Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 12 - What You Learned As A Kid

Worldbuilding From Reality
Part 12
What You Learned As A Kid 

Previous parts in the Worldbuilding From Reality series:

I found this comic on Facebook - it is from a VERY CLEVER blog that can give you all sorts of plot ideas for Fantasy Romance - even Supernatural - if you apply the principles of worldbuilding we've been discussing.

Just like real people, fictional Characters learned something early in life that shapes opinions later.  Study this comic and transpose it to your universe and your Characters.

Here is the blog.  Do check it out.  And here is one of the entries. The image is large enough to read on the blog's archive page.


2020 is coming - have a great New Year.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Long comic strip about kid learning Quantum Computing and a Mom trying delicately to have "the talk" - but both mean quantum computing, not the obvious inference.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Heinous Hacks

There are certain times of day, and certain light conditions under which persons of a certain age with either glaucoma or cataracts or epilepsy or "flicker vertigo" should not drive a vehicle.

Here are some interesting online discussions:


When we think of fictional villains plotting to reduce a population, their methods for "thinning the herd" aren't particularly designed to eliminate the sickliest and the weakest. (Generalization, no doubt.)  Sacha Baron Cohen made a film, The Brothers Grimsby, in which the super villain hoped to infect soccer fans at the World Cup with a virus. One might infer that soccer fans were thought by the super villain to be intellectually and socially inferior.

More usually, bombs, plagues, viruses and illnesses are targeted at densely populated locations, or in the case of one Mission Impossible movie, at the source or headwater (or glacier) of a river or two.

It would surely be too far fetched for someone in power to develop something as commonplace as type of planet-saving lightbulb, mandate that everyone exchanged their old lightbulbs for this new, green type, and be aware that the bulbs could trigger life-threatening seizures and devastating migraines in susceptible members of society.

For Akerman LLP, legal health bloggers Robert E. Slavkin and Beth Alcalde discuss a particularly malevolent hack that apparently seeks to cause physical harm to a "curated" audience.



Back in 2015, Michael Cohen revealed that hackers can take control of a car.

Meanwhile, and less malevolently, there are concerns about how much your connected car might be spying on you.

Kathryn M. Rattigan,  writing for Robinson & Cole LLP's Data Privacy + Security Insider asks
How much is your car spying on you?


Presumably, it is only a matter of time before an innocent purchaser of an "unwiped" second hand vehicle, or a subsequent lessee of a rental vehicle could be caught up in a previous driver's web of international intrigue and nefarious texting acquaintances. What a good story line!

For those who are freaked out by the loss of privacy,
Jennifer Pike of Thompson Coburn LLP recommends 10 cybersecurity tips for travelers.


Original link

Maybe the smartest notion is an old fashioned one: don't use your phone while driving.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 26, 2019


Happy midwinter holidays! I hope everybody who celebrates Christmas had a merry one. One of my most thrilling gifts was a DVD set of IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, which isn't available on Netflix or Hulu, so I had long since given up on being able to re-watch the series.

Having just finished watching the first season of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, I've noticed several continuity discrepancies with the original series. (It seems clear that DISCOVERY takes place in the universe of the original series, not that of the reboot.) Uniforms and the interior design of the starship differ drastically from those on Kirk's ENTERPRISE. More glaring, the Klingons have been re-imagined to look very different from Klingons in any other iteration of STAR TREK. Assuming these stories occur in the same universe as the original STAR TREK, the only way viewers can take these changes in stride is to accept them as elements in a retcon, a pretense that it's always looked like this. DISCOVERY also includes a major, worldbuilding-impact continuity problem, however: The spore drive. Its existence revolutionizes the speed of interstellar travel. If the spore drive had existed in the original series, the outcomes of many episodes would have been affected, and the day-to-day operation of the starship would have been noticeably different. To reconcile DISCOVERY with STAR TREK as we know it, at some point before the end of the series any use of the spore drive in the near future must be somehow rendered impossible.

The original series itself has continuity problems with Spock's backstory. It seems blatantly clear that the characters' personal histories weren't planned in advance but constructed ad hoc as the series progressed, particularly with Spock. In the premiere episode, he says one of his ancestors—not his own mother—was a human female. In a later episode, when Captain Kirk deliberately provokes him into a rage to negate the effects of the happiness-drug flowers, Spock says, "My mother was a teacher, my father an ambassador," implying that his parents are deceased. Only with "Journey to Babel" do we learn what then became canon, that his parents are alive but he's had a long-term estrangement from his father. That discontinuity can be justified, if tenuously, by postulating that in the earlier episodes Spock didn't know his fellow crew members well enough to speak frankly about his family background. A continuity glitch among the original series and its various spin-offs concerns money. Does the Federation use it or not? In some episodes, currency clearly exists, yet at least once it's explicitly stated that they don't need money. We can speculate on complicated explanations for this apparent contradiction, but on a metafictional level it seems likely that the writers didn't think through the implications, instead doing whatever worked for any given episode.

The vampire detective series FOREVER KNIGHT took a cavalier approach to its vampire mythology. The traits of vampires seemed to vary according to the whims of individual writers. For instance, by sifting all the evidence from various episodes, one couldn't definitively state whether holy symbols do objective harm to vampires or hurt a vampire only if the vampire believes in the item's potency.

Marion Zimmer Bradley famously disregarded continuity when the narrative requirements of a story demanded ignoring a precedent set in an older book. Of course, when she started writing about the world of Darkover, she didn't expect the fiction in that setting to become a series. It's understandable that she refused to be tied down by creative decisions made early in her career. At one point, she retconned the discrepancies by attributing them to the unreliability of in-universe narrators.

Arthur Conan Doyle, producing a huge number of quickly-written Sherlock Holmes stories over a period of many years, generated ambiguities concerning what part of Watson's body had been wounded and how many times he was married. Organizations such as the Baker Street Irregulars have fun trying to reconcile those ambiguities and weave them into a coherent narrative.

How much discontinuity can a creator get away with before the reader's suspension of disbelief ends up hanged, drawn, and quartered?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Worldbuilding from Reality Part 11 - Worldbuilding Does Not a Story Make

Worldbuilding from Reality
Part 11
Worldbuilding Does Not a Story Make
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous posts in the Worldbuilding From Reality series are indexed here:

When you are worldbuilding, you are weaving the black velvet that will cradle and display your diamond.  You are not creating the light that will make your diamond sparkle, or the diamond itself, but if you do a messy job of worldbuilding then no adjustments of light or cut of diamond will create the riveting effect you intend.

Worldbuilding is crucial, but should be as invisible as the black velvet of a jeweler's display case.

In this analogy, I'd guess the "light" is your theme, and the diamond is the Relationship you are depicting.

The Worldbuilding is an integral part of the light and the jewel it illuminates, and some genres, some authors, make the Worldbuilding into the whole plot.  Done well, this is also riveting.

For example, the long running Destroyermen series by Taylor Anderson with the 2019 entry in the Series #14, Pass of Fire.

I think the overall Theme of the Destroyermen novels might be, "The best defense is a vigorous offense."  The world situation, and how a handful of "can-do" American sailors can improve the situation, is the plot. The Story

I can't sing the praises of Anderson's Destroyermen too loudly.  The "world" is an alternate Earth (which a WWII Destroyer falls into from a storm in the South Pacific), and the building is how this tiny group of sailors orchestrates a reproduction of WWII, but with totally different factions, different species (some not human) and humans who fell into this world from different historic epics.  We also have the indications some of the humans from different epics are actually from different parallel universes than our own.

