Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Purpose of Pain

This title doesn't refer to the metaphysical question of why suffering exists. (My favorite book on that topic is THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, by C. S. Lewis.) I'm talking about the biological and evolutionary reason for the sensation of pain. That subject comes to mind because, with age, I've started collecting a variety of physical aches and pains, none of them disabling yet (thank goodness) but cumulatively annoying. Are we biologically fated to put up with this nuisance, which in many cases can escalate to the level of extreme distress? Of course, I know why it evolved. Without that warning signal, we wouldn't notice when our bodies are being damaged. People born with congenital insensitivity to pain tend to hurt themselves a lot and often die prematurely. But does the process have to work as harshly as it does? Why can't the pain stop when the cause of the damage has been discovered and addressed? Instead, it may hang around throughout the healing stage. Also, some people suffer for years without any definite cause being identified. And women, at least, are stuck with some pains that seem completely pointless, as in severe menstrual cramps and the contractions of the advanced phase of childbirth. Why couldn't labor signs consist of mild cramps that get only closer together, not more intense, as the moment of delivery approaches?

Organisms too "primitive" to have brains with which to be aware of discomfort nevertheless recoil from hazardous stimuli. A robot could theoretically be programmed to avoid potential damage without consciousness. Why can't our nervous systems be programmed that efficiently? Yes, we need a warning device. But does it have to inflict discomfort or agony? Couldn't we experience a mild zap, like static electricity, which would recur every minute or so until we fixed the problem? Why didn't we evolve the ability to turn off pain as soon as we've found the source and started fixing the problem? Wouldn't it be nice to have a control panel in the brain with a "red alert" button we could switch off after acknowledging it?

The obvious catch is that if the damage signal didn't cause extreme distress, we might ignore it. Most of us know people who act as if powering through sickness or injury makes them tough guys (or gals). A highly rational being such as a Vulcan would respond appropriately to pain stimuli and wouldn't abuse the ability to suppress it at will. If we can't possess the rationality and control over autonomic body functions that Vulcans enjoy, couldn't we at least have some less agonizing system? Maybe if we ignored damage signals for too long, we could abruptly lose the use of some minor appendage or function, to jolt us into taking action. I'd accept that alternative over severe cramps or stabbing pains. For instance, this relatively mild but annoying chronic ache in the arms from shoulder tendinitis. I adjust positions for sleeping and computer use, conscientiously perform recommended exercises, avoid muscle strain, and apply ice to the affected areas. What more does it want from me? Why isn't there a handy diagnostic screen where I can check the status of the condition and respond accordingly? In some respects, the design of the human body leaves a bit to be desired.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Reviews 39 Souls of Fire Series by Keri Arthur

Reviews 39
Souls of Fire Series
Keri Arthur

In Reviews 38,
we looked very quickly at 3 series of Military Science Fiction novels by Jack Campbell for the way his Hero, Black Jack Geary, strives to create the Happily Ever After conditions that do not exist in his universe (yet).

His motivation is fueled by his love of his wife (a hacker called Ninja for a reason) and his children.  Geary sees a future for them all, as a strong family, and pours all the skills and strength he has into crafting that future.

Though in both his life segments (before suspended animation freezing, and after being awakened), he has lived in awful conditions, he has always driven himself and others toward better conditions.

Today let's look at another best selling author, Keri Arthur, who is as good a writer as Jack Campbell (which is saying a lot) but is world famous for her Romance treatments of various topics -- dozens of novels to her byline, she's perfected her "Voice" and style.

We touched on "Voice" of a writer recently:

The Souls of Fire series is about a supernatural person who is a Phoenix -- literally rising from her own ashes.

The most fascinating concept introduced in this series is the co-binding of a male and female in the Phoenix process.

In Ashes Reborn,
the male counterpart of the Phoenix duo, Rory, is just now Rising, after a magical ceremonial summoning him from the core of fire.  He is in  dire need of a roaring fire and a lot of privacy for sleeping off the effects of rebirth, for days or weeks.

Meanwhile, the female of the duo, Emberly, is after the one who ordered Rory killed.  She got the shooter by firing the building where the shooter perched to fire at Rory (and her).  But there's more to the story.

In this Fantasy universe, we also have Vampires and other supernatural creatures.

It is a complex universe, with 4 novels extant.  There is a plague virus derived from Vampire blood, and the world knows enough about the supernatural creatures to have a Paranormal Investigation Team.  That team has plenty to do in a world with dark witches, other powers, and all the tangled power politics humans everywhere generate.

These novels are a spectacle waiting to be cast onto your living room big screen.

The most interesting thing Keri Arthur is playing with here is the Immortal Phoenix's love life.  The only ongoing Character in her existence is Rory, but she always falls for someone -- and this time, it's beginning to look serious when Sam finds out what Emberly is and how that relates to Rory.

So the Relationship dynamic among these Characters turns on thematic issues of Trust.  The Phoenix pair have to trust their lives to each other to pull off the rebirth trick, and have to keep that vulnerability from others.  Sam is one of those others.  Now Sam knows.

And they can only hope the Phoenix fire has beaten the Vampire virus.

