuff like vomit, feces, and blood.

A 2018 study of college students showed that those with more socially conservative views were quicker to physically look away from disgusting images — like pictures of blood, feces, or vomit — than their liberal peers.

...Conservatives tend to display more ordered thinking patterns, whereas liberals have more "aha" moments.

A 2016 study at Northwestern University found that when conservative and liberal college students were given word problems to solve, both groups managed to arrive at some correct answers through gradual, analytical analysis. But when feeling stuck on a problem, liberals were much more likely to draw upon a sudden burst of insight — an 'aha' moment, like a lightbulb turning on in the brain.

...Liberals tend to follow the wandering gaze of others more often, while conservative eyes stay more focused on the original subject they're looking at.

In 2010, researchers at the University of Nebraska tested whether conservatives and liberals physically see the world in different ways. They found that when it comes to matching the gaze of other people, the two groups differ.

...Holding conservative views seems to make people more resistant to change and help them explain inequality.

A 2003 review of decades of research on conservative people suggested that their social views can help satisfy "psychological needs" to make sense of the world and manage uncertainty and fear.

...Liberal and conservative tastes in music and art are different, too.

Studies from the 1980s showed that conservatives preferred more simple paintings, familiar music, and unambiguous texts and poems, while liberals enjoy more cubist and abstract art.

...Liberals are more likely to describe themselves as compassionate and optimistic, while conservatives are more likely to say they're people of honor and religion.

A 1980 study of high school students found conservative students at that time were more likely to describe themselves as "responsible," "organized," "successful," and "ambitious," while liberal students might describe themselves as "loving," "tender," or "mellow."

...Conservatives believe they have more self-control.

One 2015 study found that conservative students were often better at focusing their attention on a cognitive task called the Stroop color and word test. The common psychological study tool asks participants to quickly name the correct color of a word that's written on a different color background.

...Liberals and conservatives extend feelings of compassion to different people.

New research shows that conservatives tend to express compassion to smaller social circles than liberals.

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

I just cropped some headlines from that article.  If you can find it, read it all, or just read up on the studies cited, and more recent follow-up studies.

All these studies suffer from the same flaws - A) assuming that statistics works both ways (if a Group has a Characteristic, all members of that Group have that Characteristic), B) Recruiting College Students to study, who are typically young and still being "formed" by "life" then applying results to 60-somethings.

But those flaws can be used, in fact leveraged, by Fiction Writers to great advantage.

A novel needs a target audience, and audiences are defined most easily by studies such as these listed in the quotes above.

College age students are most likely to be the readers for Science Fiction and for Romance, and Science Fiction Romance.  They love Fatansy, Paranormal Romance and all the mixed genres.  It was college dorm TV's that were turned to Star Trek on first run -- thus missed by the Nielsen rating service.  Studying college students tells you more about what will happen 20 years from now than about what is happening now.

If you are writing Science Fiction Romance that will be a "Classic" -- you should aim at what current college age people want to read.

So consider how the definitions of Conservative and Liberal have morphed over decades.  Then consider how both Republican and Democrat Parties have both Liberal and Conservative members, and how they agree or disagree on different issues.

A given Character can be Liberal on Gun Control and Conservative on Federal Reserve Policy -- and not see a contradiction.

Is there a contradiction?  Can you find a pair of issues which do contradict?

Where would your sexy-hunk Alien From Outer Space stand on Video Game Violence causes children to grow up violent?

A number of studies have shown that kids are more prone to solve social problems with force after playing a Video Game that uses force as the solution, not the problem.

That is solid, settled science -- but is it true?  Maybe it's true of humans but not your Aliens? 

Maybe it is true of 21st Century American kids but not of 21st Century human kids raised on an Alien Planet among Aliens (or in the far future or a parallel Earth?) 

We have science measuring the effect of violent video games on children -- but not a lot of research on anti-violent video games played by children.  Are there any? 

Now consider how "threatened" the kids growing up in the war-hammered Middle East (Syria and so on) -- the terrorist threatened European cities flooded with migrants -- will Syria and Europe (the bastion of modern Liberalism) suddenly turn Conservative 20 years from now?

Or will the threat be over and all those people who grew up under danger and threat suddenly turn Liberal because they feel safe at last?

These issues reflect the Theme Element of Giving and Receiving. 

People "feel safe" when they are "given protection." 

One goal of parenting is to give your children a good childhood, free of the life-or-death concerns of adulthood, 

So feeling "safe" is defined as the psychological condition of childhood - of being "innocent" and not knowing how dangerous the world is, or how easy one mistake can destroy your life.

People "feel powerful" when they are "giving protection."

One of the sexiest bits of dialogue in Romance is, "I will protect you."  We write a lot about rescuing.  We love the scene where the big, strong, muscled Hunk places himself between the slender, near-naked Princess and takes the bullet for her.

Our culture regards being protected as the female goal in life, while doing the protecting is the male goal.