So there is a cosmic-level worldbuilding theory behind the series, and the World where the conflict is in progress when our Destroyermen land there is the result of the asteroid that triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs landing in a slightly different spot, rearranging the geography of Central America.

There are a couple of species of feathered lizards that have achieved sentience -- and a civilization based on feeding the voracious populace both with humans and with their own species.

Our Destroyermen take the side of the people being attacked and eaten, or attacked and conquered by some stray WWII Japanese.  Alliances form, war spreads, and the Destroyermen put the natives on the track of ever improved weaponry.

The 2029 entry in this Series is Pass of Fire (the fire being a series of volcanoes in Central America, the Pass being formed by the asteroid hit).

And from this base of intricate worldbuilding, the long-long sequences describing weapons improvements and what counter-improvements the enemies achieve (with the help of the Japanese), and what huge, world-wide, sprawling strategies and tactics can be launched, and which of the surviving Destroyermen are leading parts of the war, and which parts are led by those who learned from our Destroyermen, also describe the Relationships developing because of the battle-camaraderie.

The Characters gradually emerge as well rounded, understandable individuals with unique talents brought forth by vicissitudes.  But even the marriages and births are incidental, except as one more motive to fight.

Survival is the biggest motive for this war.

Hollywood romanticized WWII by telling many deeply romantic stories about couples meeting during war, or separated because of it.  War impacts real lives, reshapes life directions.

In an Action Genre, the war itself and how to conduct it, is the story and the plot.

In Science Fiction the science of war is shown as the key to winning.

In Romance, the impact of war on family relationships, and the highly intensified Romances sweeping people into Relationships they would never have chosen, is the Story while the war itself (strategy, tactics, weaponry advantage, resource allocation) is just background.  The Romance-During-War Novel Plot is not the war, but the insane chances people take to get back together.

The Destroyermen series has no Romance in it, but it does have a few plausible Love Stories woven through it.

A Romance writer should read this series to study techniques for weaving flawless, featureless black velvet.

The last thing an artist wants is to distract the viewer's attention from the work of art being displayed.

In a Romance novel, the Jewel being displayed, the work of art, is the evolving Relationship.  As the Relationship matures into Love through many classic stages (each experienced uniquely), the "action" unfolds on the field of Relationship.  What the couple will do next is the suspense line.  If they are soldiers in a war, which side wins the war is usually not the problem.  If they are running the war, they win it together as a team.

In Romance, the war happens only to fertilize and inform the Relationship.

In the Action Science Fiction genre, which the Destroyermen Series precisely nails to perfection, the Relationships happen only to infuse the winning spirit into the combatants.

I have found not one single flaw in all of the novels in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen Series.

I've discussed a few previous novels in this series:



And we discussed Pass of Fire in the Theme-Plot Integration series.


Clearly, I can't stop raving about Destroyermen. It's flawless, for what it is,  but that just whets my appetite for a similar series, complete with intricately perfect worldbuilding, the science of weaponry, all used to create and showcase the developing of Relationships.

We are enjoined to love our fellows as ourselves, but we humans often fall short of that goal.  The way Romance genre can illustrate the moves, strategy and tactics of warfare might teach us what there is to love in every human.

Romance writers need to study the Art of War as illustrated in the Destroyermen Series to see how the worldbuilding doesn't make the Story, but this kind of worldbuilding from the realities of WWII could make a whopping good Romance.  Just keep asking yourself what's missing.  What's there is perfect - but what's missing is even more important.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Smart Christmas

For those who visit Pennsylvania and are unfortunate enough to be stopped by the police, the good news is that the authorities in that State do not have the right to look into your mind, and your password encrypted devices are considered an extension of your mind.

You do not have to reveal your password unless they have probable cause.

Andrew Crocker, writing for the Electronic Freedom Foundation explains that disclosing a password is the equivalent of giving self-incriminating testimony:

On the other hand, if you are accused of copyright infringement, you may be punished if you are asked to preserve evidence, and you fail to save your text messages.

Writing for law firm Seyfarth Shaw's Carpe Datum blog, Tushar P. Vaidya and Jamila A. Hemmerich examine what happens when a defendant wipes, discards, and does not back up his, her, or their smartphone.

There are other ways of getting into your mind....

Is anyone else rendered uneasy when an online provider offers you "curated" news? Personally, I think it is creepy that Tim Cook's or Mark Zuckerberg's people claim to have such perfect insights into my mind and my interests that they can dish up to me "curated" news to match my interests.

Either they are spying on me and assuming that I only want more of whatever I've consumed in the past, or they are pushing what they want me to consume and not necessarily being truthful about how closely it matches my real interests. I infer.

Concerning spying and intrusion from the wrong side of the TV screen, the good bloggers at Bass Berry & Sims PLC ask whether my smart TV might be too smart, especially if I bought it recently.

Authors Robert L. Brewer, Anthony J. McFarland, and Elizabeth S. Warren  offer six, must-read, smart steps for owners of smart televisions to take this holiday season.

Original article:

Lexology article:

It seems that too many of the goodies that might be in your Christmas stocking this year are too smart for your own good and well being. Both the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings to help consumers to protect themselves.

With the FBI and FTC warnings top of mind, legal blogger Linn Foster Freedman continues her excellent series of privacy tips for the Robinson & Cole LLP Data Privacy + Security blog (and you should check out #220 some time soon) with #219 on Holiday Shopping Tips.

Original article:

Lexology article:

By the way, for anyone who might wonder why it's worth checking out different links to the same article, Lexology offers links to other copyright or other intellectual property related articles on similar subjects. The original websites or blogsites are more likely to focus on that law firm's own articles.

And so, Happy Christmas!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Holiday Stories of Connie Willis

If you feel in the mood for winter-holiday-themed stories, pick up A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS (2017), by Connie Willis. This volume is an expansion of her earlier collection MIRACLE AND OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES (1999). The twelve selections include five new pieces. Since three of them are longish, in my opinion they're worth buying the newer book for even if you've read the earlier one. Humor abounds, and in the manner of most good humor, the incidents are serious to the characters even though funny to the reader. In the majority of the stories, you can count on satisfying but not sappy endings.

My favorite pieces are two novellas that weren't in the old edition: Thousands of radio re-playings of multiple covers of "White Christmas," augmented by the stubborn insistence of a prototypical Bridezilla that she MUST have snow for her Christmas Eve wedding, spawn a worldwide blizzard in "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know." Snow even falls in locations that have never seen it before in recorded history. My other favorite novella in the book, "All Seated on the Ground," features the narrator's experience on a committee tasked with a first contact project. Aliens have landed. The extraterrestrial visitors don't behave hostilely, but they don't speak or otherwise give any indication of their purpose in coming to Earth. Until they're taken to a mall, where they hear Christmas carols—and respond to the line "All seated on the ground" by suiting their actions to the lyrics. Only the narrator, with the help of a high-school choir director, notices this reaction and manages to decipher its meaning. Hilarious, but as in all Willis's work, the humor arises from characters and situations portrayed with her usual dry, incisive wit, not mere one-liners.

Some other highlights: In "All About Emily," a cynical veteran Broadway actress reluctantly befriends a prototype android who has developed a burning ambition to become a Rockette. The protagonist of the bittersweet "Epiphany," a minister weighed down by depression in the bleak post-holiday atmosphere of January, responds to an enigmatic sense of a call by abandoning his routine duties and taking to the snow-covered highways in search of—what? The Second Coming? The narrator of "Newsletter" becomes convinced that aliens have invaded because everybody is acting too nice in the midst of the pre-Christmas rush. During the bustle of a church Nativity play rehearsal, the protagonist of "Inn" tries to cope with a lost, obviously poor young man and his pregnant wife, who don't speak either English or Spanish. You know where this one is going. The contrasts between the idealized portraits in the Bible illustrations and the bedraggled, bewildered couple and between the spirit of good will toward all and the minister's concern about homeless people stealing the Communion silver lend this moving story the sharp edge we'd expect from Willis.

A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS includes an introduction by the author about the challenges of writing Christmas stories, plus appendices listing her personal recommendations for Christmas-centered fiction and poetry, movies, and TV episodes.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Saturday, December 14, 2019

All About Face...And Image

This last week, the theme has been legal reversals (about face), about amusing, face-changing apps that come embedded with hidden dangers, a new trick by Facebook to "protect" users from inappropriate (age-inappropriate) paid advertising, and rampant, willful exploitation of artists' creative works.

Blogging for law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC, beauty and dispute resolution expert Jordyn Eisenpress discusses the new policy from Facebook-owned Instagram that new users must reveal their birthdays. Apparently, they will scrape linked Facebook accounts for "old" users to auto-add any birthday info that has been provided to Facebook.

Lexology link

Advertising Law link

My advice, be like the monarch of England. Have your real birthday, and a public birthday... and if a banker or stock broker or credit card customer service representative asks for your birthday, ask them to ask something else that only you would know.

Do you know where FaceApp comes from?  Can you live without it?
Allegedly, it comes from Russia. Love that!

Linn Foster Freedman, blogging for Robinson & Cole LLP warns that the FBI considers FaceApp a counterintelligence threat, and suggests that her readers improve their app hygiene. It's good advice!


For Manatt Phelps Phillips LLP, legal blogger Po Yi  asks whether Pinterest encourages, initiates and facilitates copyright infringement, and discusses why a recent copyright infringement lawsuit against Pinterest
questions the Pinterest business model.


In my opinion, as a Pinterest user, it would be very easy for Pinterest to add to the uploading process a pop up disclaimer where the user cannot complete the upload until they have affirmatively asserted under penalty of perjury that they own the rights to the image and are able to produce documentary proof if randomly audited by Pinterest.

Jeffrey D. Neuberger of Proskauer Rose LLP blogs about an expensive legal reversal in the case of copyright infringement by Zazzle, another company that has insufficient safeguards against immoral or ignorant users who upload other peoples copyrighted images or text for the purpose of commissioning Zazzle to create physical items displaying those images or words.


If you use Zazzle, know your rights, responsibilities and potential liabilities... but there are probably myriad authors who would love a quote (with proper attribution) from one of their novels printed across the front of a Zazzle T-shirt. Just ask.

For those who know their limitations when it comes to a knowledge of copyright infringement and the law, this is a very good guide (if you can access Lexology.)

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Finding Time to Write

Marion Zimmer Bradley recommended stay-at-home motherhood as the perfect job for a writer, because writing can be performed in short bursts in the intervals between the tasks required to cope with the house and children. My inner retort upon first reading that statement was, "Speak for yourself, Ms. Bradley." The time it would have taken me to settle into a creative mindset would have eaten up most if not all of each of those brief intervals. The talent for jumping straight into a writing project at a moment's notice isn't given to all of us, although admittedly one can train oneself to shorten the "settling down" part of the procedure. Bradley's advice, however, does highlight one important fact—one doesn't need long, uninterrupted stretches of quiet time to generate readable prose. It took me a long time to learn that principle. My natural inclination was to wait until I had a couple of free hours to devote to a project, hours that came along too seldom. Writing in short bursts can work. Hard as it was, at first, to believe I could produce anything worth keeping in sessions of a half-hour or less, I found that what emerged from my brain didn't turn out appreciably worse than the products of the uninterrupted hours.

C. S. Lewis once remarked that, upon rereading his drafts, he couldn't see any difference in quality between the passages that had flowed with ease and those he'd painfully labored over. The same principle, happily, seems to apply to outward working conditions as well as the author's mental state. In the years since I've taught myself to accept twenty or thirty minutes as an acceptable work period, if that's all I can fit in, I've discovered that 300-400 words can often be generated in those time slots. That's significantly more than zero. A thousand words per day add up to a draft of a typical novel in three months. Five hundred per day would accumulate to novel length in about six months.

Some writers swear by waking up early to churn out one's quota of words before beginning the day's mundane routine. I shudder at the thought, regarding anytime before 8 a.m. as the middle of the night and not becoming fully conscious until somewhat later than that. However, the advice to write every day, at whatever time fits one's own schedule, does make a certain amount of sense. If not every day, at least often and regularly enough to avoid losing the flow of the work. It's hard to get immersed in a story again after leaving it untouched for too long.

A pitfall I've often stumbled into is the impulse to clear the decks before starting. I feel I should get all the routine tasks out of the way in order to free up a time slot and brain space for writing. Unfortunately, that habit can lead to expending most of my allotted computer time on e-mail and other chores, leaving only a short span at the end of the afternoon for writing. In retirement, the truth of the adage that work expands to fill the time available proves itself all too often. It's more productive to start the day's writing first. The other stuff can get done later and usually will. One thing I've learned to do is to open the file of the work-in-progress first, right after turning on the computer. I can tell myself I'll write just a few sentences, maybe a paragraph or two, then come back to it after getting through the routine tasks. That way, I often trick myself into producing a couple of hundred words, so I feel I've accomplished something at least. A sense of accomplishment boosts my morale, encouraging me to generate more prose later in the day. Since I don't usually enjoy the first-draft process (I envy authors who do), I welcome any method of tricking myself into writing.

One school of writing advice suggests discovering your natural "chunk"—the amount of time you can comfortably write at a stretch—and devoting several sessions per day (depending on the time available) to those chunks. Once you've learned how many words you typically produce per chunk (comprising however many minutes), you can estimate how long, in total, it will take you to compose a draft of any given length. Any method that harnesses one's own natural inclinations can boost productivity.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Reviews 50 Finder by Suzanne Palmer

Reviews 50 
Suzanne Palmer 
Space adventure experienced by fully realized Characters meddling in "the affairs of Wizards" (with or without supernatural or magical elements), is another main staple of the science fiction reader which is replicated in the Romance field.

The displaced waif who takes a job as governess for a titled noble, becomes entangled in the situation of the children, defies the father over the problem, falls in love, and attracts the attention of the noble is a staple of Romance.  That is bucking the system.

Both Science Fiction and Romance are genres that cut into the life-arc of a main Character at a time when that Character is a "free radical" -- a molecule with an empty-spot just begging for a bond to form.  Free Radicals, in chemistry, tend to initiate chemical reactions.  In today's Health market, the "free radical" in our bodies is our enemy - not because it's bad, but because it tends to bond and disrupt our chemical balance.

Science Fiction readers expect writers to know science -- and show no ignorance.