Keri Arthur is one of the writers who delivers a steady stream of engrossing novels that have a recognizable Voice telling the tale.  But she also has the skill to bring you into the middle of a series and hit the ground running without being confused.

Part of the trick is that the universe Keri Arthur crafts for you is familiar but unique at the same time.  You know the Phoenix legend, then she gives it a twist.

This is what Hollywood is always looking for -- "The same, but different."

The Souls of Fire series should be studied for the world building as much as for the entertaining read about people (supernatural or not) striving to become better people, and make the world hospitable to the Happily Ever After ending.

This is the key ingredient in enticing those who can't believe in the Happily Ever After to read Romance.  Agree the world as they know it can't sustain an HEA -- but we can fix that.  Fixing the world is what heroes do. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Hacking Your Toilet and your Sex Toys

This last weekend, I was unexpectedly "trapped" away from home, without my computer.  I thought that I'd be able to blog using a borrowed computer, but Google wouldn't allow it.  The only way I could verify that it was me on a borrowed device was by a phone call to my home, and since I was not home.... I could not blog on time.

I think that the problem is the settings set up by the owner of the computer I had borrowed. She has "linked" all her accounts for the convenience, but with convenience comes tyranny.

And risk.

How convenient is it to be able to control your sex toys... remotely? Apparently, some people do that. How inconvenient would it be if a mischievous stranger could activate your smart Ben Wa balls during a serious moment, for instance when you were appearing before a judge and jury?

The mind boggles as to why someone would want to remotely flush their own toilet. A germaphobe, perhaps? There is an app and a smart toilet for that.  However, a malevolent hacker could take over the toilet and cause it to overflow and flood the home, because it is Bluetooth enabled.

Christoper A. Ott, blogging for the privacy and security law blog of Davis White Tremaine LLP discusses "Data Security Issues Posed by the Internet of Things.

Do you know how to disinfect a toilet by rebooting it?  Has it occurred to you to reset the password on your smart toothbrush?

This may be shocking stuff,  but it is not new.  In 2916 CNBC wrote about 12 shocking things hackers "are targeting right now".

Heena Tandon blogged for media guru about "When Your Toothbrush Is Hacked."

Finally, and nothing much to do with advocating for unhackable toilets and sex toys, the Authors Guild is asking the US government to allow publishers and self published authors to bargain collectively with internet platforms, and hold internet platforms responsible for targeting piracy on their platforms.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Thought Floating on Different Blood

I've been rereading a couple of Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters novels. Magicians in this series work with one of the classic four elements (air, water, earth, fire). People with those powers can see and talk with elemental creatures (sylphs, salamanders, gnomes, fauns, and many others) invisible to non-magicians. Many elemental entities have human-level intelligence; some are more intelligent and powerful than human mages. Elemental magicians, able to communicate with nonhuman creatures, must surely have a different view of the world from us ordinary mortals. People in ancient times believed in a host of intelligent beings who populated the natural realm, such as nymphs, satyrs, dryads, minor gods of rivers and mountains, dwarfs, faerie folk, trolls, etc. I suspect, however, that few ordinary people ever expected to meet one of those creatures. How different our world would be if such entities existed openly, where any of us (not just magicians) might encounter them in our daily lives.

In C. S. Lewis's PERELANDRA, the protagonist, Professor Ransom, travels to Perelandra (Venus), where he finds three intelligent species (not counting the life-form of pure spirit who rules the planet). One of his Perelandran acquaintances expresses surprise upon learning that Earth's ecosystem has only one sapient species. How can we fully understand ourselves, he wonders, if we can't compare our thoughts to "thought that floats on a different blood"? How would our view of our own species and the world we inhabit change if we weren't alone on our planet?

Although I've often wondered about a hypothetical alternate history in which other human species or subspecies, such as Neanderthals and the "hobbits," had survived to the present day, I sadly suspect that the prevailing attitude toward other races wouldn't be very different. Neanderthals and other hominids, and maybe Yeti if they existed, would look too human. They might well get treated as inferior beings, similar to the way Europeans historically treated other races, only worse, because some anthropologists might classify such hominids as "animals"—a bridge between Homo sapiens and lower species, intelligent enough to be useful but inhuman-looking enough to justify enslaving them.

Demonstrably sapient but clearly nonhuman creatures, on the other hand, would probably evoke a different response. What if we shared Earth with centaurs, merfolk, or intelligent dragons? Or the semi-civilized talking animals of Narnia? Tolkien (in his essay on fairy tales) says animal fantasies satisfy the perennial human yearning to reestablish communication with the natural world from which we've been cut off. Would a common experience of living alongside other sapient species—or extraterrestrial visitors—make human racial differences seem insignificant, as STAR TREK optimistically postulates?

The TV series ALIEN NATION explored this question in thoughtful detail. It portrayed human-on-alien prejudice and hatred, human-alien friendships and love affairs, and the mind-expanding experience of exposure to another species' view of the universe. This series about a shipload of extraterrestrial refugees settling in California, all of whose broadcast seasons and follow-up TV movies are available in DVD format, deserves multiple viewings. Also, a number of tie-in novels were published, most of which I thought were quite good. If nothing else, the fact that the Newcomers have three sexes would give them a different outlook on life from ours. The body and the senses inevitably shape the mind's perceptions of reality. An intriguing spec-fic example of "thought that floats on a different blood."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Reviews 38 - Jack Campbell The Genesis Fleet Series

Reviews 38
Jack Campbell
The Genesis Fleet Series 

This is the 38th post focusing on reviewing books in print.