That cultural assumption is under attack, and is morphing before our eyes, faster than 40-something parents can adjust (adapt, changing their brains).

The most important element in Romance is RISK.  We write about "bearing the Soul" in the lead-up to the "I love you" scene.  Saying it first is the biggest risk most people take in a lifetime.

We write about the muscled Hunk who vanquishes amazingly horrible threats but can't take the risk of saying, "I love you." 

Which is the stronger Character, the one who says it first, or the one who says it second? 

Who is the Hero - the one who feels safe and thus freely gives compassion at no risk, or the one who feels threatened and thus freely gives safety at great risk? 

Which brain is the lover, and which brain is the beloved?

We talked about how people consider Political affiliation as a deal-breaker element on Dating Sites in this post: 


The THEME element of giving and receiving, and how it functions (male to female) in a Relationship is vitally important to the HEA ending of your Romance, but it comes into even greater importance when the Couple is raising children.

Children, we hold in our culture, must be "protected" -- and they must "feel safe" (i.e. have their brains configured for Liberalism).  Thus we explode at each other over issues related to School Shootings, School Safety and even "what" may be taught in the curriculum.  (can a High School host ROTC? Riflery Team?) 

Who has Power -- someone must because we can't have civilization without someone holding Power to force others to behave properly.  Left to themselves, humans just won't behave properly. 

Ponder that quote from the article saying that "Conservatives" (defined by those with a more active amygdala ) believe they have more self-control.  It does not say, but seems to follow that Conservatives expect OTHERS to have more self-control.

Conservatives may discipline their children to develop self-discipline and thus admire and strive for self-control.

If you read Romance novels from pre-MacGyver 1970's and then read on by year, you will likely find the preponderance of Romance novels shifting to the "irresistible" model of human nature.

Lust, sex, and the intense attraction to the Soul Mate is "irresistible" -- and the excuse for having inappropriate sex is "I could not resist." 

We can't resist the urges of the flesh.  The body has power over us.  If it feels good, do it. 

These are themes rooted in the philosophical context of the "Self" that has "Control" being the animal body.

"Irresistible" is a word that depicts the entire philosophy behind the World the writer has built.  Sex, lust, CAN NOT BE resisted.  The "self" that has all the power is the animal flesh.  If there is a Soul, it is powerless.

If, on the other hand, the author uses the wording, "I could not resist" - there is the admission of guilt, of not having developed a Strong Character.

And here we come to the definition of Strong Character in the fictional sense.

What is Character -- not the fictional representation of a person, but in real life, the attribute of a complete human called Character?

Here is an idea to ponder until it becomes a THEME in your mind.

Character is the Relationship between body/flesh and soul/identity.

A Strong Character is a Soul that has made a strong ally of the Body -- so the Soul feels safe and the Body feels safe.  Neither needs to bully or be armed against the other -- Inner Peace reigns.

A Weak Character is a Body that dominates and bullies the Soul, seizing any opportunity for instant gratification of bodily lusts (for food, sex, money, power). 

Delayed gratification is the sign of a Body/Soul on the path to being a Strong Character.

A truly Strong Character, completely matured, has no inner conflict.

Remember, External Conflict is a reflection of Inner Conflict in the Character who will "Arc" (or morph or change or grow or learn) during the story.

The truly Strong Character has no internal conflict, and thus is way past where his/her story happens do him/her.

So Main Characters who are "Strong" are not strong in every trait.  They have lessons to learn, chiefly the lesson "I love you." 

But perhaps, in Science Fiction Romance, the biggest and hardest lesson to learn is never to believe in science.  Science is about thinking, so new evidence can change your thinking.  There can be no believing in Science.  In Romance, the biggest and hardest lesson is to Believe in the Beloved -- through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, never waver in belief in that beloved Soul's innate spirit. 

Can "belief" span the political gap?  Can Love conquer Politics?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Although I sometimes regret not being able to vote in primaries, the reason I haven't registered for a party is that I observed what happened when my husband became a registered party member. In election years, he gets multiple phone calls every day. (We have caller ID, so we don't pick up unless we're sure we want to talk to the caller.) He receives at least 10 pieces of political mail per week, often more, all the time regardless of the phase of the election cycle. It's a continuous barrage of requests for money. I don't want to double that -- not to mention that it would be coming from two opposite ends of the spectrum.

    I'm a liberal, politically (religiously, more of a moderate, at least by the standards of the denomination I belong to), but in that article's list of traits, I match up with a lot of the "conservative" features. Maybe being 70 makes a difference?

    1. Yes, the spectrum has shifted with the decades, and yesterday's Liberals are today's Conservatives. I suspect the labels don't mean anything. The real intent of adopting a label is to say "I am just like X" where X is an admirable type of person to be. Humans are not consistent in deriving opinions from unchanging Values, and thus those who share a Value will derive different answers to the same questions then call each other names.