Suzanne Palmer is a Hugo Award winning writer who wins for a good reason - she delivers a whopping good story driven by Relationships carried on a Plot driven by science.

C. J. Cherryh has shown us how humanity can spread to the stars, even without habitable planets in abundance, by building orbiting space stations, self-contained habitats filled with humans who mine their surroundings for materials and energy.

Suzanne Palmer has set this novel, Finder, (The Finder Chronicles Book 1) ...

https://www.amazon.com/Finder-Suzanne-Palmer-ebook/dp/B07FC7KWLB/   ...amid a cluster of such habitats, cobbled together from junk right alongside real space stations built with class and money.  She built an economy for these people that would make sense to any reader of Heinlein's novels, and expanded the old profession of "Repo Man" to repossess spaceships instead of just cars.

Yes, you can buy a spaceship on credit, and if you don't pay up, your space ship will be gone -- even if you are an arch-criminal running an interstellar empire of trade.  If you don't pay, the ship just turns around and goes home.  Well, it does if you don't disable or reprogram the A.I. that runs it.  If you do that - well, the owner will send Fergus Ferguson to pick it up, and he has the secret password.  That will work, if only he can get close enough.

Not every professional repossessor could or would tackle the job, considering who might be upset.  But Fergus has a deep and wide acquaintance with the criminal enterprises of the galaxy. He's leery but not daunted - and he needs the money.

Things don't go quite as he expects when he arrives among the connected habitats.  The locals are embroiled in some political issues that leave him stranded and at the mercy of -- a woman.

As noted in Reviews 49, Bucking the System
https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/12/reviews-49-bucking-system.htmlis what we do, and what we love to read about.   In FINDER, Suzanne Palmer flings Fergus into the arms of the Vahn women - who own and live in one of the habitats in space.  They are all clones and just mind their own business until the system bucks them.  The system will be sorry. Trust me on that.

Fergus starts out thinking he's just a loner by nature. His story is about how he comes to a new opinion on his own nature.  The plot is about how this backwater cluster of human habitats deals with First Contact with apparently hostile Aliens.

Note, this is Book 1 in the Finder Chronicles. Fergus doesn't always repossess items from defaulting purchasers.  He has been s thief and a con artist, and uses those abilities to solve problems.  One problem looming is the new species of Aliens, and there are more adventures in store.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Who Sells Your Phone Number ... And Inaccurate And Defamatory Info About You?

When was the last time you "DuckDucked" your own phone number? (Apologies to Duck Duck Go, but I cannot bring myself to type "goed".)

I was prompted to conduct internet searches of my phone number mid-week, after receiving a number of very early morning phone calls from expectant people in Canada who seemed to think that I'd called them.
Who benefits from that sort of mischief?

Deja vu?

This happened --and I blogged about it-- only a few weeks ago. This time, I got more curious than usual. My phone number is listed on one "Who Called?" type website as "Suspicious" (alas), but so far, there are no complaints from humans.

In no particular order, here's what I discovered:
usaprofilepages.com had my phone number and altogether too much information about me, but in the footer there is a link called "Delete My Identity" and it works.

WhoEasy.com did not make it easy to opt out, and I spent some time poking around on that site but an email to support@whoeasy.com resulted in prompt manual removal.

peoplebyname.com had an online process.  I think. I remember calling one site that tells the world that I cohabit with three impossibly ancient gentlemen with uncommon Biblical names.

findoutwhocalledme.com is a "beenverified" site is highly inaccurate and has probably destroyed a lot of romances judging by all the ladies who write glowing reviews claiming to have discovered that their (probably innocent) lover is married or living a double life.

They claim that they will remove a listing if you email removephonenumber@yeah.net

But they don't. Beenverified claims that it will remove your info. You can call 888-579-5910 and a robot will provide instructions for opting out via beenverified.com/optout. However, this only works if you have one name, and one home.

They will not permit you to delete your info if you have a second home or timeshare.

areacode-Lookup lets you opt out online.

www.callersmart.com is a tricky site and not worth your time. They appear to require you to open an account in order to opt out, and also require you to give them far more information than they already have, which you --by virtue of using their site-- authorize them to use. Moreover, if you are foolish enough to link up using a phone, they will scrape your address book and annoy all your friends.

The solution is to email feedback@callersmart.com and a seemingly live and polite person will manually remove your info.

Spokeo.com has an opt out form on their site.
Then there is zabasearch, intellius, and radaris.

I left radaris alone because they had scraped so much information about my writing career and writing awards (I think scraped from a long-abandoned social media site) that I was overwhelmed with pleasant nostalgia.

As for the phone calls, I cottoned on by the second call, but the Privacy and Cyber Security Update legal blog by the impressive international team at Skadden gave me insights into what's probably behind the international annoyance.  Equifax!

Lexology link

Original link

Impressive cast of experts

Thanks to the sloppy people at Equifax, everyone should search their own names, dates of birth (always provide a memorable fib on social media sites), addresses, phone numbers, passwords (oh dear!!!), email addresses, driver's licenses, and credit card numbers.

Even if you freeze your credit and subscribe to various bank, credit card, and commercial "locking" services, you are not safe from telephone annoyance.

As for piracy, and nothing to do with abuse of telephone numbers, Bookza is back as "Zlibrary" with fake blurb about how they respect creators and intellectual property. If you send them a DMCA notice to support@bookmail.org a robot will reply promptly to assure you that your books have been removed. Here's the kicker, if you revisit the page, it may tell you that the legal owner has removed the link, but they provide would-be book thieves with a link to where the work can be found on a TOR site.

It's almost as bad as the internet search engine that most transparently removed piratical links, only to display them --still negotiable-- on a virtue signalling page of their own.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Caring About Things Is Cool

In 2005, country singer Jo Dee Messina musically proclaimed, "My Give-a-Damn's Busted." (I still wince at typing that phrase outside of fictional dialogue, even though it's been eighty years since Rhett Butler shocked audiences by speaking it in the final scene of GONE WITH THE WIND.) At a point when current events may tempt many of us to embrace that attitude, Kameron Hurley meditates in her latest LOCUS column on the value of caring about people and causes:

The Power of Giving a Damn

She once believed "it wasn’t cool to care too much about things. Caring about something too hard made you vulnerable. Weak." She attributes this feeling partly to "American cinema and storytelling, much of it geared toward portraying the rugged masculine ideal of the loner hero whose dedication is not to individual humans, but to himself. His world was littered with backstabbing femme fatales and best friends who betrayed him, and the worst parts of humanity were always on display. Don’t care too much about things, these loner-hero stories seemed to say; people will let you down, and humans are just a few steps away from destroying themselves."

This description of the American "loner hero" archetype doesn't sound quite plausible to me. Isn't the classic film image of the solitary, wandering hero more often that of a man who stands alone against injustice, eschewing personal ties to move on to the next town when his task in this place is done? That's the paradigm of the lone gunslinger upon which Stephen King models Roland in the Dark Tower saga (with more complex layers, of course). Or do I have a skewed idea of that figure because I haven't viewed more recent media incarnations of him? (Considering the two examples Hurley offers are FIGHT CLUB and AMERICAN PSYCHO—hardly icons of heroism to be emulated, from what I've read about them—she seems to veer away from her stated emphasis on the lone hero.) She recalls, "I was big on apocalypse movies as a kid, because they advanced this libertarian fantasy that each of us was fully equipped to live a long and productive loner life as long as we kept people away from us."