The Genesis Fleet started in 2017 with Vanguard, and book 2, Ascendant, came out in 2018.


I've often referred to the various novels or series I review here as examples of one or another writing craft skill or technique.

And I always elaborate on the reasons writers of one genre should read genres they do not like.

Jack Campbell does not write Romance -- but he understands the place of the Love Story in the unfolding of governmental affairs on a galactic scale.

He is famous for The Lost Fleet Series, and The Lost Stars series -- which I've mentioned many times as examples of the best way to structure an adventure with a Love Relationship driving the action.

The Lost Stars focuses on a subset of Characters who are in an intimate Relationship that affects the vast political landscape in a Stellar Cluster.  These events spin off from the Events of The Lost Fleet series, which I also recommend because the Relationship thread of the Main Character's life (Geary) deeply affects the course of the Plot.

The Lost Fleet Series is about Commander Geary, Black Jack Geary, a young man with a background in space warfare who has awakened to find himself in an era when the war he fought in has long been settled, though it is not over.

The initial colonization effort Geary had been a part of grows into two opposed factions fighting a war of attrition over a good part of the Galaxy.  Geary had gone missing in the first part of this galaxy spanning conflict, but had thus generated a Legendary Reputation that grew and grew.  When he wakes, he doesn't recognize the Identity his rescuers impute to him.

He is rescued from a suspended animation capsule, and immediately finds himself an officer on a warship, and very quickly becomes in charge and then commanding the whole war fleet, desperately trying to get home because it is "Lost" as in the title.

As Geary uses strategy and tactics from his own, long forgotten, era to get the Fleet home, bits and pieces of who he was are mentioned along the way.  He pulls off miracle after miracle, seemingly by magic, and the readers keep asking for the story of how he became this man.

The Genesis Fleet is the story of Black Jack Geary's early life, before his long cold sleep, and of the forces that annealed his Character into the leader he is when we first meet him in The Lost Fleet.

The first book of The Genesis Fleet is Ascendant.  Geary arrives on a new Colony planet founded by a small group, operating on a shoestring budget.  The Colonists apply for jobs, and buildings are erected by machinery.  It's a nice world, good potential –– so along comes a warship from another colony looking to take over.  Geary is handed the job of getting rid of that Warship -- but he doesn't have a Warship of his own to throw against it.  He takes the meager resources available and kicks butt.  Whew!  And he goes back to work at the job on the space station in orbit around the new colony.

The second book of The Genesis Fleet picks up Geary's life after his wife has had one child and is pregnant with a second -- he has a huge stake in this new colony, keeping his family safe.  But he doesn't want to go off taking wild risks because there are children to think about.

However, when pressed into service, he captains their only defensive warship to escort a vital freighter across enemy infested space.  This universe Jack Campbell has created uses several bits of science to move ships through space -- there are local Newtonian mechanics engines but they can achieve appreciable fractions of the speed of light.  There are "jump points" which seem naturally occurring, and eventually there are "stargazes" -- structures that create artificial jump points.

The power of this ships is by "fuel cell" -- large objects that act like batteries.

Geary takes it on himself to stretch his orders (well, to the breaking point) when his gut tells him he has to follow his cargo freighter all the way to its destination, not just through the enemy territory.

And he jumps his ship right into the midst of an all-out attack on another planet.  He can't risk his little warship because it is all that can defend his home and family (besides, it's expensive), and he can't let the enemy take over this neighbor planet because then the enemy will have a grand staging area to launch an attack against his family.

These two novels are about Geary.  The point of view and focus are tight and precise.  The writing is excellent.  Geary's motivation is to seek out or create the HEA -- he's got part of it, wife-and-kids, but they aren't safe and secure, so it's not a Happily Ever After yet.

If you don't understand why readers refuse to believe in the Happily Ever After ending, read all these Jack Campbell novels to glean a counter-argument that can convince your biggest skeptics.  The HEA is not something that just happens.  It is something that is created -- by heroic actions fueled by deep love and absolute commitment to the welfare of others.

I particularly like the Newtonian mechanics limitations on space-war tactics, and the reliance on automated systems for firing solutions.  The time-delay in communications caused by light speed and distance complicates everything.

Maybe the least plausible part of these novels is Geary's continued (but not continuous or easy) success at diplomacy.  It is very rare to find a polymath human who has both combat ready strategy and tactics plus political savvy.

We see that in our Pentagon Generals, and retired Generals who go into politics, so we think it is a common combination.  But it is not.

Black Jack Geary is a Legend, created out of real people, but a Legend nevertheless.

Create some Characters who are the material from which Legends grow.  Consider how their Legends distress the Characters themselves.

Military Science Fiction is a sub-genre that is the natural home of the hottest Romance.  Watch some old World War II movies, and read some Military Science Fiction.  Create yourself a Legendary Character.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, August 19, 2018

What's Yours?

Authors, do you own your own books' cover art?

You do if you created it yourself, or paid to have it created for you as a clear work for hire, providing you (or the person you hired to do the art) had the correct licenses to use the font(s), the image(s), the photographs.

Yes, that back matter photograph of yourself might not belong to you, unless you took it, or unless you acquired the appropriate rights in writing from the person who took the photo of you. The copyright of a photograph always belongs to the photographer.

If your traditional publisher has reverted your rights, before you self-publish the book, you may need to create or commission new cover art.

The same may apply to your website, depending on who designed your website. Your website might not be as portable as you suppose it is.

This last week, legal blogger David Oxenford, blogging for Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP (whom I cited in last week's blog) discusses ownership of blogs and webpages:

Although branding for authors is the topic for Emily M. Haas, blogging for Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, consistency in fonts, logos, and other visuals are important to an author's brand, but are also elements that may not necessarily "belong" to the author, unless she is conscientious about clearing or acquiring the necessary rights.

See, "If You are an Author Looking to Build a Brand, Here are Some Items to Consider" (sic)

Authors, if your artist is quite laid back, for now, you might nevertheless fill out and have them sign a license template, such as THIS which is generously provided courtesy of THE ARTREPRENEUR (on the understanding that you give them written credit).

On the positive site, not all copying is infringing. Legal blogger Brian Murphy writing for Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC discusses the case of the "ghost" building that appeared to be a copyright "gotcha", but wasn't.

When Copying Isn't Infringement.

I think I'd have made a Haint pun!

Finally, for those who find their rights being violated on or via CLOUDFLARE, (which is not a web hosting site) here is a place to start if you wish to file a DMCA notice.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 16, 2018


Last week, I watched the rather strange SF movie ANNIHILATION. (Spoilers ahead.) An anomalous phenomenon of unknown origin, labeled the Shimmer, has mysteriously appeared in the vicinity of an isolated lighthouse. Natural laws don't seem to work normally within its area of influence, and investigators sent into the zone don't return, with one exception (the protagonist's husband, who doesn't seem to remember anything, doesn't act like himself, and falls into a coma soon after his reappearance). Furthermore, the Shimmer is expanding. The protagonist, a professor of biology, enters the zone with an all-female team of scientists and emerges alone, four months later by outside reckoning but only a couple of weeks in her subjective time. Near the end, she's attacked by an amorphous entity that takes on humanoid form, at one point becoming a double of the heroine herself.

When debriefed after her return, the protagonist speculates that the Shimmer doesn't "want" anything and may not have even been aware of her presence. During her combat with it, maybe it was only mirroring her actions. At the conclusion, when she reunites with her husband, Kane (who has regained consciousness), she asks whether he's really Kane. He replies, "I don't think so." The film leaves open the possibility that she may be a doppelganger, too, rather than her original self.

We never learn whether the Shimmer has an extraterrestrial origin or has emerged from a rupture or portal between our reality and some other dimensional plane—or spontaneously evolved on the spot. And, as mentioned above, we don't find out what its purpose is, if there's any consciousness behind it at all. While it's realistic to leave these questions unanswered, since the characters have no plausible way of discovering the truth (maybe the scientists on the project will eventually be able to get some information out of "Kane"?), I felt unsatisfied, as I usually do with a story that doesn't have a definite resolution. I want to know what or who the alien intelligence (if any) is, where it comes from, and why.

Considering the random mutations of animal and plant DNA within the Shimmer, maybe the life-form at its center (if there is one) has only the "purpose" of evolving and reproducing, with no more conscious motivation than bacteria. It spreads, proliferates, generates copies of itself, and strives to maximize its exploitation of the environment by expanding its area of control. If, as the protagonist believes, it doesn't "want" anything, blind reproduction may be its sole "motive" for invading our world. It may be an example of the adage that a hen is simply an egg's way of making another egg, or as Heinlein puts it, a zygote is a gamete's device for making other gametes. The Shimmer life-form's only chance of evolving into a stable, more advanced phase may be to duplicate the human models with which it comes into contact.

This film raises the perennial science-fictional question of identity. If the doppelganger created by the Shimmer has absorbed the "real" person's memories and obliterated the original, is the doppelganger now "really" the person? One thinks of Dr. McCoy's qualms about the transporter on STAR TREK. If each transporter event essentially disassembles the traveler at the point of origin and reconstructs him or her at the destination, has the "real" person been replaced by a succession of duplicates? In the original film of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, the pod people sometimes talk as if they've absorbed the selfhood of the people they replace, as when they try to convince the protagonist that he'll be happier if he surrenders to the inevitable. In ANNIHILATION, does the doppelganger of Kane represent the first stage in an alien project to replace humanity, or is he/it merely a random byproduct of the "annihilation" of the original man?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Settings Part 5 - Setting Makes The Genre

Part 5
Setting Makes The Genre
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of the series on Settings including a Guest Post by J. H. Bogran:  by J. H. Bogran

And this is Part 5 of the Settings Series.  News happening at the CERN Large Hadron Collider might make you a best selling writer.

We have said many times that Setting does not make a story belong to a particular genre.  But if the story is tailored by the setting, it can indeed edge into a defined genre.

For example: Gene Roddenberry sold Star Trek as "Wagon Train To The Stars" because the Western TV Series Wagon Train was becoming a long-running legend in TV broadcast annals.

Romance is particularly suited to moving from Setting to Setting, and spinning off sub-genres of Romance.  Move Setting to Victorian England and you have a historical.  Move setting to Wild West and you have Western Romance.  Set it in 2019 Manhattan and you have Contemporary Romance -- reprint 20 years later and it's a historical.

Usually, when you say, "Science Fiction Romance" to an editor, they think Barbara Cartland In Space.  It just doesn't work.  You get caricature or comedy.

However, if you create Soul Mates who haven't found each other, yet, and engage them in a Science Project -- a real world, cutting edge, theoretical problem that must be solved for some pressing reason, and put them on opposite sides of an argument over which theory is correct, and what proof would do to the world -- aha! Then you have genuine Science Fiction Romance, not another pedestrian love story.

So take two scientists and call me in the morning.

Here is a real world headline to rip your idea from.

A few years from now, if a crew of physicists gets its way, a squat building will rise above the border between France and Switzerland. This warehouse-size annex will join a scientific facility so large it crosses national borders. And, if the researchers proposing the construction are correct, it just might find the missing pieces of the universe.

Separated by a few hundred vertical feet of bedrock granite from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the new building would contain a scientific instrument called the MATHUSLA device (Massive Timing Hodoscope for Ultra Stable Neutral Particles), named after the longest-living man in the Book of Genesis. Its job: to hunt for long-lived particles that the LHC can't detect itself.

There's something strange about the idea. The LHC is the biggest, baddest particle accelerator in the world: a 17-mile (27 kilometers) ring of superconducting magnets that, 11,245 times per second, flings a few thousand protons at one another at significant fractions of the speed of light and then, whenever anything interesting happens, records the result. [Beyond Higgs: 5 Other Particles That May Lurk in the Universe]

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

Set your story at the site of this new installation, and inspire your readers to research and learn about particle physics and computer coding.

We have discussed the Quantized view of the universe, the quantized view of Time and what that implies about Souls and the Soul Mate concept here:

Now, as an exercise, use some of the themes suggested in those posts, and the Setting suggested here, to do outlines for 10 different Science Fiction Romances crossing time and space, and dimensions far-far away.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Flotsam, Jetsam, Great Stuff You Find When Surfing...

Let's extend a maritime metaphor --"surfing the internet" -- to the interesting and useful treasures that you may find floating about online.

Jetsam is the good stuff that someone deliberately abandoned. Anyone who finds it, can monetize it.

Flotsam, on the other hand, is good stuff that floated out of the custody of its owner by accident or mishap. The owner did not intend for it to be released into the wild, and the original owner retains rights to it.

If marine law has a term for stuff that pirates filch and dangle in the deep for bait to entice and entangle treasure hunters, this writer is not aware of it.

Legal blogger Terri Seligman, writing "The Real Deal: Using Found Content" for the prestigious law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC (which represents some of the world's best known celebrities and creative content creators, publishers, and providers) explains that all that glitters online is not necessarily yours to take.

Check out and memorize Terri Seligman's eight easy rules to follow before you use for commercial purposes that amazingly real and authentic photograph that you "found" online.

If you should be wary about using a photograph taken by someone else, and also a photo of someone else, and also of a photo that includes any artwork (or graffiti) in the background, you should also be careful about re-using old school yearbooks.

Angela Hoy explains:

For our Australian friends, (and authors doing business in Australia) legal bloggers Gordon Hughes and Andrew Sutherland, writing for Australia's leading intellectual property legal practice  Davies Collison Cave
give advice based on that card game at which Han Solo excelled.

See "App Developers Turn To The Dark Side."

Just because a copyright owner does not notice someone else's copyright infringement (perhaps a meme .gif) or even ignores one copyright infringing use by someone else.... does not mean that the copyright owner forfeits their copyright and their right to sue another copyright infringer.

Podcasters also need to be careful, in this case, about the music clip they found online and may want to use.
Legal blogger David Oxenford, writing for the law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP has a series of articles on podcasting, and the pitfalls of podcasting without knowing who owns what.

Yes, one has to pay the piper!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Defining Deviancy

In sociological discourse, we encounter the term "defining deviancy down." This phrase refers to behavior that used to be condemned but now is tolerated. It's an academic way of grumbling, "Society is going to the dogs." Profanity and obscenity in what used to be called "mixed company," for example. Open sale of sexually explicit literature. "Four-letter-words," extreme gore, and onscreen sex in movies. Going to houses of worship or expensive restaurants without wearing a coat and tie or a dress (as appropriate). (In my childhood, it was frowned upon for a girl or woman to shop at an upscale department story without dressing up.) For boys, wearing a T-shirt to school (the crisis in one episode of LEAVE IT TO BEAVER centered around this transgression); for girls, going to school in pants instead of skirts. Individuals of opposite sexes living together outside of marriage. Unmarried women becoming pregnant and having babies openly instead of hiding their condition in shame. Ubiquitous gun violence in the inner cities—in WEST SIDE STORY, the introduction of a gun into the feud between the rival gangs was framed as a shocking escalation of the conflict.

In many respects, however, we've defined "deviancy" upward since what some people nostalgically recall as the good old days of the 1950s. Smoking, for example. In my childhood, most adults smoked cigarettes, and they did it anytime almost everywhere. In grocery stores! At the doctor's office! Air pollution by big-engined, gas-guzzling cars that used to be status symbols is now disapproved of. So are the racial slurs often heard in casual conversation back then. Dogs nowadays don't run loose in our communities like Lassie and Lady (my main sources of information on dogs until my parents acquired one, who didn't act nearly so intelligent as Lady, the Tramp, and their friends). Leash laws didn't become widespread until my teens. Alleged humor based on physical abuse of women by men used to be common in the media. Ralph on THE HONEYMOONERS regularly threatened to hit his wife ("to the moon, Alice!"), though he never did so on screen, and in THE QUIET MAN, John Wayne spanked Maureen O'Hara in the middle of the road. Public intoxication, including drunk driving, was also casually treated as funny, as in many of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories and the novels of Thorne Smith (author of TOPPER). Most adults seemed to regard bullying as a commonplace childhood rite of passage that kids had to learn to cope with, as long as it didn't cause significant injury. As far as safety features such as seat belts in cars were concerned, there was no law requiring passengers to wear them, because they didn't exist.

Where some societal changes are concerned, factions differ on whether they constitute improvement or deterioration. Some contemporary parents wouldn't think of letting their children visit friends, roam around the neighborhood, or ride a bus on their own at ages that were considered perfectly normal until recent decades. Conversely, if adults from the 1950s could witness today's trends, most of them would probably consider "helicopter parenting" harmful as well as ridiculous. Are the emergence of same-sex marriage, dual-career households, and legal access to abortion good or bad changes? The answer to that question depends on one's political philosophy. Does a decline in church and synagogue membership mean we've become a society of secularists and atheists, or does it simply mean that, because we no longer have so much social pressure to look "religious," for the most part only sincere believers join religious organizations? (C. S. Lewis noted that an alleged "decline" in chapel attendance among university students in fact reflected a sudden drop as soon as attendance became optional instead of compulsory.)

Whether you think current trends in behavior, customs, and morals are mainly positive or negative probably influences whether you believe Steven Pinker, for instance, is right or wrong when he claims in ENLIGHTENMENT NOW that we're living in the best of times rather than the worst.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Soul Mates And The HEA Real or Fantasy Part 2

Soul Mates And The HEA Real or Fantasy
Part 2
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part One of this series on the plausibility of the HEA and Soul Mate premises of Romance novels is:

We have discussed the plausibility of the Soul Mate hypothesis and the Happily Ever After goal hypothesis in many different contexts.  Here are some:

If the HEA is implausible, how come it happens?

The Cheating Woman

Nesting Huge Themes Inside Each Other (building the foundation of a series)

And What Does She See In Him?

So all of this gets very abstract for the writer, while necessarily very concrete and visual for the Reader.

To find a book to be a "page-turner" or immersive or just a whopping good read, the reader has to be able to sense a congruence between their everyday life and the implausible, whacky, zany or soapy life of the Characters.

So the writer must translate a world view the writer just makes up into a story the reader can recognize in real life.

The Soul Mate and HEA hypotheses fail with certain readers because the writer failed to translate the writer's "Love Conquers All" assumptions into a language (symbolism) the reader can recognize.

People don't reject the Romance Genre because they don't believe in Romance.  They reject the Romance genre because the writers assume the readers share the premise.

That is one difference between Romance and Science Fiction.

In science fiction or fantasy genres, the writer assumes the reader is a trained skeptic grounded in real-world logic and with a personality structured on thinking in dependently and never taking authority's word for anything.

In Romance, the writer assumes the reader yearns for romance in her life, has seen it happen to others, expects it, wants to find a way to achieve it, and knows beyond doubt that finding Romance will solve most of the irksome problems of her life.

In science fiction romance the reader is looking for an argument to prove Love Conquers All.  "Show me!" is the attitude of the scientist looking to define Romance.

Science fiction is not escapist literature.  It is literature for those who want to reshape their reality not escape from it.

Show your reader how to create Romance, define and identify Souls, and understand the disciplines of the HEA, and you have cross-connected the two genres.

To do this, the Science Fiction Romance writer has to create an understanding of the nature of Reality (actual, real, everyday reality -- e.g. the Headlines from which we rip our stories).

The writer does not have to create a correct understanding of Reality, but does have to identify and define the precise parameters of the Soul and HEA hypotheses in the World the writer is building.  This defines the edges, the shape of that world, and thus defines what choices the Characters have before them.

In other words, the Soul and HEA hypothesis the writer chooses generates the plot, and integrates that plot with the theme.

THEME: Souls Are Real
THEME: Life has a purpose; each individual is rewarded for achieving that purpose.

The HEA is a reward for a Soul achieving a purpose.  How is the purpose assigned, by whom, why, and how is that purpose made possible to achieve -- and what choices does a Soul have, and when does the Soul make that choice (before or after birth?)

THEME: Rebirth does not have to involve reincarnation

THEME: The HEA is equivalent to retirement on a cushy pension or Veteran's Benefits.

In a previous post, we discussed crafting the Soul Mate of the Kickass Heroine:

We examined the nature of character, what people call "strong character" -- we all know when we meet a "strong" person, but sometimes we don't really know why we think that person is "strong."

So we looked deeply at the concept of character, trying to find the way to telegraph to a reader that this Character (this artificial person who runs through your story) is a Strong Character.

We created one (of hundreds of possible) idea of what the concept "character" might be in real life, and explored some fictional uses for the concept.

Character, we puzzled out, might be defined as the mechanism that connects Soul and Body.

Character is not soul.  Character is not body.

Soul is the non-material spirit we feel is our Self.  Body is the purely animal carcass that Spirit inhabits.  The Kabbalah indicates the Soul enters our manifest reality through the dimension of Time.  So we have questions that generate themes: what is Time, what is Soul, what is a human body, what is character?

Humans can be more animal than spirit, or more spirit than animal -- or a nice, firm, buffered, flexible-but-unbreakable balance.

Character is the style, manner and method by which a Soul inhabits a Body.

A "Strong Character" is one where the Soul tames and domesticates the Body, making friends with the animal spirit the way a good dog trainer tames a dog.

For those into Tarot, consider the STRENGTH CARD.

That's why character (real life people), and Character (fictional people) are so complex.  We are composed of two variables and the relationship between them -- all 3 factors are nothing but pure energy.

THEME: the real world is continuous.

THEME: the real world is discontinuous.

Take the attributes of the "real world" your readers live in -- 3 spatial dimensions + time.

Over the last hundred years or so, theories of the structure of Space-Time have gone from "The Space-Time Continuum" to a model in which space, time, matter and energy are discontinuous -- e.g. Quantized.

The quantized model of reality raises a lot of questions and allows for a wide range of themes for Science Fiction Romance, a science that depends entirely on the reality of the Soul (since we write about the search for Soul Mates).

Science has been grappling with the issues of where a soul hypothesis could fit into modern physics and psychology -- life after death, ghosts, out of body experiences, precognition, prophecy -- some considerable research funding goes to projects searching for the how and why of the human sense of Self.

The Fantasy genres have been digging deep into the science behind fantasy -- why does the human brain fantasize?

Each answer to these questions generates a fertile master theme for a series of Science Fiction Romance novels.

But in 2018, this article appeared

Belief in the soul is scientific, according to Stapp. Here the word “soul” is used to describe a consciousness or personality which is independent of the brain or the rest of the human body. This consciousness transcends the physical body and does indeed survive death. In his paper, “Compatibility of Contemporary Physical Theory With Personality Survival,” he wrote: “Strong doubts about personality survival based solely on the belief that postmortem survival is incompatible with the laws of physics are unfounded.”

Stapp noted of his own concepts: “There has been no hint in my previous descriptions (or conception) of this orthodox quantum mechanics of any notion of personality survival.”
------end quote---

This article is about "life after death" which, if proven even provisionally, could generate many wonderful Themes about the nature of life before life (i.e. the Soul choosing a Body and a Birth Time generating challenges of certain kinds are certain ages.)

As we have noted in the Astrology Just For Writers series,
"Romance" is a condition which happens during certain kinds of Neptune transits.  This means that when you are born determines what age you will be when you experience Romance, and it also determines if there might be future encounters with Romance (opportunities for infidelity or second marriages after widowhood).  Astrology can not reveal when you'll die -- the solar system goes right along spinning even after you die, and surely spun steadily before you were born.

But Romance happens at Neptune challenges.  Those exact transits can also generate monumental (soap opera style) life-failures, stupid choices, vast mistakes, drug-dependency or addiction, and/or complete changes in your life (job, residence, marriage, children, religious affiliation).  Neptune dissolves reality -and after the transit (often a year or more of melt-down) life reforms around new parameters.

Paranormal Romance deals with Life After Death - but Life Before Death is as yet largely unexplored.

If Time is quantized, perhaps the Soul is actually discontinuous, too?  Or its presence in the body may be discontinuous (theory is that the soul leaves the body during sleep),

Perhaps Souls have "energy levels" akin to those of electrons and other particles?

Perhaps different Souls are composed of different Soul Particles?

The same article, Page 2

gives us an animated tutorial on the double-slit experiment which seems to demonstrate the importance of INDIVIDUAL CHOICE and OBSERVATION.

That is the rudimentary level of the Kabbalistic emphasis on the importance of human choice in determining the outcome of any situation.  The HEA is the archetypal case in point -- what choices guarantee an HEA?  Is belief in it enough to generate it?

In reality and fantasy, in science fiction or science fiction romance, the reader is looking for a Character to become, to inhabit like their Soul inhabits their Body.

That is the experience of the "good read" we all search for - to walk in someone else's moccasins, to work on their problems thus strengthening our ability to solve our own.

When it comes to finding a Soul Mate, we grope our way to an understanding of who we are by trying to understand what "who" means.  Fiction gives us hypotheses to entertain, possibilities to explore, and theories to test in real life.

Are the brain and mind two separate things?  Does that question even make sense?

The quantum explanation of how the mind and brain can be separate or different, yet connected by the laws of physics “is a welcome revelation,” wrote Stapp. “It solves a problem that has plagued both science and philosophy for centuries—the imagined science-mandated need either to equate mind with brain, or to make the brain dynamically independent of the mind.”
-------end quote)

THEME: The brain is the animal human.  The mind is the soul human.

In a strong character or Character, brain and mind are so "strongly" connected, harmonized, and balanced, attuned and functioning that the person moves through the world leaving a spreading wake of peace.

Such a Strong Character has many internal conflicts but resolves them with targeted and well orchestrated actions.

THEME: A Kickass Heroine can not be a Strong Character because she solves problems by kicking ass.

THEME: Monkey sex illustrates weakness of Character because it satisfies only the Body not the Soul.

Think about it a little and you will find dozens of themes that have not yet been explored deeply in Science Fiction Romance, many of which could convince atheists that the Soul is real.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Cheating Democracy: One Man 70,000 "Votes".

Big Brothers are watching you, and not listening to you. They are swamping your voice, spoofing your voice.

The Trichordist tells a telling story about a "tens-of-thousands-strong" online protest over copyright reform. A rally was organized. Four people --four!!-- showed up, and all of those four people appeared to be counter-protesters who were in favor of copyright reform. The Trichordist wonders what happened to the tens of thousands of anti-copyright enthusiasts. Perhaps they never existed.

Perhaps they were a few individuals who had bought (or who had bought for them) "Full Toolkit" $529 subscriptions to the service that bombards members of parliament (MEPs) or congresspersons or other representatives of the people with up to 75,000 personalized, automated emails.

For an account of how stealthy American and non-human actors meddle in EU politics and legislation, read this guest post translated from the German:

Few in the media speak of Canadian meddling in elections and legislation around the world and in the USA, but apparently Canada meddles. A lot.

One wonders, if technology can write up to 75,000 letters of protest to newspaper editors or to politicians and parliamentary voters with a click, (repeatedly) could this be done with/for book reviews?

Amazon probably has an algorithm for (preventing) that. The Atlantic has an interesting discussion between writers of the pros and cons of the Zon.

Also from Germany, guardedly good news for rights holders doing business in Germany, as many authors do... if their works are translated. Daniel Hoppe, blogging for the law firm Preu Bohlig and Partner explains that the German Federal Court of Justice has judged that a right holder (who prevails in court, as in the "Dead Island - Riptide" case) must receive reasonable compensation for actual damage, and this must be paid by the actual infringer.
Long link.

Enforcing copyrights anywhere can be expensive.  Whether it is EUR 860.00 for a German lawyer's warning letter, or $800 for expedited copyright registration in the USA (so a copyright owner who needs registration in order to sue and infringer can beat the 3-year statute of limitations to sue at all), copyright enforcement does not favor the individual.

Finally, a long-time Antipodean pen pal, Dr. Bob Rich, is promoting his new book. I'm giving him a shout-out for his blog.

I especially like the quote from Rich McLean, "Just because we are all doomed does not mean that we can't be nice to one another."

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Replicators on the Horizon

Right here in Annapolis, a 3-D printer at the local Home Depot has been used to create a prosthetic limb for a five-year-old boy born without a hand. You can read the story and watch a video of the new hand in action here:

Prosthetic from 3-D Printer

The maker, John Longo, a staff member at the store, has produced and donated about 120 of such devices over the past year and a half. One cool feature of the system is that new limbs can be printed from the same design in larger sizes as the boy grows.

Could 3-D printers be precursors of the replicators in the Star Trek universe? Currently, a wide variety of objects can be made from a generic material, spools of plastic filament. The versatility and usefulness of the technology has proven itself in many fields; simple replacement organs such as bladders and external ears have already been transplanted into patients. Presumably, replicators, on starships and elsewhere, create items from a supply of undifferentiated, cheap mass (like those plastic filaments), not out of thin air. The basic concept could evolve from the principles behind 3-D printers. Long before the imagined era of Starfleet and the Federation, those machines might become advanced and versatile enough to make almost any product needed in everyday life, as well as in specialized fields such as medicine and industry.

What about food? While we wouldn't expect that to be crafted out of plastic (I hope!), maybe a nutritionally balanced supply of goop could be shaped and flavored to simulate almost anything the consumer would want to eat. Could replicated food someday feed the world's hungry people? To a great extent, maybe, but considering the strong resistance to GMO crops by some factions, a movement might develop to reject such "fake" food.

Of course, even in the utopian future of a genie-magic level of technology, replicated products would have costs. The energy has to come from somewhere, and the raw material, although cheap, wouldn't be free. Moreover, well-off people wouldn't be satisfied with only replicated consumer goods. Doubtless foods made from fresh ingredients would taste better, and individually crafted items would become status symbols. Still, mass-manufactured products from some device analogous to the replicator would have profound effects on the global economy. Imagine living in a world where abundance, not scarcity, becomes the default assumption.

Welcome to the future!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt