Thursday, February 28, 2019

When It Will Change

In the March-April 2019 issue of FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, an article by Jerry Oltion discusses what effect the confirmed discovery of extraterrestrial life would have on the people of Earth. His provocative answer in "E.T. Shmee-T" is "not much." Astronomers seeking evidence of life on other solar planets or around distant stars assume that if we knew we weren't alone in the universe, the "effect on human society" would be "profound." The knowledge would either humble us, inspire us, or (according to Stephen Hawking) possibly destroy us. Oltion thinks the majority of the population would simply continue their daily lives with, at most, mild interest in the discovery.

He points out, citing numerous examples (many of them new to me), that throughout most of human history, many people have believed the moon and planets to be inhabited. In 1795, astronomer William Herschel even proposed that the sun was inhabited. These beliefs had no practical effect on the life of the average person. As Oltion acknowledges, one reason why nobody cared about life on other worlds was that we had no way of reaching them. However, he doesn't think most people's lives and attitudes would change even if aliens landed on Earth, an opinion I disagree with. Granted, people's day-to-day activities would probably go on much the same as always, at least at first. But I think the long-term effects would permeate and alter our culture. As for long-distance communication proving the existence of aliens, the impact on our culture would depend on what kinds of information we received. Alien technology could significantly change life as we know it even if we're never able to meet the aliens face-to-face. What about religion? Oltion thinks the predicted philosophical and religious upheaval wouldn't materialize. If the aliens turned out to look humanoid, missionaries might try to convert them—and how would that be different, except in scale, from the missionary ventures of our own history?

The March 2019 issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, coincidentally, leads with an article on the current search for extraterrestrial life. According to an estimate cited in the article, based on the data gathered by the Kepler space telescope, our galaxy should contain about 25 billion planets in the "habitable zone"—worlds where life as we know it could evolve. SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is only one of many routes to the goal of finding alien life. The next generation of telescopes may have the power to search for visual traces of chlorophyll. Spectrometer analysis may detect free oxygen in a planet's atmosphere. SETI, of course, concentrates on analyzing radio waves for signs of artificially created signals. We inhabit a big universe, as the article points out; the fact that SETI hasn't found any such signs yet doesn't mean there's nothing to find. In 2015 an investor named Yuri Milner established the Breakthrough Initiatives, an organization committed to the search for alien civilizations and extra-solar life in general, to the tune of at least 200 million dollars.

Surely if these quests were successful, the public reaction and the impact on society and culture would vary depending on the form the revelation took. There are big differences among finding evidence of extraterrestrial life, discovering signs of sapient extra-solar beings with an advanced civilization, and having firsthand contact with alien visitors. Judging from the experiences of pre-industrial Earth societies during early contacts with Europeans, wouldn't the physical advent of aliens on our planet have a "profound" effect? In support of Oltion's position, however, we do have "All Seated on the Ground," a typically witty Connie Willis novella in which aliens arrive on Earth but make no attempt to communicate their purpose, don't respond to human overtures, and basically don't do anything interesting. After a while, the public and the news media get bored with the aliens, and only scientists trying to study them continue to pay much attention to them. Read this story if you possibly can, by the way; the narrator, a journalist who's on the commission for tenuous reasons not clear even to herself, discovers how to break through the visitors' apparent indifference. It's in Willis's collection A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. Great fun!

Oltion is skeptical of the likelihood of intelligent life on other planets, on the premise of the Fermi paradox, the "Where is everybody?" question. If a civilization capable of interstellar travel exists, wouldn't they have visited us or at least come within our detection range by now? This argument doesn't convince me. I can easily think of several plausible reasons why we wouldn't have been contacted by such a civilization, the most obvious being that it hasn't yet had time, or possibly sufficient motivation, to reach our cosmic neighborhood on the outskirts of the Milky Way.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What Exactly Is Editing - Part VIII - Non-human Words

What Exactly Is Editing
Non-human Words 

Previous parts of the series on what Editing is and why it is done at all, why Editors seem to be (but aren't) "gatekeepers" preventing good writing from being published, and how to deal with an Editor doing the editor's job are indexed here:

This entry is about a choice that Indy Writers, self-publishers, or small ebook publishers have to make, and why they make it. 

How do you present speech from a non-human language? 

Leah Charifson started a discussion on this age-old point on the Sahaj Group on Facebook in 2018.

I've discussed the Star Trek fanzine series, SAHAJ which was created by Leah under the pen name Leslye Lilker many years ago, and has been a favorite of generations of readers.

Sahaj is the son of Spock and a Vulcan Ambassador with ulterior motives who eventually gets a very Vulcan comeuppance -- and now the Series is following Sahaj into adulthood.

The scenes of the newer work take place across planets and deep inside Vulcan -- and Spock's ancestral home.  Many Vulcan (and other alien languages) words have to be casually incorporated into the stories.

To make the narrative flow, a writer often has to choose whether this "word" is to be italicized, or not.  The choice when writing under contract for a publishing house, is often not the writer's to make, so even professional writers with many Mass Market novels on the shelves, ponder this knotty question in depth.

The general rule for writing in English is to italicize foreign words (French, Spanish, German, etc.).  This is a pretty firm grammatical rule of ancient times (like before Microsoft Word).

But times are changing. 

Decades ago, I decided (while writing Sime~Gen(R) Novels [yes, Sime~Gen is a REGISTERED TRADEMARK]) that I was writing my novels not in English but in Simelan -- and so the few Simelan words that couldn't translate into English (for readers) were in plain text, but capitalized when appropriating an English word to describe a Sime (mutant human) experience.

One such example is the word, Kill.  When used as a verb, it generally just means what it would mean in any English sentence.  But when referencing the special meaning, unique to Simes, it is capitalized - but not italics.  Italics could then be added to the Kill word for emphasize or worded-thoughts not spoken aloud.

The vocabulary list grew, and is still growing as new novels in the Sime~Gen Series are published.

Here is a short list with spoken audio files

Once readers "acquired" (as a baby learns speech) the Simelan word from context and usage, fans started using them in daily speech, baffling some but getting away with invective that just would not be acceptable in mixed company.

So in effect the non-italicized words became English "borrowings" -- which is how French words have become just plain English.

Because we now have word processors and desktop publishers with many fancy fonts -- and generally, even mass market books are not hand-typeset any more, but made from the electronic files, we are free to go WILD with all the fancy and illegible fonts we can acquire.

Here's the big problem -- long known by the biggest publishers. 


Currently, Jean Lorrah, Mary Lou Mendum, and I are re-writing three of Mary Lou's Sime~Gen fanzine novels about her characters, Den and Rital, for professional publication as part of the Series main historical line.  Comparing her original fanzine stories to the final professional product should give many fanzine writers a good idea of how to sell fannish writer to the wider market.

Here is Book One in her Sime~Gen Trilogy:

Mary Lou's fanzine novels used (and we tried to preserve and re-create) many fancy fonts to illustrate slogans painted on signs carried by protestors. 

Wildside Press nixed the fancy fonts -- not because their publisher program lacks them, but because readers in general don't like them.  Wildside is run by people who have decades experience in Manhattan Publishing.  Despite the fact that Sime~Gen fans (who already love the published novels) love the fancy fonts in Mary Lou's fanfic, Wildside decreed no fancy fonts -- maybe BOLD or ALL CAPS, but all the same font-face.

So with my few examples of how a page looks with the limited number of fonts Blogger allows all scrambled together -- you should "see" the publisher's point.

Now this is a decision specific to Sime~Gen -- which has lots and lots of italicized words, worded thoughts, and titles, and other unavoidable protocols.  But in general, it is still the rule that readers don't want the eye distracted.

So, we are still using the Capitalization of English Words that have been redefined to designate Simelan vocabulary. 

From a writer's perspective, either method is arduous.  The proofing is nightmarish.  So the best choice is "less is more" -- use as little italics or even capitalization as possible, just enough to evoke the alien speech rhythm and different way of thinking.

If the choice is up to you, and not a style-sheet from your publisher, italicize worded thoughts, ship names, dream passages, and try to evoke alien thinking without making up unpronounceable words.  The fewer Alien Language words you use, the more striking, memorable and evocative they will be.  Use Alien only where there is no English equivalent.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Lesson On Procrastination

Blogging friends, if you plan to travel, and it is a stormy time of year, pre-write that blog and schedule it. That way, even if there are internet and other connectivity outages, you will not disappoint.

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, February 21, 2019


I recently read an article about college students confined to their homes by medical issues (e.g., a pregnant woman on enforced bed rest) "attending" classes by means of telepresence robots. Here's a page explaining what these devices are and how they work:

What Telepresence Robots Can Do

Actually, these aren't true robots as I understand the term. They have no autonomy of any kind; they're moved by the user through remote control. The "robot" is a mobile device that allows the operator to see, hear, speak, and be seen in a remote location such as a classroom, hospital (telemedicine), or business meeting. It consists of a "computer, tablet, or smartphone-controlled robot which includes a video-camera, screen, speakers and microphones so that people interacting with the robot can view and hear its operator and the operator can simultaneously view what the robot is 'looking' at and 'hearing'." In other words, judging from the pictures, it's a computer screen rolling around on a mobile platform. Thus the user can relate to people at a distance almost as if he or she were in the room with them.

Telepresence reminds me of "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," by James Tiptree, Jr., except that Tiptree's story portrays a much darker vision. Beautiful androids without functional brains are grown in vitro for the explicit purpose of becoming celebrities, essentially famous for being famous, to encourage the public to buy the products of these media stars' commercial sponsors. Unknown to their fans, these constructs are mindless automata remotely operated by human controllers whose brains are linked to the androids. The girl of the title, born with a condition that makes her physically feeble as well as ugly (by conventional social standards), is one such operator. A young man falls in love with the android, thinking she's a real woman under some kind of mind control, and breaks into the booth occupied by the operator. The encounter doesn't end well for her. It's a grim, desperately sad story.

Fortunately, the telepresence robots now in use have no "uncanny valley" similarity to human beings, much less the capacity to pass for live people. So the exact situation imagined in Tiptree's story—with its dark implications regarding the objectification of women, the performance of gender roles, the valuation of outward appearance over personality and intelligence, the devaluing of people born less than perfect—won't materialize in our society anytime soon. If thoroughly human-seeming androids did become available, though, might some people with severe disabilities voluntarily choose to present themselves to the outside world through such proxies? That possibility could hold both promise and hazards for the individuals involved (not to mention the class divide between those who could afford an android proxy and those who wanted one but couldn't afford it).

In THE SHIP WHO SEARCHED, by Mercedes Lackey (one of the novels spun off from Anne McCaffrey's THE SHIP WHO SANG), the woman who acts as the "brain" of a brain ship, controlling all its functions and experiencing the environment through its sensor array from inside her permanently sealed shell, purchases a lifelike android for the purpose of direct, physical interaction with her "brawn" (her physically "normal" male partner). Unlike the dysfunctional situation in Tiptree's story, in THE SHIP WHO SEARCHED the man is fully aware of his partner's status, celebrates her gifts, and has fallen in love with her as a person despite the impossibility of physical contact. As with most technology, telepresence will doubtless have positive or negative impacts depending on how individuals use and relate to it.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Perils of Posting Photos... Even of Yourself

The copyright of a photograph belongs to the photographer.
Photographed persons have the right of publicity (which means that their images are not free for advertisers to use to promote services or products.)

For authors, this might mean that a selfie is the best possible photo for the back matter.

Legal bloggers Linda A. Goldstein and Amy Ralph Mudge, posting  for Baker & Hostetler LLP discuss yet another celebrity being sued for adorning her social media pages with photographs of herself without the permission of the person who took the lovely shots.

There might have been a time, early in self-publishing, when author-convention-goers might have been tempted to snap a photo of a cover model, and later to use that photo on a book cover. Models' rights and photographers' rights are much better protected these days.

Might this mean that copyright infringers face double trouble if they use an author's portrait to promote pirated ebooks?

On the topic of models' rights, Rick Kurnit blogging for Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC last week discussed the case of Cozzens v. Davejoe Re and models' Lanham Act claims in addition to their allegedly violated rights of publicity because a company made permissionless use of six ladies' likenesses on a Facebook page.

The Lanham Act concerns false advertising.  If a photograph suggests to the audience that the model, actress (or author) endorses or participates with the service or product being offered, that is false advertising and triple damages and attorneys fees may be awarded to the wronged beautiful person.

And then, there is the Australian defamation case that really could break the internet if it succeeds. Michael Bradley, writing for the Marque Lawyers takes a position on how likely it is that "news" sits and social media platforms could be held liable for defamatory, user-generated comments.

Why is it that tech companies can set up highly profitable fora, but have no duty to monitor them?  On the other hand, it is good to remember that individual users who generate comments can be sued for defamation... at least in Australia.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Theodora Goss's Fairy Tales

Fantasy author Theodora Goss has just released a new collection of stories and poems that retell and reflect on fairy tales, SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT (with an introduction by Jane Yolen).

On her blog, Goss discusses the importance of fairy tales:

Writing Fairy Tales

Fairy tales, she says, "tell us fundamental truths about the world," which we "don't get from other places." Their darkness and irrationality reflect children's experience of a large, mysterious world. The traditional stories also reflect the adolescent experience of exploring the mysteries of the opposite sex. "All marriages are to animal brides and bridegrooms. . . . You are as strange and unknowable to your spouse as a swan bride, a bear groom."

The first piece in SNOW WHITE LEARNS WITCHCRAFT, the poem for which the book is titled, speaks in the voice of an aged, widowed Snow White musing on what she should do with her life now that she's liberated from the strictures of being "the fairest" and consort of the king. When women grow "old and useless," she decides, they should "Become witches. It's the only role you get to write yourself."

Similarly, all these poems and stories question "What if. . .?" or "What comes next. . .?" They make the familiar tales new and strange by switching viewpoints from "hero" to "villain" or changing time and/or place to a different milieu. To mention only a few: For instance, the poem "The Ogress Queen" offers the perspective of the prince's cannibalistic mother from the second part of "Sleeping Beauty," the follow-up that never seems to get into children's books and movies. "The Rose in Twelve Petals" explores "Sleeping Beauty" from a variety of viewpoints, including that of the witch who casts the "curse"; beginning in what appears to be a nineteenth-century setting, it concludes a century later, when the "prince" breaks through the thorn hedge on a bulldozer instead of a horse. The poem "The Clever Serving Maid" reflects on the exchange of identities between the princess / goose girl and her maid from the viewpoint of the maid, who doesn't want to marry a prince anyway. In "The Other Thea," the heroine has to visit the castle of Mother Night in the Other Country to reunite with her lost shadow. The poem "Goldilocks and the Bear" portrays Goldilocks and the young bear as childhood friends who grow up to get married, while "Sleeping with Bears," a comedy-of-manners story, features a wedding between a human girl and the scion of a wealthy bear family. In the poem "The Gold-Spinner," the miller's daughter, who actually spun straw into gold on her own, makes up the tale of a strange little man to get out of marrying the king. In the story "Red as Blood and White as Bone," set in an imaginary central European country in the first half of the twentieth century, the narrator, an orphaned kitchen-maid in a nobleman's castle, befriends a strange woman she believes—under the influence of fairy tales—to be a princess in disguise. The "princess" turns out to be something quite different but equally mysterious, on a mission that doesn't involve marrying the prince. A witch tells the heroine of "Seven Shoes" that she will get what she wants after wearing through seven pairs of shoes; the poem follows her through successive stages of her life to the point where, having worn out many types of shoes, she attains her dream of becoming a writer. (That one moved me to tears.)

In this blog post, Goss explores the value of fantasy and why she was drawn to reading and writing it:

The Horns of Elfland

She says she "read books about imaginary countries to belong somewhere," a yearning most fantasy devotees can probably identify with. As for stories "about magic happening in our world," they offer the promise "that our real world had the possibility of magic in it." I love her observation that writers, like witches, "cast spells"—"both witchcraft and writing are about using language to alter reality."

What is your favorite fairy tale? Mine is just about any version of "Beauty and the Beast." All its variants nourish my appetite for Intimate Adventure relationships between human and Other.

Speaking of romance, happy Valentine's Day!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Theme-Character Integration Part 16 - Building a Hero Character From Theme

Theme-Character Integration Part 16
Building a Hero Character From Theme
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous Parts in the discussion of skills necessary for integrating Theme and Character into one, flowing, indivisible, continuous idea stream, are indexed here:

The posts titled Integration focus on doing two, three or even four things at once, so interpenetrating that even literary scholars can't tell there are several separate skills in use.

Attaining this level of integration in your story-thinking requires not just writing that proverbial million words, but thinking about the Events of the day, news events, personal developments, overheard in the elevator snatches, reactions to others being promoted around you, -- everything, moment to moment.

One way of knowing you ARE a writer before you've ever written an essay, never mind a story, is simply that you observe your world and create the missing pieces behind what you see.  Some people do this as young children, others learn even in their twenties.  It is how you amuse yourself.

You can always tell a person is a fiction writer because they are never bored, and never idle.  Sitting in the Mall people watching, stuck in a dentist's waiting room, trudging down the side of the road to get gas for the car that just stopped, -- anywhere and everywhere, the writer probes the people and situations for "Who" snd "Why."

"Who" is the Character for a story -- an artificial person composed of at least three conflicting attributes.  The Character's "story" is about how that specific individual resolves that impossible 3-way Conflict within.  The Plots of the Character's life-story (series of novels) are generated by the World (outside reality) reacting to the Character's efforts to resolve the Internal Conflict.

The Internal and External Conflicts are United by Theme.

In real life, the nested Russian Dolls motif manifests, not just in the lives of obscure individuals, but on and on, bigger and bigger until you come to the old adage, "People Get The Government They Deserve."

Or you study Primate Behavior on the Ph.D. level, and you see how humans default to the Primate Tribal structure in everything we do, including boss and bully each other around.

Part 15 of this series on Theme-Character Integration is about Bullies, and how to formulate a Bully Character:

Ordinarily, one would think that the "Hero" is never a Bully -- that a "Bully" can not morph into a Hero.

Let's use the definition of Bully that pinpoints the behavior of intimidating or hitting someone weaker.  The Bully picks on weaker Characters -- psychology says -- because there's less risk of getting hurt (emotionally or physically).  In other words, the Bully shuns risk.  This behavior has been identified among Primates of all sorts -- other animals, too.

THEME: Bullies Are Necessary For Tribal Survival

The argument might move along the lines of how the weaker, injured, malformed at birth, elderly, are a burden on the Tribe's Resources and thus must be eliminated.  It has also been recorded that in some species the elderly or injured go off to die alone, without being forcibly rejected.

The counter argument in the Conflict would then focus on the Character Flaw that makes a Bully --- cowardice.

THEME: Heroes Are Necessary For Tribal Survival

What, exactly, is a Hero?

Bravery is often derided as stupidity -- and mostly, Hero type Characters will wade in where Angels fear to tread and die fighting.

A Novel Series could make the thematic case for the Hero being a creature who should be ashamed to show his face in public, and would never be chosen as a Mate.

I played with that idea as the basis Value System of an Alien Species the two novels, HERO and BORDER DISPUTE.

Those two books, now in one Kindle volume, were published in Mass Market (my first to be directly distributed in supermarkets), and are now posted in Kindle Unlimited and ebook.

Heroism is even more fascinating than bullying as a human behavior, and the attitude of the rest of the population (the population under the "norm" of the curve)  Both Heroism and Bullying are fringe behaviors.

But the most fascinating aspect is how the "ordinary" folks (usually under the "norm" of the distribution curve) become Heroes in extraordinary circumstances, and in such circumstances tend to survive more often than those who practice Heroism as a way of life from the early teens.

In other words, the person who "rises to the occasion" and performs Heroically, is more likely to survive to tell the tale, while the habitual-hero is more likely to be labeled a braggart for telling his tale or a stupid fool for getting himself killed with ill-considered action.

The difference lies in the Values espoused by the Tribe.  The Tribe's Values form the bare bones of the Theme from which you form the Main Character.

Oddly, a Bully may be regarded as a Hero for covering up his cowardice.

An ordinary person may become a Hero by being the only one of the Tribe who acts to resolve an Emergency.

It's one of the oldest campfire stories, The Hero's Journey -- Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars film, who thinks of himself as just another farm boy responds to the destruction of all the certainties in his life by taking action based on the rural-values and skillsets he perfected down on the farm.

THEME: You, Too, Can Conquer Any Challenge

These Hero Characters are just YOU (the reader/viewer) in some extraordinary (for your life) circumstance.  YOU CAN DO IT TO.  That's a theme that always resonates.

THEME: Love Conquers All

You can do it, too.  If you truly love, you can conquer.

What does it mean to "conquer?"

Conquering means vanquishing, putting some challenge or obstacle behind you, and facing smooth sailing ahead (Happily Ever After.)

The Hero Character is (unlike the Bully) never calculating the odds.

Read some self-help books on successful businessmen.  Most all of those books point our that successful people never consider what will happen if they fail.  The trick to being successful in business (which us Primates have structured as inter-Tribal warfare; or football) is to keep your eye on the goal and never "look down."

Brian Boytano, the Olympic Gold Medal figure skater in 1988, is an example (one among many) who explains in training for the Olympics, he kept visualizing himself on the medalist platform with the anthem playing.  It is an old technique, but is re-invented by many each generation -- visualize success, never let the inner eye waver from that goal.

The Hero thinks like that, inside the mind, but usually (for the ordinary person who rises to an occasion, maybe once in a lifetime) the Hero doesn't talk like that.

The Hero is not "self-effacing" or "modest," just uninterested in himself.

The Hero can't imagine that anyone else would be interested in what he's thinking.

The Bully, on the other hand, is just as focused on his/her goal, just as driven, just as ruthless, but defines success differently than the Hero.

The difference between Hero and Bully is about attitude toward personal risk.

The Hero and the Bully both manage risk, but to different ends.

The Hero doesn't worry about "risk" in the sense of visualizing or feeling how Failure would be.  The Hero calculates risk, and assumes some loss, some pain, will occur -- lost money or lost blood -- there will be losses.  Just minimize them, take the damage and move on toward the goal.

The Bully focuses on the pain of loss, tries so hard to avoid any loss at all that avoidance becomes the goal.  With that psychology of avoidance of a consequence, the Bully can never experience Winning.  Emotionally dead to the experience of life, the Bully can feel peak emotion only when inflicting the pain of loss upon another.

This contrast between Hero and Bully is an oversimplified description of complex and common attitudes.  For real humans, not fictional Characters, both the Hero and Bully psychology co-exist, intermingle, and often cause behavior (both good and bad) by their interaction.  (Mixed motives are common.)

For the sake of Building a Hero Character out of Theme, we have to simplify life into a statement.  That's how Fiction reveals truths that are stranger than Reality -- distill out a threat, an element, a component of "life" and showcase that Truth against black velvet with a single, pure white light sparkling off it.

Fiction is an art that uses emotion as its pigments and a carefully "staged" reality as the backdrop.  I suspect the reader/viewer supplies the light, which is why no two readers read the same book.  The book the writer wrote is not the book the reader reads -- because the Characters and Events are "seen in a different light."

Consider how the envelope THEME of Romance Genre is "Love Conquers All."  The THEME for your novel, to be Romance of any sub-genre, Paranormal or Science Fiction, has to be a sub-set of "Love Conquers All."

We all know and love dozens (if not hundreds) of novels using the THEME "Love Can Conquer A Hero."  Almost all the "Get Spock" sub-genre of STAR TREK fanfic is about how love conquers Spock.

Whatever the opposing force in conflict with the Main Characters - Love has to Conquer that force.

Which brings us to Worldbuilding.  To make an intangible like "Love" into a force to be reckoned with in everyday Reality, you must build a World where the physics, math and chemistry are designed (from the speed of light on up) for a human emotion to interact with manifest events.

THEME: Souls Are Real

So therefore Soul Mates can exist, meet, fight, recognize and merge to create new life.  If Souls aren't real, then that process can't happen.

So if souls aren't real, something ELSE is going on -- because we all know of the Great Loves that have moved History.

"What else is going on instead of the reality of Souls?" is the "light" in which the reader sees the story.

The reason "Happily Ever After" is so routinely scoffed at is simply that the reader is seeing the Romance story of Love (a tangible force) Conquering anything, "in the wrong light."

Creating your Hero Character (male and female) to be visible to the non-Romance fan Reader/Viewer in a light that reveals the reality of Souls means creating a Hero Character these readers are accustomed to becoming.

Remember, above we thought about the purpose of the fictional Hero as a vehicle to convince a reader, "You Can Do It, Too."

Literary critics call that "Identifying" with the Main Character.  "That Character Is Me."

Then the reader experiences the story as if it were real.

We call that, "A Good Read."

If you want to deliver "a good read" to the fans of the novel series we looked at in Reviews 45 and Reviews 46

- Military Science Fiction and Private Eye Detective fiction (both closely related fields to Romance), you need a Hero just like the main characters in those novels.

Those are the Characters the anti-Romance readers identify with.

So I recommended reading some of those novels, studying what makes them work, and how what's missing from those novels (Romance; though there's plenty of sex, plenty of hooking up) attracts a specific readership.

That is your virgin readership -- hit it off with that readership and double the sales of Romance Genre.

Those novels are set in Worlds crafted such that Souls Are Not Real.

Love is important, but life without Love (just with sex) is actually very livable and plenty rewarding enough --- and the theme of which these Action/Adventure Worlds are built is:

THEME: You Can Do It, Too

Even if your real life is a complete shambles, divorced, fired, penniless, rock-bottom, You Could Be A Hero If Only ...

We mentioned the long-running TV Series, NCIS, a few times, and the Hero Gibbs (widower, multiple divorces, current casual relationships, living only for his job).  The Star, the Main Character, hasn't 't "got a life."  And the team members he keeps on staff don't have lives, either.  They have hobbies and side-hustles (like writing novels), but they have no Love.  They have plenty of Emotion, and Bonding, but no actual Love as we mean it in Romance -- the Love that Conquers.

Captain Kirk, of Star Trek fame, likewise -- and Spock.

These screen Hero Lead Male Characters often "get the girl" but they are empty husks.  They may have some "buttons" (things that make them mad, or sad), and they may have some buried Angst just for decoration, but they are deliberately designed by the Producers of these shows to be cyphers.

These are empty-shell Characters any viewer (sometimes male or female) can pour themselves into and BECOME long enough to experience success at something.

The empty-husk Hunk is a requirement for TV Series because it widens the audience.

By the time in the story-arc where enough is known about the Character that he is not an "empty husk," the viewership drops off and the show is cancelled.  There are too many in the audience who don't find the Character interesting.

In other words, in formulating your Hero Character from your Theme, be sure that you know what makes that Character's Soul strive to live, but the less of that the reader knows, the wider your readership.

Television Characters (and best selling novel Characters) are built around a theme:

THEME: No Human Is Significantly Different From Any Other Human.

In other words, people are all alike.  Or in historical or time travel novels, human nature never changes.

A sub-theme might be, "All Humans Are Empty Husks" -- or "Everyone Is A Failure; some are just better at hiding it."

Study the main Characters in the Military and PI fiction I have been highlighting in the Reviews posts.  They won't seem realistic or real to anyone who perceives the World as inhabited by Soul Mates.  Figure out what the difference is between a World these action Characters are native to and a World potential Soul Mate Characters are native to.

That difference is your Theme.  It is of the form: "Souls Don't Matter."  Or maybe: "Not Every Human Has A Soul."  Or possibly, "A Person Can Seem Normal But Barely Have Connection To Soul."

Using what you've learned of Story Arc and Character Arc, start your Main Character at a point where his life is like the NCIS Hero, Gibbs, or like Dev Haskell Private Investigator.

Then change some parameters, the certainties of his/her existence, as in the opening movie in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker loses everything, including the Identity he thought he had.

Cast your Empty Husk Character loose into a continuum where Love is real, tangible, and clearly affects Events (not just character motives, but what seems to be Luck, or random Events).

Be extra sure not to let the reader know even 10% of what you know about that Character - keep him Empty and lure the reader into becoming that Character.  Fill your Empty Husk with details that show-don't-tell how this Character is just like your reader -- and therefore, your reader can flow along on the Character's journey to repossess his Soul, cleve to his Soul Mate, and create a full, rich, colorful and individualized life.

In other words, to convince the fans of Destroyermen Novels that they, too, can bond with their Soul Mate and celebrate the uniqueness of every individual human, take them on a Hero's Journey from where they are now to where you envision we could all be.

The more detail you add to your Empty Husk Character beyond the requisite Three Main Traits to create a Character, the more distant he becomes from your reader.  By the point where you reveal your Character's Soul to the Reader, the array of traits you have revealed is vast, and define's your Character's essential uniqueness.

THEME: All Humans Are Unique

THEME: All Humans Are Alike

What is "the truth?"

Is it that no two Souls are alike, and therefore the signature of Love in this reality is the uniqueness of human individuals?

We breed dogs to conform personality and talents to a breed's recipe.  We have retrievers who play fetch, and Pit Bulls that defend territory, sheep dogs that herd.  Can you breed humans like that?  Have we done such breeding without knowing it?

Maybe you have a Character who succeeds by applying the adage: All Humans Are Alike  -- and you pit that Character against another whose whole life is founded on artistic fascination with human uniqueness.  Can they be Soul Mates?

Would they have to resolve this disagreement, prove once and for all that no two humans are alike (or no human differs in any way that matters)?  What experiment, bet, etc. would settle the argument?  Having children together?  Adopting and raising children together, apart, with other partners?

A secret experiment raising isolated groups of human children in environments designed to determine if they are "all the same" or "each unique" and what environmental forces "cause" conformity or divergence.  What happens when the experiment is discovered?  How is it discovered (a child escapes?).  What if all the children were embryos created from the two experimenters' DNA?  What if they were all clones, with identical DNA (we can't do identical copies yet, so it's really Science FICTION.)

Would the identical children find Soul Mates among themselves?

Could Souls "Walk In" to such cyphers?

Is there a war among disembodied Souls for "possession" of certain humans?

Are all Souls either "in" or "out" of body?  Or, are there intermediate states of habitation -- partially in or out? 

Answer those questions and generate whole lists of themes from which to fabricate your Worlds and Hero Characters.

Remember, the general reader can't accept the Happily Ever After ending as realistic -- but being unique humans, those readers each has a different reason for not accepting what seems obvious to us.  These are often the very readers who will either insist that all humans are alike (and any ordinary person can be a Hero given the right circumstances), or they will insist the Soul Mate concept is nonsense.

Is Soul real?  Does Soul make a difference in the real world?

The answers to those questions are Themes.  Each answer can be used to generate Characters who are Heroes or Bullies -- and pit them against each other.

The end of the novel, the Happily Ever After, requires the two Soul Mates each, individually, arrive at answers that satisfy them, as individuals -- not answers that are cosmically correct.

If you, the writer, have done your job well, the skeptical reader will experience the Characters' sense of satisfaction vicariously.  That experience could be the opening which will allow in the notion that Love does indeed, and in reality, Conquer All.

You know you've delivered that emotional wallop when you cry your eyes out writing the last few paragraphs.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Don't Read Aloud

Why would you spend your own money to purchase and install a listening device in your home that the government can use against you, and that you cannot turn off?

If you are an author, and you have a listening device in your home, be careful what you read aloud. A government listener might not understand that you are reading a work of fiction.

For that matter, an artificial intelligence device that is purposed to analyse your voice and extrapolate your mood and frame of mind and whether you are vulnerable to a sales pitch for catheters, chocolates or condoms --or live ammunition-- might bombard you with targeted advertisements.

It's not illegal to identify someone who might be suckered into binge shopping.
Your mood is not protected by privacy laws.

What if Alexa gets it wrong (for instance, if you are reading aloud the darkest moments of a fictional heroine) and Alexa tells the government that you are suicidal and a danger to yourself and to society?  You might not get that gun permit.  You might suddenly find that the local pharmacy will not allow you to fill a strong pain prescription for your sick parent.

Belle Lin writing for The Intercept shares a lot of scary info.

This targeted advertising might be inherently problematic. Perhaps landlords could use it to make sure that their high end condo properties are only advertised to highly educated, natural blondes with Elizabeth Hurley accents.

If the bot that filters and triages your phone call to your bank or brokerage house tries to bully you into submitting to signing up for the ease and security of  "voice recognition", think twice.

Once your voice is in a database, law enforcement can get it, too. Your voiceprint can be matched with any other conversation "you" might have anywhere at all.

This week, Apple realized that some app developers were able to capture a lot more information than they ought to have had through a screen-reading app.

As Olivia Tambini explains, allegedly, there was a North American airline whose customers' passport numbers and credit card information was exposed.

Legal blogger Haim Ravia summarizes the month's top privacy news for law firm Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Baratz, touching on espionage by smartphone, whether or not law enforcement may compel suspects to use biometrics to unlock private smartphones, and that amusement parks can be successfully sued for collecting fingerprints.

The crux of the problem with collecting biometric data without permission, and perhaps of secretly recording people in their own homes is the Fifth Amendment (the American citizens' right not to incriminate oneself.)

On the other hand, anything you say when speaking to Alexa seems to count as if you are talking to Amazon, and is not protected if Amazon (as one party in the conversation) elects to reveal what you said to it.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Pregnant Males

Do you follow THE ORVILLE? This TV series begins as an affectionate parody of STAR TREK (even the uniforms look similar) but—as far as I can tell from reading about it and watching the first few episodes—gradually becomes more serious. One alien officer, who lives on board with his mate, belongs to an all-male species. In the second episode, he lays an egg, which hatches in the third episode. I'm not sure why he refuses to take a break from brooding the egg; doesn't his mate help? And what about an artificial incubator? Anyway, the baby turns out to be female, a rare abnormality in this species, for which the standard remedy is an immediate sex-change operation. The serious ramifications of this problem mesh incongruously with the premise of an all-male, oviparous species, which the writers apparently introduced in accordance with what the TV Tropes site calls "the Rule of Funny." In fact, an all-male species that reproduces by itself couldn't exist. The sex that produces ova is, by definition, female. To lay eggs, people of the species portrayed in THE ORVILLE would have to be either female (reproducing by parthenogenesis) or hermaphroditic. Members of an all-male species would have to breed with females of some closely related species (as some all-female types of fish can be fertilized by males of different but not too dissimilar species).

The vintage sitcom MORK AND MINDY gets away with the pregnant alien male motif by presenting it in a funny context with no attempt at a biological rationale. Mork not only becomes pregnant, he gives birth to a "baby" who looks like an old man and, conforming to the life cycle of Mork's species, ages backward.

Octavia Butler described her classic work "Bloodchild" as her "pregnant man story." Technically, the human men don't get pregnant, though. They serve as hosts for the eggs of the centipede-like aliens who've allowed the Terran colonists to settle on their planet. When the larvae hatch, the mother removes them from the host's body before they start to eat their way out—usually.

The TV program ALIEN NATION offers a serious portrayal of how a seahorse-like humanoid male pregnancy could work. The Newcomer aliens have three sexes, including a variant type of male who penetrates the female to catalyze her fertility in some unspecified process before the father inseminates her in the "usual" way. The embryo begins to develop in the female's uterus. Part-way through the pregnancy, the fetus is transferred (in a pool of water) from the female to the male, where it grows in a pouch on the man's abdomen. The baby comes out when the pouch splits open in the course of labor.

Here's a page of speculation about how a single-sex species (female) could work in terms of Earth biology:

Single-Sex Species

In Joanna Russ's classic story "When It Changed," members of the all-female population reproduce by combining ova from two different women.

In isogamy, displayed by some life-forms such as algae and fungi, all gametes have the same size and morphology and so can be considered of the "same sex," which can't technically be labeled either male or female:


Some Earth organisms switch reproductive methods in alternate generations between sexual and asexual reproduction (e.g., budding).

The heroine of Megan Lindholm's CLOVEN HOOVES falls in love with a satyr she thinks of as Pan. This highly unusual novel starts out as, apparently, fantasy, in which at first we can't even be sure the paranormal encounters are happening outside the heroine's mind. Eventually, however, the story becomes SF, when the satyr reveals that he belongs to an all-male species whose members reproduce by implanting clones of themselves into human women through sexual intercourse. Thus, when the heroine gives birth to her satyr baby son, he isn't biologically related to her at all.

The occasional birth of females among the alien race on THE ORVILLE suggests a possibility for the evolution of their alleged all-male species. Maybe they once reproduced alternately sexually (through ordinary mating between male and female) and asexually (by cloning). Maybe some genetic disorder caused the conception of females to cease except in rare cases. Asexual reproduction became the only remaining viable means of perpetuating the species and came to be considered the only normal way. So when the male character in that series lays an egg, he's producing a clone of himself.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Reviews 46 - The Private Eye Genre Progresses

Reviews 46
The Private Eye Genre Progresses 

Reviews have not been indexed, but you may find most of these posts by searching this blog for keyword Review.

In Reviews 45, we looked at the 14 book series, DESTROYERMEN by Taylor Anderson -- an exercise in the technology of weaponry and strategy and tactics of global warfare.  It has a few engrossing characters, and a couple of solidly developed Relationships -- but the plot has nothing much to do with who these people are or what they think about each other.  Romance fans will find little of interest, and a lot of boring wordage in huge blocks of exposition.

For that very reason, Romance writers need to study why Destroyermen is such a huge Best Seller in its genre.

Today, we'll look at a related problem for Science Fiction Romance writers -- the Private Eye, or Private Investigator (gumshoe) genre.

Military Science Fiction, and alternate Universes, time-travel Science Fiction is an all-time favorite of mine.  But I also thrill to a good Detective novel, Police Procedural, and anti-procedural (the rogue private eye who solves the crime but ruins the court case).

The Private Investigator novel hinges and two elements -- 1) the personality of the PI Character, 2) the intricate puzzle of the Mystery to be solved.

How-done-it; Who-done-it -- every subgenera or mystery is intimately related to Science Fiction in that Science is all about solving the mysteries of existence, how things work, and whether it makes a difference who you are.

Both mystery and Science Fiction are about learning something that will let you understand what is really going on.

Both mystery and Science Fiction are about posing the question in a way that will let you solve the problem, and understand what is happening.

Mystery is about "who-done-it" in that Mystery focuses on a criminal who made something strange happen, and forced the investigator to pose questions to answer.

The TV Series NCIS is an excellent example of detailed Characterization, with characters grouped into a cooperative team, an ensemble TV Series.  Netflix, CBS All Access

Which Character is the lead character for you, your MC, depends on what you think is important in life in the world.  All the Characters have ever-changing love-interests (or at least sex), but each brings a different expertise to question formulation.

For science fiction romance writers, Abby, the forensics specialist (fantasy character in that she does the work of a wide-array of different specialists), or possibly Ducky, the pathologist.

Finding out what the strange, oddball, components of the clues really are is a big part of unraveling a mystery.  Then the field people have to go talk to, interrogate, and background check the people involved, and then use Emotional Intelligence (in later episodes, Ducky becomes their profiler) to formulate questions about motives.

Watching this series is painless, breezy, and pretty mindless, as they repeat the same mysteries endlessly.  From season to season, they find ways to put each member of the team in jeopardy -- even threatened with being held to account for breaking rules.

Romance Genre is about this exact same mystery-solving process but applied to the Other -- the Love At First Sight, or the Love Hidden In Improbable Person.  Sometimes love surfaces as hate-at-first-sight, and that is a great mystery to solve.

So science, and romance, are warp and woof of the same cloth.  It is all Mystery.

Today, we have the advent of the Cozy Mystery -- revolving around ongoing, intimate relationships (which may or may not be romantic or sexual), with less blood on the floors, violence, threat to life-and-limb, and more inquisitive use of Emotional Intelligence.

To solve the mystery of how a crime was pulled off, a Private Investigator has to use tools that are a) unavailable to law enforcement, and b) available to the average reader of the genre.

In other words, the PI is the MacGyver of the Mystery Genre - the amateur who repurposes everyday tools to make things happen that the reader wants to see happen.

In Romance, the reader wants to see the Couple actually resolve their conflicts and get together as a team.

In Reviews 45, we noted how the Destroyermen novels slide through the gory details of forming improbable alliances among humans and non-humans.  This is the wish-fulfillment fantasy element used "off the nose" to help deliver the payload of WINNING to the military science fiction fan.

Then there is the PI, the Private Eye, who is a loner -- like the soldier of fortune.  Not a team player.  Not facile at forming relationships.  In the TV Series, NCIS, we have our Gunny, Gibbs-the-team-leader who does not want a promotion.  He has the knack of knowing everything, and being where he is needed -- these are the Talents of the Gunnery Sergeant in Military Science Fiction.

A Sergeant is a bright, talented, well schooled enlisted officer -- not a college grad, usually. College grads are commissioned officers.

Gibbs has been married, widowed, and multiply divorced -- he has found a spot in life that suits him fine, but still takes deep interest in women.

So to make the wide, TV audience who loves Procedurals (NCIS has to make court-cases, not just fix things as a Superhero Vigilante might), find NCIS a go-to-favorite, they had to explore and develop the Characters and play each Character for all the possible Relationships in their lives.

Likewise, to create an ongoing, long-series PI Character for a Best Selling Series, you have to take the readership into account.  A TV Series is expensive and thus has to appeal to a broader audience than a book, which is pretty cheap to publish relative to any video presentation.

One wonderful example of the narrow focus, PI Series parallel to Destroyermen, is DEV HASKELL - PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR.

The Dev Haskell series is par-boiled, not hard-boiled, PI genre.  There is a lot of physical threat, a lot of fist-beatings, shootings, injuries, blood on the floor, gangsters who play for keeps, Crime Bosses to be reckoned with, and a loner PI, Dev Haskell, who shares a hole-in-the-wall office with a down-at-the-heels lawyer.

The Characterization is colorful, but just stereotyped enough to be worth studying for genre structure.

Dev Haskell is an "anthology series" -- like Darkover or Star Trek -- which can be read in any order.  But it's more fun in published order.

It is also easy to drop into the series without having read books set previously in the timeline.

So to complete the genre study of how the Private Eye genre is converging via Cozy Mystery toward the Science Fiction Romance Genre, download (or free on KindleUnlimited) the boxed set of books 8-14 of Dev Haskell - Private Investigator by Mike Faricy

These are very short novels, each solving a mystery, but getting the PI embroiled in the underworld politics of his city.  In many ways, you will find similarities to Jim Butcher's Dresden Files Series (another favorite of mine!), keeping in mind it was briefly a TV Series, has graphic novels, comics, and many fans.

Note what dimension of reality these very best selling series leave out -- solve the mystery of why Romance is left OUT of these very best, best sellers, why the Characters bounce randomly from relationship to relationship.  It's a mystery.  Solve it.  Then write the solution as a Romance.

Do it well, find a good marketer for it, and you might found a new Genre.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Malice Actually

In a recent article for vox dot com, Constance Grady wrote that, "In book publishing, the onus for fact-checking is on the author. That creates problems."

Scandal ensued.

Compare the fact-checking problems there, with the "fact checking" issues discussed by legal bloggers
Alan L. FrielLinda A. GoldsteinAmy Ralph Mudge and Randal M. Shaheen  writing for the law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP  about Olivia de Havilland's unsuccessful complaint about a mini-series that allegedly deliberately portrayed Olivia de Havilland as the kind of person Olivia de Havilland despised and spent a professional life-time NOT being.

The problem with writing in America is that authors are legally responsible for what they write.

The problem with being written about in America is that libel laws are often trumped by the First Amendment, and would-be plaintiffs who are public figures have to be able to prove "actual malice" on the part of the author.

Those who sympathize with creators of "historical dramas", might argue that it is dramatically necessary to turn a real, living public figure into a scandal monger or whatever else advances the plot for the sake of telling the story succinctly and with as few characters as possible.

Those who have more European attitudes to respect for the feelings and reputations of historical and public figures --and historical accuracy-- might deplore authorial laziness and lack of creativity in resorting to character assassination, when they could have added a fictional villainess.

 The Kelly Warner legal blog has an eye-opener of an explanation of the United States.

Bookmark this, because different States have different statutes about libel and defamation, and Kelly Warner has links to every one of them.

Note also, not only are politicians, celebrities, authors, sports figures etc "public figures", but teachers are, too.

Kelly Warner also has a highly alarming and entertaining article explaining ACTUAL MALICE.

However, since authors also advertise, and as the Baker & Hostetler LLP lawyers point out, advertisers cannot hide behind creative license and freedom of expression if they stretch the truth when advertising.

Gonzago E. Mon, writing for Kelley Drye and Warren LLP discusses the "Dumpster Fyre of Advertising Issues";

The most important take-away for authors  from this cluster of issues may be that  social media postings --of a promotional nature-- are subject to advertising laws, so must be truthful.  And not malicious..

All the best,
Rowena Cherry