As an adult, she came to realize the "lie of self-sufficiency." Nobody survives, much less thrives, without depending on the social network, physical infrastructure, and material technology provided by the generations that came before us and the people who work to build and maintain those things. When Thoreau retreated to the woods to live by Walden Pond, he took manufactured tools with him. Even a hermit on a deserted island relies on the products of society; Robinson Crusoe couldn't have gotten far without items he salvaged from the shipwreck. (A gruesome short story by Stephen King imagines the probable fate of a man stuck on a barren island with nothing but his clothes and carry-on bag. The protagonist amputates his own limbs and eats them raw, killing the pain with illegal drugs he happens to be transporting.) In more realistic post-apocalyptic fiction than the type Hurley admired in her teens, the people who survive to rebuild society are those who band together for mutual support.

Discovering, "We are all connected," Hurley summarizes, "I’ve found that it’s not weak­ness to care about others, or to care about a cause. The true weakness is when we are too afraid to care about anything at all." As romance writers, we create worlds in which caring is of central importance and love conquers. That seems like a worthwhile message to promote anytime—especially in the grim times.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Reviews 49 - Bucking the System

Reviews 49
Bucking the System
Cry Pilot + Sequel

Defiance squared - no, cubed - is the essential quality of a) a Romance Heroine, and b) a science fiction Hero of any species.

Here's the thing about both Romance and Science Fiction readers. We are very aware of how we differ from the majority, while at the same time feeling close kinship with that majority.

You will find the "me against the system" plot arc in long series (C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner novels, etc) and in stand alone novels, or series kick-off novels.  The Science Fiction Hero is out to change the world, whether he/she knows it or not.

In the Mysteries of Pacing series (part 7 lists previous parts)
https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/11/mysteries-of-pacing-part-7-art-of.htmlwe've looked at "how" a writer can form and mold raw material (the "I've got an idea!" flash of the complete life of a Character) into a linear sequence of Events (plot) and Lessons (story) that tickles the curiosity bump of a specific "majority."

Here is a kickoff novel with long series potential by Joel Dane titled CRY PILOT, with the sequel BURN CYCLE that I haven't read yet.

Book 1

Book 2

The title doesn't seem to make sense.  One "cries" out for a Corpsman when  a soldier is wounded.  But that's not what this "cry" means.

Science Fiction fans love a mystery, so a confusing title has a solid place among science fiction novels -- unlike other genres.

So we have to look closer at this oddly titled novel, and right off we are lured into the mindset of a guy determined to outsmart the system he was born embedded into.  Aha, my kind of novel!

With a carefully light brush, Joel Dane fills in the intricate and complex world building he's done to create the main Character's goal.

Maseo Kaytu is the odd name that also rivets the attention, a main character determined to survive a mission billed by the system as a suicide mission.  Some "Cry Pilots" do survive the flying of these fearsome but old and decrepit weapons platforms.

The current "system" doesn't still know how to build such flying platforms, and just barely knows how to repair them. Resources to do such repairs are scarce, and the enemy they fly against is rapidly destroying these machines.

They are A.I. equipped machines, but will not fly a mission without a human "pilot" (even though the pilot doesn't do much, other than die from G-stress maneuvers.)

The enemy is the Earth itself, seething with bio-engineered, fearsome weapons left over from a doomsday war.  Currently, the cobbled together system of government has fielded a counter-bio-engineered weapon designed to "heal" the whole Earth -- and it has made significant progress.  Humanity is fighting for time.

Into this system, Maseo Kaytu flings his defiance.  He is a criminal with the ambition to earn his way out of the sewer of the system.  But there is a lot going on that he doesn't know about.  Achieving his immediate goals leads him into a wider battle, and embeds him among a team of equally oddball individuals who just might have a chance - if they work together - of being part of the solution, not the problem.

So you see, this is a novel to read for the plot.  But as Maseo's array of acquaintances grows, you will find him focusing on a few women, (one in particular with psi talent) and finding how Relationship is the key ingredient in a winning team effort.

This novel is science fiction in the grand manner, but uses all the modern science you could ask for.  It isn't Romance, but has a nascent love story embedded in the plot.

It is a page turner, and well worth a studious read.  Think hard, and you will find that to make this series a Romance, you only need to start later in Maseo's life, and trim some scenes to make room for more private adventures.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Of Letters, Lies, And Legacies

Among the movies showing free this long, holiday weekend is "Can You Forgive Me?" based on the true story of an author who became a forger of dead celebrities' private letters.

Lee Israel is said to have believed that her forgeries were the best work of her life. The greatest mistake of her life (perhaps apart from misspelling "arse"), may have been in not accepting a bribe.

This is a fascinating read:

On the topic of lies, I was reminded of a song by Greenslade that I have always like very much for a particular line that I probably should not quote, because songs have so few lines that it is easy to infringe the songwriter's copyright by accident.  The line is about untruth in journalism.

I believe this link will take you to "Newsworth" and Greenslade or their estates will be inadequately compensated, but compensated somewhat.

Sequeing to estates and estate planning...legal bloggers Joseph B Doll and Michael J. Kearney, writing for Cole Schotz PC, discuss what happens when a bitcoin investor dies unexpectedly, without making sure his or her or their loved ones have the cyber key and passwords to unlock his/her/their digital property.

Or, for the original:

One can also lose invaluable photographs and other intangible delights if they are locked up in Facebook or Drop Box or a proprietary "cloud".

For Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP,  Joshua Boughton discusses digital assets with a focus on the inheritance dilemmas of British persons.

Harking back to copyright and private letters, legal blogger Ken Moon, writing for AJ Park examines the case for copyright infringement when a newspaper publishes substantial portions of a living celebrity's private and personal letter.

It's all food for thought concerning the enduring value of letters, especially for authors and creators. One might also give some thought to the preservation (or not) of text messages and emails... and unpublished works.

One might also consider leaving instructions in one's Will concerning social media accounts, ancestry-related social media accounts, health and fitness logging accounts.

At least it wasn't Amazon that acquired the ability to track your heart rate and daily steps and swings of the arms via a device that you paid to purchase, not to mention the details you uploaded to the site to record your water consumption by the glass, your dietary choices, your weight and more!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it today!

This will be the first Thanksgiving weekend since sometime in the 1990s when we won't be attending Chessiecon (formerly Darkover). That's because it went on hiatus this year while preparing to move to a different hotel in 2020 (still in the Baltimore area). I'll be sorry to miss it this weekend. On the plus side, we'll get to participate in the first Sunday of Advent at our church, which usually conflicts with the con. There's always an Advent-wreath-making session, which we enjoyed when our sons were little.

Here's a page with some background and interesting facts about Advent:

Advent Explained

It explores the way customs surrounding Advent, like those associated with Christmas, have been embraced by large numbers of Americans who aren't religiously observant. Clever marketing has expanded the family fun of the season in directions I hadn't heard of before. For quite a few years we and our kids opened daily windows on Advent calendars to reveal pieces of chocolate candy. We also had one that told the story of Dickens' CHRISTMAS CAROL day by day. Many calendars, though, follow unusual themes or dispense other kinds of treats. A FROZEN Disney Advent calendar should be expected, I guess. But how about a Star Wars LEGO Advent calendar? And for adults—designer nail polish? Whiskey?

These phenomena aren't too surprising, considering the millions of Americans who celebrate holidays such as Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, etc., without reference to their religious roots.

Thanksgiving, in a way, is the ideal holiday for a secular, multi-cultural society. Almost everyone can enjoy a feast and be grateful to somebody for something. Surely when we venture out beyond this planet, we'll take a similar festive occasion with us.

Best wishes!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Mysteries of Pacing Part 7 - Art of Persuasion

Mysteries of Pacing
Part 7
Art of Persuasion
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous entries in the Mysteries of Pacing series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3 - where we discussed the TV Series Outlander

Part 4 Story Pacing

Part 5 How Fast Can A Character Arc?

Part 6 - How to Change a Character's Mind

As previously noted in this series, each genre has its own preferred pacing. When an editor calls for "fast pacing" it is relative to the genre in question, not an absolute measure.

We have previously defined "action" as "rate of change of situation."

Pacing is more than action.  Pacing is more than "what happens next," or how few words come between what is happening now and what happens next.  What "happens" is plot.  Pacing includes the plot's links to the story.

We use the term "story" for the Character's internal conflict progressing to a resolution, and the word "plot" for the Events the Character's actions and decisions cause to hurtle toward a resolution of the external conflict.

Terminology varies across texts on writing craft, but all writers and editors (even marketers) search for and identify these two elements, plot and story, in any piece of fiction.

Pacing Mysteries lie in the interlinkages between plot and story, in what the Character wants but doesn't have, what the Character does to topple the dominoes of his life and start the plot rolling, and what the Character learns from the events caused by that toppling.

This interlinkage effect is why there is so much confusion about Plot and Story, and why they are used interchangeably as if they refer to the same thing.  The truth is, they are the same thing -- a LIFE in FLUX.

Both plot and story are integral parts of your THEME, and the world you build to showcase your story is constructed on your THEME.  Theme is what you want to say about the form, shape, and dynamic change, of the relationship between Plot and Story.

How a Soul interacts with Reality, and what to do to cause which result, and why even bother trying, are the warp and woof, the very substance of the relationship between Plot and Story.

The Plot is "the story of this life."  The meaning of this Character's life is the story, and that story fuels the plot (because people do things to make their life go as they prefer).

Take for example, finding your Soul Mate.  How do you do that?  How do you choose what to do to make that discovery happen?

What actions lead to finding your Soul Mate reveals something so fundamental about the structure of the universe that science hasn't dug down to it yet.

A Soul is a spiritual concept, and so far science can't even determine if such a thing exists, never mind what it is and how it interacts with reality.

From time immemorial humans have KNOWN all about Soul and the Meaning of Life.

Science investigates these questions, refutes Ancient Wisdom for decades, and eventually comes around to confirming at least the general idea if not the details.

Right now, science is in hot pursuit of how the brain works.  We looked at a scientific study of the brain which reveals little or no difference in the areas of the brain activated during sexual arousal in men and women.


But people, being people (your main audience) already know, without doubt, that men and women respond differently to different cues in flirting, foreplay, and hot flying.

There are many other things people know, without doubt, that science disagrees with.  Yet at the same time, Ancient Wisdom and some classic writings, agree with your audience's position on the matter.

One stable opinion that lasts generation after generation, derived from personal observation, is how very stubborn people are about their opinions and ideas.

People do change their minds -- people can be persuaded.  A whole math based science has arisen around methods of changing the behavior of large groups of people.  It's called Public Relations (PR) and we've discussed it under many topics here.  It is how we change minds about who to vote for, or what breakfast is most healthy.


Everyone knows it's expensive to launch a product (or book) because of how long it takes and how many times a person has to see a message from apparently different sources before it will be accepted as true.

Novel readers work the same way. They will accept that a Character has plausible reason to change behavior or opinion (the great pivot to "I love you!") if there are enough iterations of the message that finally "gets through" during the novel.

There is an ancient science called Rhetoric that was developed to persuade people on a logical level.  But you can't reach the "Happily Ever After" ending and make readers believe it is possible if a Character is convinced they have found their Soul Mate only on a logical level.

On the other hand, without a logical level, there is no conviction either.

You need both the emotional and logical levels in the Main Character to finally come match each other, to say the same thing to the Soul.  That moment, when mind and emotion come to the same conclusion for the first time, is the resolution of the Internal Conflict, and thus the end of the Story.  The Plot should end on the same page.

Here is an article indicating how observation of human behavior has fairly well penetrated the fog and revealed exactly how life works.


Your readers know all this, whether they've read this article or not, so use that knowledge to convince them your Characters are real people -- because your Characters succumb to persuasion just like real people do.

Reviews of a novel will complain of cardboard characters or thin plotting - but the actual problem from the writer's point of view is that the story is not related to the plot in a form, method, or manner that the reader can recognize as real.  Pacing is all about revealing, explaining and arguing for your worldbuilding element that delineates the relationship between people and their lives.  "What does she see in him?"  "What does he see in her?"  "What did she do to deserve this?"  "What did he do to deserve meeting her?"

The answers to those questions have to be derived consistently, precisely, and absolutely from the Theme in order to convince readers to suspend disbelief and enter your fantasy world, take a spin in your flying saucer.

And don't forget con-artists do this all the time, artfully.  A con artist Character makes a great foil for a Hero.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, November 24, 2019

What's In A ... Face?

Much ado about...  faces is my takeaway from this week's legal (and copyleft activist) blogs. Not that "faces" equate to nothing. Far from it. And there's a lot of  facial violation going on.

Facebook is doing it. Amazon is doing it. Bad actors in the advertising world are doing it. EFF would like you to worry, and they may be correct (but never right!).

Electronic Freedom Foundation policy analyst Matthew Guariglia highlights how bad Amazon's Ring is, especially for passers-by whose faces are caught up by a Ring-using household's surveillance device and shared for all time with the police without their knowledge or consent and without a warrant or probable --or improbable-- cause.

Nathan Sheard, also writing for the EFF,  has a follow up, calling for an About Face protest.

Legal blogger Sean C. Griffin, writing for Dykema-Gossett PLLC, discusses a class action lawsuit against Facebook's facial recognition technology, which matches up faces in their database with unidentified faces in uploaded photographs, and suggests "tags" to link the photograph to the person allegedly identified by Facebook as being in the photograph.

The question is, does a person need a concrete injury in order to sue Facebook?

Perhaps eventually, Facebook will misidentify someone in the background of an uploaded photo of what turns out to be a crime scene, and then the proverbial cat will be among the pigeons.

Meanwhile, the British grocery chain Tesco got itself into hot water when it relied on a Getty image license for a photograph of a celebrity.

Hallam Whitehead, writing for Virtuoso Legal, discusses the issues at stake when commercial use (as in advertising) is made of a celebrity's face without her knowledge or permission.

Authors who want a celebrity on their cover art need to obtain a model release from the model in addition to a copyright license from the photographer.

There have been advertising campaigns that have tried to "get around" the problem of a perfect but reluctant celebrity by using lookalikes.

Legal blogger Barry M. Benjamin, for Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton LLP lays out  the issue of "false endorsements" and what can be done about it.



Also, author Po Yi, blogging for Manatt Phelps and Phillips LLP describes what Sandra Bullock and Ellen DeGeneres are doing to fight the pernicious problem of  "Celebrity Endorsement Theft".


This may not seem like it would affect us, but if we were to come across a photograph of a major influencer reading a paper copy of one of our books, a temptation would arise, wouldn't it?  Get permission!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

PS. For our European readers, please check your caches. The authors of this blog do not intentionally track you, but Amazon, Facebook, Google and many others do so.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Good Art, Problematic Creators

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column discusses the renaming of the John W. Campbell Award. We might also mention (although Doctorow doesn't) other similar controversies recently arising in the SF/fantasy world, such as the renaming of the Tiptree Award and the retiring of the H. P. Lovecraft bust as a trophy for the World Fantasy Award.

Campbell Was a Fascist

A panel at a recent Chessicon (which I participated in) addressed the quandary of how to deal with the works of an author whose personal life and/or beliefs violate our contemporary norms. Do the creator's flaws as a human being negate the value of his or her art? One all-too-recent example outside the realm of literature whom we discussed was Bill Cosby. If not aware of his real-life transgressions, wouldn't we still consider his comedy and TV programs worthwhile? And what about the other actors, innocent of wrongdoing, who suffer when reruns of those programs are made unavailable? Similarly, when a certain deceased editor is credibly accused of immoral conduct, would it make sense to boycott volumes edited by that person when the editor isn't alive to suffer, but innocent authors whose stories appear in those volumes are?

I recently heard a podcast reacting against (as I understood the part I heard) a movement to demote Paul Gauguin from the artistic canon because, as shown by his behavior in Tahiti, he was a pedophile and a racist. Should we deal with problematic authors, artists, filmmakers, actors, etc., differently depending on whether they're alive or dead, and if the latter, how long ago? It's understandable that a reader (viewer, etc.) may not want to give his or her money to living creators guilty of reprehensible behavior or known to hold beliefs the reader considers repellent. In cases of long-dead authors and artists, they're unable to either benefit or suffer from audience response to their works. What about recently deceased objectionable creators? Some audience members may object to giving money to such people's estates, but why? More often than not, the heirs are probably innocent of the dead person's offenses.

Concerning creators who lived so long ago that nobody now alive can be harmed or benefited by our treatment of their works, I see no problem with separating the art from the artist. The former can be great even if the latter was a terrible person. Of course, any individual or group has the right to boycott an artist's work as a form of principled protest. Moreover, the issue of actively honoring a problematic creator by naming an award after him or her is a different, more complicated question. In general, however, it seems to me that if we rejected the work of all artists who were flawed or immoral, we wouldn't have much of a canon left.

Doctorow puts it this way:

"Life is not a ledger. Your sins can’t be paid off through good deeds. Your good deeds are not cancelled by your sins. Your sins and your good deeds live alongside one another. They coexist in superposition."

Likewise, the sins of creators who are or were deplorable human beings coexist alongside their accomplishments as artists. Neither cancels out the other.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 10 Does It Matter If Arousal Is Gender Specific?

Worldbuilding From Reality
Part 10
Does It Matter If Arousal Is Gender Specific? 

Previous parts in the Worldbuilding From Reality series:


When building a fictional world that an audience will find "immersive," stealing a few bits from Reality -- the shared reality among members of that audience, and your own reality - is the easiest way to go

So looking at old cliche aphorisms and sayings can be very productive.

  • "The way to a man's heart is through is stomach."

  • "Seeing is believing."

  • "Love at first sight."  

  • "His eyes are bigger than his stomach."

  • "Flattery will get you everywhere."  

For centuries, mothers have been teaching daughters that the way to "get" a man is to present yourself with whatever "appearance" (style, manner, dress, speech, hip-sway walk) was currently deemed proper-but-hot by the extant culture, and social circle.

In other words, if you want the part, dress the part.

Clothing, hairdo, perfume, matching shoes, makeup (even if you're too young to need it), walking with a book on your head, speaking only when spoken to, diction, modulating voice, sitting with knees together, crossing legs at a slant, precisely correct undergarments (used to be corsets pulled tight), are all necessary, all things taught in "finishing school" to give the impression you are a woman who "knows her place."

Oh, boy, has the world changed.

Good grief, has nothing really changed?  

Today, sexy-long-hair worn loose -- a style from 60 years ago -- is back, but this time with short, tight, shrink-wrap dresses cut down to here!

The pants suit has given way to body-clinging skirts and dresses of stretch fabrics that really do what people tried to do with thin-knit wool.

All this fussing (expensive fussing with hair, dye, makeup, premium diet food, gym memberships) to present a vibrantly feminine appearance.

All of this is based on the oldest old-saw, that males are turned on by VISUAL CUES.  They will follow their eyes.

But women are different.  Women want something else (which has not been adequately defined.  Admiration, attention, protection of strength, a good provider, praise, exclusivity?  Women differ from each other, and change throughout life.

In science fiction world building, we take ONE (and only one) settled, irrefutable, well proven, widely accepted fact about reality and challenge it.

Science fiction is a busman's holiday for scientists.  It is entertainment for the adventurous thinker who is entertained by intellectual stretching.

So we have the suspension of disbelief - which is easy if there is one and only one thing to not disbelieve.  If the writer lards on a whole series of randomly selected premises, the systematic thinkers in the audience will just leave - drop the book in the trash, bad-mouth it to colleagues.

If the writer focuses tightly on refuting one, and only one, known fact, then builds a world where that single element differs from the audience's reality, and pursues that difference to a rigorous, logical conclusion, then the Stephen Hawkins's of this world will devour that novel and talk about it loudly.

We have discussed targeting a readership in great detail:


When discussing screenwriting, and the how-to books in the SAVE THE CAT! series by Blake Snyder, we discussed "High Concept" storytelling.

The "concept" is the core of the pitch a writer uses - one sentence, one paragraph, the elevator pitch - to sell a project to a publisher.  And the publicist uses a different description of the same work to sell it to the prospective audience.

The Concept is a topic of interest to a segment of humanity, stated in terms that are comprehensible to that segment.

We are currently (and once again) wrestling with the entire concept of I.Q. - of intelligence -- or just of what is it that defines what we recognize in each other as a difference.

We all can enter a room full of people and instantly recognize if we belong there, if "they" will accept us, or if there's any reason to accept them.

We see, know, and recognize differences, and act on that inner knowledge.

More than a century ago, the concept I.Q. - a mathematically measurable trait to define that "difference," - was invented to make it easy to tag people objectively.

It didn't work. It doesn't work. But very clearly there is promise that something science can measure WILL eventually work.  We have pursued genetics and now neurological brain studies, and all sorts of spiritual and scientific paths of investigation .

Bottom line -- we are clueless!

Nevertheless, we persist.  This means here is an area where fiction can inspire new generations to innovate, create new options that can change everything - for real.

Here is one graphic that turned up to my attention on Quora, on one of the many threads about I.Q., that I keep pondering from a world building perspective.


We discussed this one previously:

Notice how FEW people have very high or very low IQ. Low IQ people, the below 70 segment, are likely not going to be reading text novels.  The high IQ segment, over 130, will likely spend their reading time (and they read VERY fast) focusing on their technical area of expertise, or kicked back watching football.

The segment between 90 and 120 is the biggest segment of the readership and just where you'll find an audience for mixed-genre such as Science Fiction Romance, Paranormal Romance.

Notice it's 100 (the average) to 110 who learn from written materials.

Those are an important segment of book-buyers, and many will buy Romance novels.

This segment of readers will buy novels that address topics where they'd like to learn something -- Historical Romance, Science Fiction, that have real world facts, but challenge one (AND ONLY ONE) of those facts to generate a world and a story that makes them think, re-evaluate reality.

These are the people who enjoy imagining.

Such novels are not "High Concept."

What Hollywood means by High Concept is a story springboard that is familiar and attractive, easily understandable by the vast majority of humanity.

Ideas that excite I.Q. 120 and above will not be comprehensible to I.Q. 90 and below.  So they are low concept -- you can't spend a fortune making such a film and get your investment back on opening weekend.

However, most anything an IQ 90 audience can get their teeth into will be comprehensible, and sometimes even entertaining, to I. Q. 120 and above, if it has enough action, innuendo, and gosh-wow special effects.

"High Concept" means a broader audience, which requires an appeal to both high and low I.Q. because no matter what, humans come in that bell-curve spread of abilities.

Concept is almost entirely involved with world building -- the setting, the rules, the Character Relationships not too complex, and the humor.

I. Q. and that bell curve distribution by social and job outcome includes (theoretically) both men and women.  These days, one assumes it is a jumble of "all genders."  In fact, today the very concept of "gender" is finally being explored in depth.

Science Fiction has long explored the flippant way humans just toss off facts about gender.

More than 50 years ago, after it became known that some animals shift gender, Ursula LeGuin won both the Hugo and Nebula for The Left Hand of Darkness
featuring people who shift gender, and the emotional impact of that shifting.

And now science is exploring exactly how some animals shift gender:


Before I read Left Hand of Darkness, I took a page from some of the even older science fiction works exploring gender to create a tri-sexual species for some of my Characters in my Star Trek fanfic work, Kraith.


I used some of those concepts in my two novels, Molt Brother

and City of a Million Legends.



One of the world building premises of my Sime~Gen novels is that when humans split into Sime and Gen, the difference between Sime and Gen far eclipses the male-female difference which still remains but is important only some of the time.

Gender, per se, has long been a topic of interest to science fiction readers because of the mysteries about sexuality left to be explored with science.  And it is one of the science topics that I. Q. 90 and below can fully grasp.  Therefore "sex sells" -- or gender based science fiction (e.g. science fiction romance) is high concept, and sells big time.

So recently, science has been addressing what science fiction long ago proposed as a key topic -- is there a difference between men and women?

From the point of view of an Alien from Outer Space, there might be no perceptible difference.  Humans come in so many sizes, shapes, and colors that gender simply gets lost in the mosaic.

From the point of view of a human, and most of your readers are probably somewhat human, gender matters, big time.

Science, however, may be edging up to the conclusion that gender doesn't matter.

Here is a study of human brain activity (which may or may not actually be true) indicating that the male and female brains exhibit little if any difference when becoming sexually aroused.


We are more alike than we are different.

A science fiction romance writer should be pondering the next scientific discovery, the next big data deep dive analysis that will reveal what we've known all along -- or refute it -- that men respond more strongly to visual cues than women do.

Both men and women enjoy the sight of a potential mate in full feather.  No doubt about that.  But maybe social constructs, cultural myths made real, have conditioned us to exaggerating the male response to the sight of an eligible female?

Maybe the sight of a well-dressed, polished female does not render a male helplessly aroused?  Maybe boys are raised (thus have brain circuitry configured) to assume they are helpless and so, during the teen years, do not develop selectivity.

Therefore, men used to blame their behavior on women - because of how the women dress.  Many still do, but there is cultural blow-back against this notion.  The whole "sexual harassment in the workplace" issue is based on the idea that men are NOT helpless if they glimpse a tightly-dressed female behind.

There was a time when showing a bit of ankle, even clad in high-laced boots, was a sexual come-on before which the male was utterly helpless.

For most of human history, humans didn't wear very much in the way of clothing.  The naked body is not, per se, a sexual invitation.  The entire concept of "modest dress" depends on being able to dress at all.

Yet once clothing options became available, the choice of what to wear when in the sight of whom became a code for sexual availability.

By Biblical Times, there were already exacting standards of "modesty," of ways of saying, "I am not available to you."

Biblically derived cultures insist on men and women dressing modestly (i.e. as not-available) in public.

They all have different ideas of why we should dress modestly, and vastly different codes of what constitutes modesty, all of which shift drastically through the centuries.

Even today, women cover their hair to indicate un-availability.  One excuse for this is that a woman's hair is sexually arousing.  But men's hair is identical when allowed to grow.

In Star Trek, Roddenberry adopted the then-extant code of having unavailable women wear their long hair bound up, but down and loose when they wanted to be available.

In every era (so far) people have blamed intrinsic, unalterable, inexorable male response for the dress codes they have imposed on women.

Only now, science has shown there is no such thing.

Men are not more visually aroused than women.  The brain patterns and responses just don't show a distinct difference.

So the imposition of dress codes (on men or on women) are clearly artificial, and thus subject to choice.

Your current potential audience is part of the current sweeping alteration in dress coding for availability.

How, where and when does a human signal sexual availability?

How do humans learn to choose when to become aroused, and when not to?

Just as it is possible for a woman to learn not to cry (military training imposes this by force), likewise it is possible for a male human to learn not to be aroused by female clothing, hair, exposed skin, even cleavage.

But what do you have to put a boy through so that the resulting man will have full command of that choice?  Today, wouldn't that count as child abuse?

So the scientific facts, what the general public believes about the scientific facts of gender, and the cultural norms all matter when you build a world around themes derived from gender specific responses to stimuli.

How much is culture, how much is choice, how much is real?  Does sexual arousal render humans morally unanswerable for the consequences of their actions?  Where does Soul fit into physiological responses?

Is there such a thing as irresistible temptation? Or is there only human stupidity?  Note that IQ graph page - higher I. Q. humans seem to be better at foreseeing consequences.

Here's another I. Q. article to ponder:

Higher I. Q. seems to protect from death.  (note how it's the exception that proves the rule)

Clearly, this I. Q. measurement thing is onto something -- what that something might be is clearly unclear!  This is the gray area science fiction romance was invented to explore.  Romance (Neptune Transit) suspends the ability to make realistic, practical decisions, using I. Q.  Smart people and intelligence-challenged people all together, all experience this Romance effect.  Romance is High Concept - comprehensible to all I.Q. segments - but according to this Swedish study, a slender portion of humanity has a better chance at long life.

Romance is the Happily Ever After genre -- but according to that article, I. Q. does not correlate to Happiness.  At least, not for humans.

In Romance, not all your characters have to be ultra-smart, but in science fiction, you need some really smart Characters for the scientists to identify with.

Build your world around gender, challenge one (and only one) premise we take for granted about gender, sexuality and the relationship between them, and write a High Concept, Mass Market Best Seller that can become the basis of a TV Series (the streaming market is huge and growing, as noted here:)


In Science Fiction Romance, you can invent Aliens whose culture is rooted in how "happiness" is in fact correlated with I. Q. (whatever that is for them).

So maybe your Alien is hired as a tutor for a Human who needs to learn to choose when to be aroused by the sight of an enticing female?  Only it turns out the enticing female is the Soul Mate of the Alien?

Hoo-boy, the world is about to change!  So apparently it will matter if arousal is gender specific.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg