Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Targeting a Readership Part 14 - Readers Are A Moving Target

Targeting a Readership
Part 14
Readers Are A Moving Target
(but so are you)
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous posts in this series are indexed at:

Here I am stating the "obvious" -- but it is so obvious, many writers just plain miss it.

Whatever topic you are interested in, say Romance, or Finding Mr. Right, or Playing the Field, or Rebuilding Life After Divorce/widowhood, it interests you because of something inside of you.

See my series on Tarot

And see my series on Astrology

And note how over time, humans go through experiences as individuals and also, at the same time, go through experiences with their age-group, (Pluto)  and at the same time as all that, go through experiences (major and minor) that challenge or destroy or build the ability to cope.

In other words, like is about experiences. When we have time to breathe, we (because we are human) either think about what has been happening and state it as a "word problem" or we try our best to shut the chattering-brain down so we can rest.

Some people use alcohol or drugs to shut the brain down -- some use fiction, and some use "activism" (e.g. getting involved in supporting a Cause, political or social).

Writers are no different from readers.  Writers live, sometimes survive, experiences that become major questions about the meaning of life.

Such major questions, generated  by the experiences the writer has had, generate a myriad answers, each of which can become the THEME of a novel.

Themes are ANSWERS -- not just questions.  But usually themes are posed as questions.

The science and art of posing a question involves knowing the secret of questioning -- that the answer is fabricated into the question itself.

The worst experience most people have of early education is running into the buzz saw of the WORD PROBLEM.  The trick of doing the math is to figure out how to pose the question, how to state the words in numbers, and after that, it's easy arithmetic.

Wrong answers are generated by incorrect statements of the problem.

And trick word problem questions are created by the way the words lead anywhere but the correct answer.

Themes are like that.  The writer lives through (sometimes by the skin of their teeth) an experience which is blended from the writer's generational experiences (Pluto, Uranus) plus the writer's personal individuality (natal chart, houses etc.)

The generational experience, woven into the theme, gives the resulting fictional work a resonance, like a musical Key or an interior decorator's palate of colors, with a vast number of people born when the writer was born, plus or minus maybe 20 years.

The personal experience woven into the theme gives the resulting fictional work a resonance that induces readers to recognize the Characters as real people such as the people they know.  Everyone knows a "social climber" or a "boot licker" or a "own drummer" type of person, and such types are recognizable far beyond the generational boundaries.  But those close in age know people of those types who have been hammered by similar experiences.

So the Eternal Truths of a Theme, the truths that make the novel potentially a Classic that speaks to far-future generations, come from the generational experiences the writer has survived.  These experiences are cyclical - repeating every 80 years, or every 250 or so years, and so those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

The Spiritual Truths of a Theme, the truths that make the novel potentially memorable, with a high-impact on guiding a reader's life-choices (choice of college major, choice of walking out on a deadbeat husband, choice of having an abortion) come from the individualized, nuanced, personal and internal experiences the writer has survived.

Thus the most popular fiction of one generation might not "speak" to the next generation or the next, but might connect with readers a hundred years later.

So when targeting a readership, you have to blend two (often competing) streams of emotional force, the generational and the personal, and add something else, something contemporaneous, to say something relevant to the people of book-buying-reading age at the moment the novel will be published.

Publishers now have computers to sift/sort/surface information on book-buyers and what titles sell.  There might be ten manuscripts being shopped around by agents, but only one will be chosen to be promoted with Big Bucks (yes, promotion, advertising, marketing, cost enormous amounts of money).  Being chosen doesn't mean being better, wiser, or more important.  Being chosen means being more like whatever is selling now.

Analyses of what sells are very shallow.  Publishers, being in business to make a profit these days (unlike 50 years ago when they were designed to lose or break even, but do important books) focus on the numbers.

It matters what it costs to produce and deliver a book, vs how many copies can be sold at what prices.  That equation is very complex now because of ebooks, audiobook, print editions all at different discounts.

Editors choosing manuscripts look at Plot, Setting, and sometimes Character, but rarely if ever at Theme to choose a book.

That trend is changing.  Certain themes are being excluded, others emphasized in fiction publishing as machine-learning and AI begin to dig deeper into what makes a Best Seller.  But keep in mind, there's a difference between a Best Seller and a Classic.  Classics don't usually sell well off the bat.

So Targeting a Readership means Targeting an Editor who knows a lot more about the readership than you do.

See my series on what exactly the job of an editor is.

Think of it this way.  

You walk into a cocktail party, dressed to the 9's, full of news about your latest contract signing with a Big Publishing House, and just a little late.  You pick up a drink from a passing waiter and stroll into the room full of circles of people talking to each other (well, yelling by now).

You know some of the people, but not everyone, and hardly anyone recognizes you or pays you any attention.

So you drift into a circle of people having an animated discussion you can barely hear.  You listen intently, but the truth is you know nothing about the topic they are discussing, not because you're an ignoramus but because you just didn't see that New York Times Feature last Sunday.

Everyone has an opinion, and is trying to convince others.

This is your READERSHIP in symbolic microcosm.  The dynamics of selling a novel are the same as the dynamics of joining that conversation.

You might, after five minutes or so of being unable to get a word in edgewise, drift off to another group having a different discussion.

The publishing industry grinds out a steady stream of novels, trying to capture the attention of these circles of screaming, opinionated, intense and animated conversationalists.

Consider the Editors, who are your actual Readership, the first you must captivate, as the waiters at the Cocktail Party, circulating with trays of delights and noting what "everyone" is choosing.  They run back and forth to the kitchen getting more of what is being scarfed up, and less of what is just sitting there on trays.

You are in the kitchen, dispensing more of what the waiters pick up, and wondering what to do with the heaps of crates in the back room full of what nobody wants.

You have to choose from all the stuff on your catering trucks, and send out to the party what the guests are consuming.

In other words, you the writer have a million story ideas, and a lot to say about everything.  You have decades of life experience to distill into advice to those searching for a Soul Mate.  All that is in crates on your catering truck, backed up to the door of your kitchen.  You, the writer, run back and forth, selecting ingredients to grind, roll, and decorate into canap├ęs or mix into drinks.

If you're listening to the roar of the crowd, sampling the conversations in the various circles (watching Twitter and Facebook?), you guess more accurately what topic this crowd is addressing right now.

What people are talking about is usually what they are interested in.  Anyone who intrudes into a conversation trying to change the topic will be regarded as socially inept or ignored.

But just because you're talking about the same topic doesn't mean your comments will blend smoothly into the conversation, be picked up, and generate further thinking.

There is an art to conversation, and most of that art is composed of the ability to listen, and to hear what is not-being-said.

Why do you write novels?

A) Are you writing novels to reinforce what everyone thinks?

B) Are you writing novels to refute and disprove what everyone thinks, to challenge established assumptions?

C) Are you writing novels to weave a soft, pleasurable, comfortable world for your reader to escape into?

D) Or are you writing novels to lend your erudite talents in language and symbols to express the heart and soul of your Readership, to give voice to their subconscious beliefs?

Why you want to write this particular novel is the reason the Readership would want to read this novel.  That reason is stated in your theme.

The 4 Basic Readerships read novels to achieve those 4 basic objectives:

A) to relax into assuredness that the world really is what everyone thinks.

B) to articulate what's wrong with the world, state the word problem so a clear solution can be visualized.

C) to escape the rasping noise of life's experiences, to rest and heal

D) to grow spiritually by walking in another's moccasins, experiencing a different life, a harder life, but culminating in triumph.

Each of those 4 Readerships can be served by any Genre, often by all the active publishers.

Each of those 4 Readerships tends to go to different cocktail parties, or end up in different rooms of the house at a family get together (where the men are in the living room, the women in the kitchen, the kids in the yard, the teens off in a bedroom gaming).

You will likely have the best chance of success joining a conversation (getting a book published) that is about what most interests you at this point in your life.

Readerships age.

Just like the family party separating throughout the house by age group, readerships do that, too.

You have often heard, and probably experienced, "outgrowing" a particular genre, author, or setting.

People who were Star Trek fans in their teens have set the whole space-adventure-dream aside to live in their "real" worlds, or gone on to read in other fields, often non-fiction, but also Romance, Historicals, Mystery, and so on.

People "outgrow" interests when the subconscious questions raised by some Generational or Personal Life Experience have been satisfactorily articulated and a working answer implemented in their lives.

Themes are questions with proposed answers, all of which are rooted in assumptions.

Whatever is the fiery torch of absolute, riveting fascination at one point in life is the scattered embers at a later point.  It's done.  Burned out, and either answered satisfactorily or simply abandoned as unanswerable or unimportant.  The next generation will rekindle that torch, but it might become an LED instead of a Flame.

There is an art to capturing reader interest, as well as a science, but both are rooted in the writer's ability to listen, to hear what you are listening to, and to understand the subconscious resonances the speakers don't even know are in them.

What you have to say, or what you want to say, or what you MUST say, might not be what the people you are talking to want or need to hear.

Your job, as a writer, is not only to have something to say, but to find the people who want to hear it and to say it in a way that facilitates their achieving whichever of the 4 Goals of a readership those individuals are pursuing.

The upshot of all this is simple.  The adage, "There is no accounting for taste," is wrong.  Taste can be accounted for.  Mood is not random, and people are not victims of their moods.

The art of fiction writing is the art of evoking a mood, and using the nuances of emotion to cast new light on the old drudgery of life's routines.  To do that, you have to become part of the conversation, and not boorishly intrude and change the subject.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Perilous Promotions

Preamble: please be aware that Blogger places various types of cookies on any device that accesses Blogger blogs. By visiting this blog, you accept this fact of internet life.

Authors and aspiring authors are not necessarily marketing or legal experts. There's a lot to learn. For instance, swap a good review of a friendly colleague's book with a good review from your colleague for your own book and you might see reviews deleted by Amazon. Even the suspicion that you might have gamed the unsolicited review system might result in backlash.

Trusting a beginner to Tweet for you might also backfire if they damn your work or product or service with exceptionally faint praise.

Experienced legal blogger Jeff Greenbaum, writing for the law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz PC analyses the disastrous (well, not really dis-aster because misaligned stars had nothing to do with the self-inflicted damage provoked by some ill-advised Tweets) social media honesty about flying with KLM India.

Lexology link:

Original article link:

Jeff Greenbaum's social media advice should be well-taken. Authors could learn from his top 5 tips.

What else *not* to do.

There's the matter of bribery, and illegal sweepstakes and "contests" to persuade people to provide something of value to the person running the contest.  An illegal sweepstakes might be designed to induce "Likes" on a friendship-related social network, or reviews on a book-selling site, or a surge of book purchases during a specific timeframe.

There's a lot to know, and an exponential amount of legal paperwork if the prize value is in excess of $600.
The more a would-be contest organizer knows, the better the chances of staying out of trouble.

Legal blogger Philip K. Rebentisch ACP, blogging for Manhattan Advertising & Media Law Inc. offers some tried and true advice about the difference between a sweepstakes and a contest..

Lexology link:

Original link:
On the same topic, but geared towards healthcare organizations (but one can easily extrapolate), bloggers Randi Seigel and Po Yi for Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP define raffles, games of chance and games of skill and share a very good checklist (or to do list) for organizations that wish to increase outreach, brand awareness and/or raise funds.

Lexology link:

Original link:

There's also a webinar mentioned in the latter blogs, for those who have the time.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 25, 2019


There's a podcast series called Extra Sci-Fi, produced by people who also create podcasts on Extra History and Extra Mythology. All these short (usually around 10 minutes) presentations are entertaining as well as packed with information. Extra Sci-Fi, which has been exploring the history of science fiction, recently completed a sequence about dystopias and apocalypses. This is the first, from which you can follow the subsequent installments:

Extra Sci-Fi

It's interesting to view their survey of dystopian fiction over the decades and witness the changes in what kinds of dystopias and apocalypses resonate with readers as cultural conditions evolve. 1984 and BRAVE NEW WORLD are very different types of cautionary tales from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, for instance. However, it's worth noting how different 1984 and BRAVE NEW WORLD are from each other, too. Orwell's novel portrays a society that's horribly oppressive for almost everyone, with the possible exception of Inner Party members (and they're constantly watched, too). The proles seem to lead their lives in an attitude of indifference to the all-pervasive surveillance, but still those lives can't be very satisfying in a society of perpetual economic shortages. In Aldous Huxley's world, on the other hand, life is comfortable and full of pleasure. Transient problems can be easily solved by another dose of soma (a happiness drug with no negative side effects) or a fresh love affair. Everybody enjoys his or her work because they're all conditioned from conception to fit into their destined social and economic slot. The only discontented people seem to be a few of the Alphas with enough intelligence and self-awareness to realize what they're missing in this shallow lifestyle. Since "even Alphas are conditioned," though, most of them accept that it's their duty to behave "childishly" for the greater good. Only from the external viewpoint of the reader, and John the Savage as the reader's representative, does the society of BRAVE NEW WORLD appear dystopian.

Ira Levin, author of ROSEMARY'S BABY, wrote a superficially utopian novel called THIS PERFECT DAY. While not very original, it does have some points of interest. For example, the F-word in its sexual sense is commonplace, but terms referring to violence (such as "kill") are taboo. All citizens enjoy security and happiness as long as they obey the rules. Under the surface, though, this conformist society turns out to be cruelly oppressive. In this kind of world, naturally the hero is the character discontented and curious enough to probe beneath the surface and rebel against the ruling authorities' violations of human rights and dignity.

TV Tropes labels a dystopian society that looks pleasant, cheerful, and generally attractive on the surface a Crapsaccharine World:

Crapsaccharine World

The page includes BRAVE NEW WORLD and THIS PERFECT DAY as examples.

This topic came to mind for me while watching the third season of THE HANDMAID'S TALE. Like Margaret Atwood's novel, the TV series portrays the Republic of Gilead as a society that's oppressive and unpleasant for almost everyone except those who manage to reach accommodations with the roles they're forced into. Perhaps the children growing up in Gilead, if its regime lasts that long, will simply accept those roles as "normal." In the series, as opposed to the book (except in the epilogue set long after the fall of Gilead), we at least get some relief from horrors by way of the scenes set in Canada. The only people likely to be content in Gilead, the Commanders with their privileges, power, and material luxuries, still have to face competition from their peers, so they may not enjoy complete happiness either. Junior Commanders and the Guardians, one assumes, have to watch their backs all the time. The Wives, although pampered, lead very circumscribed lives, endure the monthly humiliation of the Ceremony (embracing a Handmaid while the Wife's husband ritually rapes her), and have no real power aside from their potential influence over their husbands. Presumably a Wife who becomes a mother (through the surrogate maternity of a Handmaid) may find fulfillment in her child. As for the common people, married couples have to face the lurking danger that an econo-wife who proves fertile may be forced to become a Handmaid. Then there's the threat of execution or a slow death in the Colonies as punishment for transgressions. The only women with any actual power seem to be the Aunts, who exercise control over the Handmaids and perform the vital function of midwifery.

Pioneering behaviorist B. F. Skinner wrote a book provocatively titled BEYOND FREEDOM AND DIGNITY. A society such as Huxley's in BRAVE NEW WORLD offers and generally provides happiness for all, except for the very few who still care about freedom and dignity. The world of THIS PERFECT DAY and Crapsaccharine Worlds in general seem to offer that promise of happiness, which works as long as nobody probes too deeply. Then we have the downright horrible dystopias such as 1984, THE HUNGER GAMES, and THE HANDMAID'S TALE, dooming all but the privileged few to a miserable existence. Maybe the underlying theme of all types of dystopian SF is that warped societies, including those that look pleasant on the surface, aren't good for anyone, even the apparently privileged elites.

Of course, as Cory Doctorow says in his blog on "fake news" (which I linked to recently), that kind of fiction doesn't give us predictions, but rather warnings: "If this goes on. . . . "

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Theme-Plot Integration Part 18 Stating Your Theme

Theme-Plot Integration
Part 18
Stating Your Theme
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous entries in Theme-Plot Integration are indexed at:

By the end of the first scene of your novel, preferably the end of the first page, the reader should have a grasp of your theme.

Oddly enough, though it's not discussed in books on writing, and most readers would deny it, THEME is the reason people read books all the way through, or toss them aside half-read.

THEME is what the novel, story, book (non-fiction, too) is about.

It's the topic and you need a topic-sentence on your opening page, something to frame the story so the reader can tell if they want to invest the time (and money) to read the entire thing.

What you're talking about has to be something the reader is interested in.

Writing craft instruction usually starts with "make it interesting" -- or write about something interesting -- and other phrases that seem to assume that some topics are inherently interesting and others not.

In other words, the FALLACY underlying writing craft instruction is simply that "interesting" is an objective property of topics.

We discussed various fallacies masking ultimate truths in our world in Parts 6 and 7 of this series of posts.

Fallacy is an aspect of our culture that can be exploited by fiction writers, especially Romance writers, to interest a reader in a topic, a THEME.

The theme itself doesn't have to be interesting.  In fact, all themes are interesting to the writer who is stating their own angle on a topic.

"Interesting" is not a property of theme.  All themes are equally interesting.

And in fact, a particular reader doesn't have the property "interested in" as an inherent trait of that person.

What interests a particular person at a specific moment will be whatever problem is currently between them and the satisfactions of life they crave most.

Children are always interested in how the next older age-group copes with whatever problems they are up to in life.

Adults are eternally interested in The Mating Game -- even after having solved the problem "Who Should I Marry" people are interested in where other sorts of choices might have led, and how they'd cope with those situations.

When you add science fiction to the mixture of fictional ingredients in theme, you can lead the reader from their own (boring) here and now, to a "there and then" which you can use to cast the spell of "this is interesting" over them.

What is interesting about science fiction?  It isn't where the reader is living at that time.

Life, the treadmill of work, housekeeping, kids, carpooling, school meetings, and all the drudgery that goes with it gets boring with repetition.  All that boring drudgery can become refreshingly NEW after reading a good book.

But what is a "good book?"

Is a "good" book the book you want to write?  Or is it the book the reader wants to read?  Or - is it really the UNEXPECTED?

The best writers best books are about themes that ask questions most people never think to ask, and present answers that challenge everyday assumptions about the common world of daily drudgery.

Two such series are currently being published that, while barely acknowledging Romance and only occasionally nodding to Relationship as a plot moving dynamic, nevertheless give the Science Fiction Romance writer many themes to pursue.

Pass of Fire (Destroyermen Book 14 ) by Taylor Anderson

Triumphant (Genesis Fleet, The Book 3) by Jack Campbell

These are good books, can't put it down reads, about a topic that will bore you to tears -- war.

Yet how many grand War Romances have you seen on film, usually World War II settings?  How many marvelous novels have you read which are War Romances, and how many of your favorite kick-ass-heroines are from books set in a war zone?

War is a male occupation, a fascination and inherently interesting.  Therefore, male writers, when using a war-plot, waste no words trying to convince their readers that war is interesting.

How many chapters of plot development do you build into a Romance to convince your readers that Romance is interesting?

When was the last time you asked yourself why you find Romance interesting?

What's interesting about it?  Why would anyone WANT to meet that Perfect Stranger?  What's wrong with the boy next door?  Why would anyone WANT to fall in love with the boy next door when they could adventure with a Stranger?

What do we write about that needs no explanation?

That topic is what must be explained, (e.g. used in the THEME) to non-Romance readers in order to convince them that Romance is interesting, and then to intrigue them into being interested.

None of that process is evident in either Taylor Anderson's writing or Jack Campbell's series-of-series.

I love them both, gobble them up, but fight through the flat-boring and tedious wordage that doesn't acknowledged the Relationship energy necessary to drive a war-plot.

I've discussed both these writers and their series at length - there is so very much to say about what a Romance writer can learn by studying these two exemplary series, so I'm pointing you at the latest entries.  Here are previous posts where I've discussed them:




Depicting Political Disruption From China To Today

Depicting Interstellar Commerce




Why would a writer of Science Fiction (or Paranormal) Romance need to read these books?

Surely, you've studied military tactics and weaponry issues.  If you've ever played a video game, (and won), the principles of resource conservation and weapons superiority are ingrained in you.  Tactics are second nature.

If you've ever captured a guy's attention, you've mastered the fine art of war, strategy, tactics, and that little black dress is your most potent weapon.

On your own battleground, you know what you're doing.

But what makes your battleground of interest to readers who hate Romance Genre?

Notice the phrasing of that question: "of interest to"  -- that's the key. "Interesting" is not a property of a static element in the equation.  It is something that the Artist Makes.

In graphic arts, we learn how to "lead the eye" of the viewer, and focus attention where we want it.

The same is true of writing stories -- grab the reader's attention, then lead that attention through an obstacle course to a goal which becomes more enticing with each passing page of the narrative.

The THEME hint on page 1-5 "grabs attention" and just before the final climax scene, the THEME STATED image-or-dialogue congratulates the Reader on having guessed correctly what is to be REVEALED by the nature of the ENDING.

The initial problem from page 1 (where the two forces that will conflict to generate the plot first meet) asks the question the writer thinks will intrigue the target reader for this novel.

The same story can be opened with a dozen different page-1 questions.  The artist chooses an approach angle to the story's main problem the same way a photographer chooses an angle to snap a portrait image.

It's all about composition, and that is all about what is concealed and what is revealed.

When you write out in plain language what your theme is, you are presenting that them "on the nose" -- a blatant, can't-miss-it, insistent statement that will not allow the reader to use their imagination to "fill in the blanks."

What makes War and Relationship connected lies in that blank space the reader has to fill in.

But to entice the reader into a story framed in a genre they are convinced is un-interesting, the writer has to frame the blank space so that the reader wants to know what's in that dark hole.

The most boring material in our current world is considered to be philosophy, but it is in fact the most interesting material.  And in fact, at this point in history, philosophy is the most explosive issue.

For example, a lot of people now think that Capitalism is Evil.  But just a few decades ago, Capitalism was considered the greater Good.

Capitalism is a word that's been redefined, as has Socialism.  That redefinition is possible because each of these words represents a system rooted in vast, but different, philosophical systems.

We all live in the same objective reality, but we all craft our own subjective reality from what we observe, then proceed with life assuming that what we don't see isn't there.

The writer's job as an Artist is to reveal what we are not seeing.

What we, today, are not-seeing is what we call Philosophy.

Both Jack Campbell and Taylor Anderson have created imaginary wars in which the sides are divided along the same philosophical line -- Totalitarian Vs Democracy

But each is analyzing Democracy differently, and in some instances peppering the argument with "Republic" -- or the USA hybrid a "Representative Democracy."

Taylor Anderson's alternate universe reality has peoples who are not "human" (anthropoid) but have governing philosophies based on their physiology.  At the same time, his Global War has many human factions, torn from our Earth at different points in history.  These human factions have evolved governing philosophies along different paths than our Earth has taken.

Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series pits a wide variety of governing philosophies against each other, but follows a number of evolving Relationships among exceptional individuals whose decisions reshape the course of history on his well built world.

Jack Campbell's universe is huge, and contains several Series set in interstellar war-torn landscapes.  The Genesis Fleet series focuses on an epoch of human expansion among the stars using "jump points" but ships that fight each other within Newton's laws.

Campbell's 3-D warfare tactics are Heinleinesque, and remind me also of Edward E. Smith's Lensman series.

Campbell develops the reasons why the newly settled planets far out there, barely able to conduct commerce with each other, using humanity's known history.  On Earth, we spread out, settle new areas, then fight over resources, or just territory, and very often just over control of large populations.

And that's where Campbell uses philosophy so very well.  He's drawn the newly settled planets' cultures based on  the essential philosophic dichotomy currently splitting our own real world, "Totalitarianism vs. Democracy" in various versions.

Humanity's enemy of freedom is born within us.  Given a few generations of freedom, we will breed a faction that is driven by the urge to CONTROL -- people who can't feel safe or at rest while other people make their own decisions.

Where those who need to control others gain command, war happens because they notice all these surrounding peoples who won't knuckle under.

So battle lines are drawn, alliances formed, and shooting wars held.

On Earth, now and historically, warriors battle without knowing what they are fighting for, but believing in their Cause, stated in some two-word motto.

Jack Campbell articulates what such mottos stand for, and what motivates large populations to espouse one or the other form of government.  His THEME is that people who believe in the same values are natural allies, and even lovers -- with Romance in there, and true love as well.

Campbell's Characters have Relationships which they set aside in order to go into mortal combat to protect those they love.  He has male and female warriors, equally good at personal combat, strategy and tactics, and computer hacking.

Interwoven with the action scenes, there are short dialogue scenes where the Characters articulate what they are fighting for, against, and why these ideas are important enough to die for.

For example, in The Genesis Fleet TRIUMPHANT, one of Campbell's Characters, Freya, says...


"...I think there's an important point there.  Those who have sought to impose their will on others have often done so in the name of peace and law and order, arguing that freedom must be given up to accomplish those aims.  We know that's false.  That's why we balk at giving up even a little of our freedom even when we see danger at our doors.  But perhaps we should be thinking of it as if all of us were in a fight, and standing back to back to protect each other.  We'd have given up some freedom of movement, but nothing that matters compared to knowing we can't be stabbed in the back."

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

The quote is from a discussion about forming an interplanetary alliance of freedom-loving planets to fight off encroaching totalitarians who aim to take over an entire region.

That quote is from page 119 of 327 pages in book 3 of the Genesis Fleet sub-series all set in the same universe, but about the same War.  Being an intermediate restatement of the theme, the reader doesn't get a feeling of finality but rather of progress.

The Characters are trying to figure out why they are doing what they are doing in order to figure out what the enemy is doing, in order to figure out what to do next to win this war.

But given other thematic utterances previously, the reader sees "this war" is a war against human nature, and war isn't the correct tool to win it.

Without war, though, humanity as a whole will definitely lose.

So War isn't the correct tool to solve the problem posed by War.

Later in his timeline, Campbell introduces Aliens who are playing a game of "Let's you and him fight" -- pitting these two factions of humanity against each other in order to conquer (perhaps wipe out) humanity.

The entirety of this Work of Art directly addresses the thematic issue of the role of government in species survival.

There is so much to be said on that theme that is better suited to Science Fiction Romance than to the Action Genre format Campbell is using.  But he does have his most potent Hero Characters deeply involved in committed Relationships.  Their primary motive in every act of war is protecting those Relationships.

It would be so easy to spin off a sub-series of pure Romance from this material.

I highly recommend you pay close attention to both these writers, and both these series.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Unlawful Surveillance

I have a problem with drones.

In December 2018, my holiday travel was disrupted by the Gatwick airport (London, England) drone scare, but long prior to that, when my offspring participated in rowing competitions, I was alarmed by what I perceived to be the danger of hobbyist drones out over the water which could easily have caused a crew to founder, and perhaps worse.

Of course, there is also the problem of permission. One is not supposed, under the law, to be permitted to photograph and disseminate photographs of under-age children. When under age girls are rowing, they are usually scantily clad and often wet.

I do not sunbathe nude on my secluded, enclosed flat roof... perish the thought... but it is bad enough that Google routinely photographs my private flat spaces. I do not want my neighbors in my airspace. I don't want Amazon there, either.

Here's a fascinating faculty publication by Hillary B Farber of the University of Massachusetts School of Law about the efficacy of trespass, nuisance and privacy torts as applied to drones.


Huge thunderstorm incoming. Must end.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Learning from Fake News

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS column explores what "fake news," conspiracy theories, and hoaxes can reveal about our culture:

Fake News Is an Oracle

He begins by discussing the mistaken idea that science fiction predicts the future. Instead, SF "can serve as a warning or an inspiration, influencing the actions that people take and thus the future that they choose." A second function of SF, where the analogy with fake news comes in, is to expose "our societal fears and aspirations for the future" somewhat the way a Ouija board planchette reveals the fears and desires of the users by responding to unconscious movements of their hands. As Doctorow points out, even the most innovative spec-fic creators must choose their material from an existing array of tropes that resonate with their audience. Authors write "stories about the futures they fear and rel­ish." The fiction that gets published, achieves bestseller status, and captures the imaginations of readers reflects hopes and fears dominant in the current popular culture: "The warning in the tale is a warning that resonates with our current anxieties; the tale’s inspiration thrums with our own aspirations for the future."

Similarly, a hoax, conspiracy theory, or false or deceptive news item that gets believed by enough people to make it socially significant "tells you an awful lot about the world we live in and how our fellow humans perceive that world." As an example, Doctorow analyzes the anti-vaccine movement and why its position on the alleged dangers of vaccination seems plausible to so many people. Asking what makes people vulnerable to conspiracy theories and false beliefs, he speculates, "I think it’s the trauma of living in a world where there is ample evidence that our truth-seeking exer­cises can’t be trusted." While the first step in fighting fake news is "replacing untrue statements with true ones," a deeper solution that addresses the roots of the problem is also needed.

Speaking of true and false beliefs, and harking back to the topic of my post of the week before last, I was boggled by a widely quoted comment from a certain junior congresscritter: "I think that there's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right." Say WHAT? As one article about this remark is quick to point out, using precise language and accurate facts isn't mutually exclusive with being morally right. Ideally, we should aspire to do both:


The article summarizes the attitude behind the Congresswoman's remark this way, noting that it's not exclusive to her: "My specific fact may be wrong, but the broader point I was making still holds. The problem with that thinking is that it says that the underlying facts don't matter as long as the bigger-picture argument still coheres." This attitude is said (correctly, in my opinion) to lead to a moral "slippery slope."

I would go further, though. I'd call having the correct facts one of the essential preconditions to being morally right. How can we make moral judgments if we aren't certain of the objective materials we're working with? If a speaker's statements about concrete, verifiable facts can't be trusted, should we trust that speaker's version of truth on more complex, abstract matters?

As writers, we in particular should place a high value on accuracy of language. Referring again to C. S. Lewis (as I frequently tend to do), his book THE ABOLITION OF MAN, first published way back in 1947, begins with an analysis of a couple of secondary-school English textbooks sent to him for review. From certain passages in those texts implying that all value is subjective, Lewis expands the discussion to wider philosophical issues and constructs a detailed argument in defense of the real existence of objective values, "the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are. . . . And because our approvals and disapprovals are thus recognitions of objective value or responses to an objective order, therefore emotional states can be in harmony with reason. . . or out of harmony with reason." And how can we recognize which values are "true" or "false" in this higher sense without verifiable knowledge of "the kind of thing the universe is"?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Business Model of Writers In A Changing World Part 4 - Patreon and Teaching

Business Model of Writers In A Changing World
Part 4
Patreon and Teaching 

Previous Parts in this series


https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2013/03/business-model-of-writers-in-changing.html which is about Google + which is gone, now, in 2019.


Here is a perfect website presenting and giving access to Cat Rambo, one of the most famous best selling writers in our sprawling and ever-morphing field of fiction.  Study it.  You want to be able to present yourself and your work like this. 


You know how we've discussed how to build the world up around your Characters, Plot, Story, and most of all THEME.  Details such as discussed in this course are not chosen at random or because they seem exciting ideas.  They are chosen to convey information without expository lumps.

She has her own novels, plus some books on writing craft on Amazon: 

Cat Rambo has a Patreon link on her website:  http://www.patreon.com/catrambo

I've seen more and more very famous, widely published, very versatile, long established writers joining the Patreon business model.

Patreon is an online way of allowing everyday people to become Patrons of the Arts, just like old time Aristocracy. 

By subscribing to an author's work, you not only get something from them every month, but you also get to influence the direction of the artistic field's development. 

Patreon is the professional manifestation of the oldest fanzine based fan activity. 

Study Patreon's business model and use it to leverage your zone of influence. 

I don't do a Patreon group, but if I had more time I probably would.  In fact, if I were starting my career today, I'd start with Patreon.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monday, July 15, 2019

Amazon Kindle Book Sale July 2019

July 14-July 20 The 5 Book Kindle-only Omnibus is on sale, marked down from $3.25 to 99Cents then up a little.  Individually, the books are 99c each.  

They are all free to read on KindleUnlimited

I expect to be discussing writing craft using Tarot references.  

Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Facebook Event Might Not Be The Best Venue To Organize Illegal Activities

Talking of legalities, this author would like to remind all visitors, especially those protected by vigilant European regulators, that this blog will drop cookies on your devices. When you ride the tail on the biggest dog on the internet, it is astoundingly generous in sharing its fleas.

Good device hygiene means clearing your devices' cookies, cache, and history often. You might notice CLOUDFLARE cookies.

Film maker and copyright blogger Ellen Seidler of Vox Indie has something to say about Cloudflare and the piracy it hosts and from which it profits, thanks to the inadequacies of the DMCA.


Ellen's interesting piece illustrates a copyright owner's judicious use of Search (of Whois + an alleged pirate sitename) to discover information.

In the same vein, but way more extensively, thetrichordist illustrates astounding investigative tactics to track down villains, conspiracies, downright illegal and wicked (alleged) organization of illegal activities for apparently furthering political and profitable agendas, and corruption in metaphorically high places.

Ajitation Event

It's very long, contains plentiful peregrinations (love that word!), but exposes some freakishly flexible definitions of acceptable behavior...and also the naivete of some Facebook users. 

By the way, this week Wozniak warned the world to wean themselves rapidly off that site.

Nothing to do with Facebook, piracy, conspiracy theories etc, but some light relief for science fiction story plotters, the wellness.com editor reports on a theory that a love of music is what separates humankind from simiankind.

As this blogger read that article, one remembered philosophy, literature studies, and  "the music of the spheres" ...

Meanwhile, SFWA adds its voice to that of copyrightalliance and authorsguild in urging individuals to contact their Representatives and Senators to express support for the CASE act.

SFWA members are invited to a fly in on July 18th to speak with Congress members and staff in person about the shortcomings of the DMCA and the need for a small claims process for small fry copyright owners who have had their copyrights infringed and have no remedy.

Email  LegalAffairs@sfwa.org for more info.

Authors Guild shares this link to co-sponsors in the House (possibly to be thanked and encouraged)

And this link for Senators:

Alas, this blogger's Representatives and Senators are not on the lists. One must write again. Now, dear Reader, please remember to delete cookies.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, July 11, 2019

When Publishers Fold

Recently, author Delilah Devlin hosted me on her blog, where I wrote about what to do with books and stories "orphaned" by the closing of a publisher:

Rescuing Orphaned Works

In re-releasing the fiction mentioned in this post, I had the advantage that those novels, novellas, and short stories had been thoroughly edited before their original publication. Therefore, I could have confidence that professional editors had already deemed them to be publishable. Still, I welcomed the opportunity to comb through them again. It's a rare piece of writing that gets into print with no typos, not to mention examples of minor stylistic awkwardness that need a bit of polishing. Also, one of the publishers that closed, Ellora's Cave, seemed to have an irrational aversion to commas. I'm delighted to be able to put the punctuation in those stories back where it belongs. As an English degree holder and former professional proofreader, I cringed to imagine that some readers would think I didn't know the right way to punctuate a sentence.

As you may know, the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust is publishing its final installments of the Darkover and "Sword and Sorceress" anthologies this year. I'm sure lots of other readers and writers will miss those books as much as I will. The Trust has also decided to let many earlier volumes go out of print. That was disappointing news, because I'd expected my stories in the older anthologies to remain available in perpetuity. Thanks to the Internet, e-books, and self-publishing, I was able to collect my "Sword and Sorceress" contributions in a Kindle collection. (The MZB estate gave Darkover contributors permission to reprint those out-of-print stories, too, but unfortunately I didn't realize until too late that the files were no longer on my hard drive. Luckily, Amazon has many used copies of the Darkover volumes for sale, so the books and their contents haven't faded into nonexistence.)

In addition to minor edits and corrections, another decision to face in re-issuing older works is whether to update the settings into the contemporary era. With my first vampire novel, DARK CHANGELING, I had a definite in-universe reason for the year of its action, because of when it made sense for the protagonist to have been born. Therefore, I didn't change the time period, with the result that the date of the direct sequel, CHILD OF TWILIGHT, explicitly set thirteen to fourteen years later, couldn't change either. That's one difficulty I could avoid with several of my fantasy stories; the culture of "fairy-tale realm" or "vaguely Dark Ages England" remains unaffected by advances in computer or cell-phone technology.

In a way, it's a pleasure to have control over the presentation of some of my older fiction. On the down side, a self-published author also bears the full burden of marketing and promotion. How does one stimulate fresh interest in books and stories that readers have already been exposed to in earlier releases?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 13 - Historical Verisimilude

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration 
Part 13
Historical Verisimilitude
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous parts in this advanced series are indexed at:


When writing science fiction romance, you are telling a story that develops differently from the stories the reader has seen unfolding among their real life acquaintances.

The difference is caused by one element.  The mistake many beginning writers make is the same mistake many beginning scientists make: varying more than one variable at a time.

Art is a selective recreation of reality, not reality itself.  In reality itself, many things vary at once, and nothing stays the same for long.

Science is an art form, and as such is SELECTIVE in focus.

Humans do this selective narrowing of focus in art and in architecture, mechanics, agriculture, everything we do, because our minds can't handle too many variables at once.  Even multitasking is done by cycling the selective focus rapidly between processes.

So we do this kind of narrowing in both story-reading and story-writing.

The writer "establishes" or nails down each variable at a time, usually on page 1, or at least in chapter 1, until only one thing is left to change under the impact of conflict-resolution processes.

For example, in writing a Historical -- the "setting" is nailed down as one of the first variables.  -- it is THE PAST.  How far past, what year, what era, are indicated by the details mentioned as the conflict is established.

In films, the automobiles (or carriages) by year-model or style will tell the viewer where and when this story is happening.

The writer decides WHEN and WHERE to set the story according to the THEME, and what the writer has to say about that theme.

We've discussed theme from many angles.  Here is one of the series featuring theme:


The theme is very often the solution or resolution of the conflict which generates the plot.

Once you have the theme, you can find the point in history where your theme is the resolution of a social or cultural conflict larger than the Characters you are writing about.

From that point, you have a clear path into the Plot, which is the series of events triggered by the actions or decisions of the Main Character.

If you're using real history, you already have your world built for you, but if you're doing science fiction or fantasy, or Paranormal Romance, you have to take the real world that was, and vary ONE ELEMENT to generate your alternate history.

For a very long series, you can pinpoint a different variable for each volume, so you can point out a long list of ways your pre-history varies from your reader's -- and thus how your alternate universe would lead to a different present the your reader lives in.

The trick to getting readers to suspend disbelief and go with you into your alternate-past is verisimilitude.

Even those who live in a mono-cultural world are aware of cultural norms, and the older readers are aware of how norms change, while younger readers see changed norms as "reality" and the world their elders live in as "fantasy."

One of the inescapable realities these days is the increasing speed with which our culture is changing.

One change ignored by many Historical Romance writers  has to do with the implications of the embedded sexism of just 50 or 60 years ago.  Such a few decades seems like ancient history to the modern Romance reader, but to some of the older people the reader works with, 50 years ago is the present.

We see that on the political stage as older people running for office casually, without thinking about it, put their hands on other people.  We see it in offices where older people in decision making positions simply assume the privileges of those who preceded them.

Current young people assume (as the young always have) that their cultural values and behaviors are correct and morally superior to those of older (say, 70-somethings) people.

THEME: my culture is superior to yours, or to all cultures.

THEME: Modern = Better

THEME: Women who let men get away with it are contemptible

THEME: Women who refuse to let men get away with it are contemptible

Think about that.  Which era in human history -- or future history -- would you choose to showcase each of those themes.

PLOT: A woman fights cultural norms and wins her freedom (Joan of Arc)

PLOT: A woman understands her place in a man's world, and prevails anyway, without confrontation

PLOT: A woman raises daughters to champion the cause of women (owning property, voting, holding a job with equal pay, not-having children).

PLOT: A woman refuses to obey men and dies a martyr

CHARACTER: A man learns his home is his woman's castle

CHARACTER: A man learns women make better bosses in the workplace

CHARACTER: A man proves women are not capable of a man's work

CHARACTER: A woman refuses to let a man get away with excluding her

All of these conflict lines raise the cultural questions related to THEME.

If you choose a setting of the 1960's going all the way back to Roman Empire Times, you have to deal with the realities of how woman raised in that culture reacted to being told "women can't do that."  And contrary to modern Romance novels, women back then who made an overt issue of the "man's world exclusion principle," didn't succeed.

When women gained the right to vote in the USA, their husbands assumed the right to tell them how to vote.  (honestly!)

How many actually did that might be calculated from the election results records.  Most did, I suspect.

Why?  Why would a woman not exercise independent judgement?

One answer would be that women are human, and had been raised in the same culture as the men.

Depicting that reality with your point of view Character's inner dialogue is as difficult today as depicting the inner dialogue of an Alien from outer space.

A respectable character with self-respect, a character the reader wants to identify with, will not knuckle under.

How could you explain the emotional reaction of a woman with all the requisite scientific credentials to apply for a particular job getting the following letter in response to her application?

This is a real letter sent to a real woman who was well qualified for the job she had applied for, and who was living far away at the time and couldn't go in for an interview.  If she had, she would have been treated politely, as politely as this letter is phrased.  At that time, this letter was POLITE, and proper, and not in any way discriminatory or offensive or illegal.

If that image is hard to see, here is a transcript of part of it.

------quote of old letter--------

While we very much appreciate your interest, I fear I see no way in which we can pursue with you very directly, at this stage, the possibility of your filling one of the positions advertised. Those positions actually are designed to prepare me for service in our regional editorial offices; we have found through experience that the nature of the duties and of the demands placed upon our regional editors is such that we cannot ask young ladies to undertake them.

We do have from time to time (and we have at this time) openings on the editorial staff of our research journals . The duties here are different from those on the staff of Chemical and Engineering News in that the work is almost entirely concerned with editing the contributions of other scientists, rather than gathering information and doing the writing oneself.

We should be glad to consider you for one of the latter positions, if you feel this kind of work would have strong interest for you, Even here, however, we could not consider placing you on our staff without having first explored the matter with you quite extensively through personal interviews here, Unfortunately, the distance between us--or more appropriately, the high cost of bridging that distance—makes it impractical to consider bringing interviewees. I fear that unless you find a way to travel and can then approach us from we shall not be in a very realistic position to discuss employment possibilities with you,

--------end quote of old letter --------

Your job as a Romance writer is to create a Character who would not be disturbed or offended by that letter, and would not see it as a symptom of something wrong with the world that she has to fix.  Make the reader understand the inner world of that woman, walk a mile in her moccasins, and be comfortable in a world where gender is destiny.  If you can do that, you are a science fiction writer.  An Alien Romance would be no challenge to your skills.

Build your historical world, your theme, and your character's inner self-image so that, presented with this rejection letter, she believes that only men can do that work, and goes looking for other kinds of work.

Not, "I can do it but you won't let me," which is a child's response, but "I might be able to do it but I'd be miserable at it."  And she takes herself off to do something she will be good at, and happy doing.

This would be a female character who has no chip on her shoulder and is fully mature.  Her story is about how she triumphs by following a different path than she had expected to.

Or if you're playing with alternate universes, you can use two versions of this same woman, and show how, if she'd gotten the job, the whole world would be changed one way (say, she'd spark the invention of Artificial Intelligence), while if she didn't get the job, the world would be changed in another way (say, she raises a son who turns into the Bill Gates of that world).

THEME: the significance of a woman's life is measured only by the achievements of her son

Build a world where that truth is joyfully embraced by all women, who do not see that part of their world as in need of change.  Those women are busy instigating some other change.  What is that other change?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The Model and the Paparazzo

I once took a close up photograph of  Fabio at the height of his cover model fame. I never used it or digitized it,  but I thought about it, because, as the photographer, I owned the copyright, right? But, it did not seem like good manners.

In a world where good manners are not a priority, and anyone with a smart phone could be a paparazzo, and anyone else (and their copyrighted tattoo) could be the subject of a snap-happy person's potentially exploited photograph, and there is a strong possibility that someone else's copyright protected work of artistic property vandalism could be in the shot also... copyright law should be clarified.

Although "copyright infringement" is a bit of a dog whistle for this author, and I generally side with the victim of copyright infringement, as copyright lawyers pile on to the most recent legal fight between a model and a street photographer, my contrarian impulses are aroused.

Examples: Legal bloggers Amy Ralph Mudge, Randall M. Shaheen, Alan L. Friel and Linda A. Goldstein from Baker & Hostetler LLP return withering legal fire with considerable wit and snark under their June 19th headline "Gigi Hadid “Obliterates” Copyrights With Fair-Use Bazooka" (Scroll down to the June 19th entry).


Another example of words to the wise regarding fair dealing between celebrities and paparazzi (and those who might be tempted to repost or retweet), posted for Australian digestion comes from legal bloggers Mark Metzeling and Nicola Stewart of the law firm Macpherson Kelley


Original article is: https://mk.com.au/publications/ariana-grande/

I almost sympathize with the model.  Perhaps she is spoiling for a date with the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). If not, it seems to me there are some simple steps that she could have taken to make her use of various paparazzi photographs of herself "fair use". Using copyrighted works for reportage, review or commentary, or parody, or transformatively, or in an educational way is fair use... or so we are told.

Perhaps, claiming joint copyright in the photograph by virtue of having smiled and struck a momentary pose is not the best approach because if one admits to cooperating, that cooperation voids the possibility of complaining about an invasion of privacy or a violation of a right to publicity.

The Digital Media Law Project (hosted by the Berkman Center for Internet and Sociery) should be must-reading for anyone involved in writing, blogging, or social media posting.

It really is very comprehensive, well written, and illustrated (in the prose sense) with entertaining examples of what to do and what not to do.

A common root of the copyright infringement disputes may be the use of Flickr or similar sites.  Be aware that, just because an image can be viewed on a site, and that the technology exists for anyone to download that image... does not mean that the image is free for anyone at all to exploit, copy, publish and distribute.

Legal blogger Michael L. Nepple, writing for Thompson Coburn LLP's Broadcast Law Blog offers an interesting example of what not to do with a photograph from Flickr, and why the fine print should be read carefully.

Flickr has a page explaining the different types of licenses. Not every image is covered by the same rules for reuse!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Spontaneity Is Overrated

Happy Independence Day to our American readers!

I sometimes involuntarily overhear snippets of podcasts by Ben Shapiro, a lawyer, columnist, and author on the political right. He impresses me as relatively rational and less inclined to sarcasm and name-calling than many partisan podcasters. Don't worry, this isn't a political post; my emphasis will be linguistic and philosophical. I was dismayed by one of his recent comments because it seems like a symptom of a much larger problem. After the Democratic presidential hopefuls' debates, I was surprised to hear Shapiro, a staunch champion of classical and Enlightenment values, flippantly dismiss a particular candidate's "food fight" zinger as blatantly "rehearsed."

So a remark carefully prepared in advance is somehow suspect and prima facie inferior to one blurted out on the spur of the moment? An impulsive comment is automatically assumed to be a more reliable indication of the speaker's true feelings or beliefs than one that she thought over and shaped to express her opinions in a coherent, articulate style? I'm reminded, tangentially, of a past presidential candidate who was challenged on the subject of criminal justice and asked what punishment he'd want for someone who'd raped his wife. The aspiring candidate fell out of public favor partly because he gave a rational, ethical response to that hypothetical scenario instead of an emotional one.

This faith in the value of spontaneity is relatively modern and would have sounded absurd before the Romantic era. C. S. Lewis addresses the subject in a chapter of his book A PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST, where he defends Milton's style and tackles the charge of "stock responses" in traditional poetry. Lewis frames the issue so well that I'll quote him at length rather than trying to paraphrase:

"By a Stock Response Dr. I. A. Richards [a distinguished literary critic contemporary with Lewis] means a deliberately organized attitude which is substituted for ‘the direct free play of experience.’ In my opinion such deliberate organization is one of the first necessities of human life, and one of the main functions of art is to assist it. All that we describe as constancy in love or friendship, as loyalty in political life, or, in general, as perseverance—all solid virtue and stable pleasure—depends on organizing chosen attitudes and maintaining them against the eternal flux (or ‘direct free play’) of mere immediate experience…."

He observes that our culture has suffered "a loss of the old conviction (once shared by Hindoo, Platonist, Stoic, Christian, and ‘humanist’ alike) that simple ‘experience,’ so far from being something venerable, is in itself mere raw material, to be mastered, shaped, and worked up by the will…."

The modern tendency to mistake any well-crafted statement of opinion or emotion for insincerity, Lewis attributes to "confusion (arising from the fact that both are voluntary) between the organization of a response and the pretence of a response."

The old saying "in vino veritas" (truth in wine) expresses the same kind of attitude. It's taken for granted that the character, manners, and opinions a person displays when alcohol has destroyed his inhibitions are more authentic signs of his "real" self than the reflective, carefully considered speech and behavior of his sober periods. Why do we tend to assume that an individual's lower nature shows what he's "really like" and his higher nature doesn't?

The prioritizing of emotion and spontaneity over reason probably springs from the philosophical shift generated by the Romantic movement in the early 19th century. I suspect the current prevalence of the idea that reduced inhibitions reveal a person's "real" self comes (at least in part) from the popular influence of Freud's theories of the unconscious and the id.

This issue, by the way, contributes to my preference for e-mail over oral conversations—whether by phone or face-to-face—on serious subjects. When I talk off the top of my head, half the things I say come out awkwardly phrased and easily misunderstood, or I impulsively blurt out remarks I regret later (sometimes only seconds later). With e-mail or an old-fashioned letter, I can think over what I want to say and deliberately craft sentences to express it accurately and clearly. This kind of forethought doesn't mean my remarks are insincere, but just the opposite.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic Part 3 - Podcast Interview With Jacqueline Lichtenberg

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic
Part 3
Podcast Interview With Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in "How do you know if you've written a classic?" series are:

Part 1 in this Series is about writing a "classic" illustrating the long time fan discovering new entries in a series.


Part 2, Spock's Katra, is a long answer to a request for material for an online blog.  My answer focused on Theodore Bikel and his roles in Star Trek. 


And here is Part 3, answers to very insightful interview questions from a Podcast host.  The verbal podcast interview is very different, but here are answers done with some time to think of how to explain the invisible connections between Star Trek, my deep study of the fan dynamics of the TV Series, and my own original universe Sime~Gen novels.

It's all about the connections.

Here is the initial query on whether I'd do the podcast.


Hi Jacqueline,

My name is Sue, and I'm one of the hosts of Women at Warp, on the Roddenberry Network.  We're a podcast and associated blog that focused on the women of Star Trek - on screen, behind the scenes, and in fandom.

I'm writing because Women at Warp has an ongoing series where we talk about women in Star Trek fandom.  So far, we've interviewed Bjo and John Trimble about the Save Star Trek campaign, spoken to Devra Langsam and Lynn Koehler about organizing the first conventions (and a little bit about Spockanalia, of course), and chatted with a grad student studying the Trek zines of the 60s and 70s, plus B.A. Lopez, a fanfic writer from the early days of ASC.

I'm wondering if you might be interested in joining us to talk about your experiences in Star Trek fandom?  I would love to talk about the Welcommittee, the Kraith series, Star Trek Lives, and anything else you'd like to share.

Live Long and Prosper,
Sue Kisenwether

Women at Warp:  A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast
womenatwarp.com | podcasts.roddenberry.com
Twitter/Instagram/Facebook:  @womenatwarp

-----end quote----

Sunday, May 5 - 10:00 AM Arizona Time

Sue posted a set of questions to me via Google Docs.  I copied them into an email and answered as follows.


QUESTION: Before you became to so fully immersed in the fandom, what was the think that drew you to Star Trek?

The fact is that I've been FULLY IMMERSED in fandom since 1950, long-long before GR even thought of Star Trek.

I wrote a letter to a science fiction magazine, WORLDS OF IF, edited by Fred Pohl.  He published the letter, and in those days addresses could be published without fear. So members of the N3F Welcommittee wrote me (lots of letters), and I joined N3F and took my first writing lessons from a professional writer, Alma Hill. I participated in the fiction Round Robin (an early form of RPG, on paper, by snailmail), and I grew up in Fandom.

So the premise of your question is a bit off target.

What drew me to Star Trek (before ever seeing an episode) was Bjo Trimble's letter writing campaign (the first one).  Here I am with Bjo Trimble at a recent con:

I knew her, and her judgement in science fiction, many many, years before Star Trek, and trusted her judgement. I was living in Israel at the time, planning to move to New Jersey, so I wrote an air mail letter to Paramount (in fact several), to keep it on the air until I could get back.  At that time, there was no way to see old shows.

I LOVE NETFLIX! But I wish Netflix would archive, and never delete anything.

QUESTION: In addition to being a science-fiction fan, you’re a professional author.  For our listeners who may not know, can you tell us about your work and the Sime~Gen Universe?

Again there's an issue with the premise of the question.  The N3F was founded by the same person who founded SFWA, damon knight (always writen with small initial letters).

I'm not a pro writer IN ADDITION TO being a fan.  There is in fact no difference, at least there wasn't a difference when I was a beginner.

Fred Pohl was a member of N3F, bought my first professional sale which is a Sime~Gen short story, OPERATION HIGH TIME, now posted online for free reading.  At that time, the sale qualified me for SFWA (qualifications are higher today, and I'm a Life Member).  Later, Fred Pohl became editor at Bantam Books, and bought Star Trek Lives! which is a book about WHY Star Trek Fans love Star Trek, and who those fans are.  The identity profiles we put into the book were garnered from questionnaires circulated (by snail mail), and reveal the high powered, highly educated, creative, and fiercely goal directed personalities of Star Trek fans.

Those profiles are about the same as the average science fiction fan -- except Star Trek fans came from a group who THOUGHT they hated science fiction.  They were wrong.  My Sime~Gen novel (my first novel) HOUSE OF ZEOR (now in e-book, audio-book, and new paper editions), was specifically structured to captivate Spock fans.  I sold the expensive hardcover edition to Spock fans on a money-back guarantee and never had one returned.  Perhaps that proves I understand why fans loved STAR TREK.

Fiction Writing

QUESTION:  You began writing the Sime~Gen books in the late 60s, around the same time that you started writing Star Trek Fan Fiction.  By my count, you’ve had works appear in over 25 different fanzines.  Knowing that authors were not paid, what drew you to Trek fan fiction when you were already a published SF author? 

The premise of this question is correct!  I sold my first story before embarking on the Kraith series, and I do believe it's way over 25 'zines that pieces of Kraith have appeared in.  I also contributed letters of comment to every zine I ran across, and it was through such 'zines that I distributed the questionnaires that became STAR TREK LIVES!

I designed the Kraith series as homework assignments for the writing course I was taking at the time (Famous Writer's School, it was called). Since I had to do homework anyway, why should I waste the time and effort on things nobody would ever read but some instructor who knew nothing about the very different literary requirements of the science fiction field.  (in fact they looked down on the genre!)

Sime~Gen actually dates from the mid-1950's, though it was first written down in the early 1960's.  The first REAL story, with a beginning/middle/end structure and a theme was OPERATION HIGH TIME which I wrote as the homework assignment for the 4th lesson in the course.  The correspondence school's pitch was that students would SELL stories by their 4th assignment.  They were sued and lost and went out of business as a jury decided the pitch wasn't true.  But the thing is -- it was true for those who had spent their lives preparing for one thing only - to be a professional writer.

QUESTION: You’re well-known for the Kraith Universe of Trek stories - How would you describe these stories for our listeners who may not be familiar?

I saw Star Trek as the first real science fiction on television.  But it was missing so much of the richness that characterized science fiction.  The premise had so many holes in it, and lacked so much in character and relationship that makes the science fiction genre Great Literature.  Being a TV Series (forced into the old anthology format by distribution/marketing requirements), Star Trek couldn't explore Relationships on the air, and tell ongoing stories with Character Arc - characters becoming different people as they learned from the beating they took during their adventures.

Novel series can do that.  My best example at that time was Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover Series (which has since become much longer, and more popular).  Marion Zimmer Bradley is credited with THE FIRST science fiction story with a character driven plot.  It was published in about 1955, about the time Zena Henderson's PEOPLE stories hit the magazines.  The genre CHANGED because of these women writers.  Yes Andre Norton was a prominent woman who wrote science fiction -- but under a male name.

There's a lot to say about the history of the field, but Bradley's contribution was seminal.  And it encompassed precisely what was missing in aired STAR TREK.  So to generate Kraith, I took aired Trek and added Darkover, spun it through my own imagination, and came out with Kraith.

I was pretty sure I understood why Trek had caught on so widely, and I wrote Kraith to find out if I was correct.  Kraith, a writing homework assignment sequence, was actually an experiment to test the market for Sime~Gen.  My aim was to write novels that would lay out the framework for a TV Series -- or several TV Series.

TV is written by teams of hired writers -- it is collaborative creativity, a very different sort of activity than novel writing.

I constructed Kraith to have that collaborative, open framework that would induce other writers to write in my universe, just as fans had begun writing fiction in Gene Roddenberry's universe.  That invitational quality to engross and immerse other creative participants is what STAR TREK LIVES! names The Tailored Effect.

I was delighted when others spontaneously began contributing to Kraith, and accepting my editorial direction to make the stories they wrote fit onto a coherent master plan.  We had 50 creative writers, artists, poets, musicians involved in creating Kraith.  Many different people originated ideas we incorporated into a smooth narrative.  At least two Alternate Universes were spun off of Kraith that I know of (and I've heard of others).

This indicated to me that I understood what energized Star Trek fans to create their own stories and characters.

I used what I learned experimenting with Kraith to structure Sime~Gen to allow for other writers to create their own Sime~Gen stories.

Fans of Sime~Gen began asking questions and writing stories in Sime~Gen, which generated 5 fanzines full of fiction, non-fiction, artwork, poetry, music, and handicrafts (and convention costumes!).

Right at the beginning of this, Jean Lorrah wrote a review of HOUSE OF ZEOR which was published in a fanzine. I wrote to her, and very soon sent her a draft of UNTO ZEOR, FOREVER which she sent back dripping red ink editorial comments (what is called, today, beta reading).

Jean Lorrah, author of the Night of the Twin Moons fanzines (concurrent and of the same stature as Kraith), jumped in and began writing about her OWN characters in Sime~Gen, the HOUSE OF KEON folks.  Keon is designed as the literary foil of Zeor, the people I write about.  We met at a Star Trek convention, and she gave me the outline for a story she wanted to write, and I said do a chapter-and-outline submission package and we'd send it to Doubleday (my hardcover publisher at the time).

She did that, and we sold FIRST CHANNEL
as the third Sime~Gen novel to be published.  We suspect we were the first female-female collaborating team in Science Fiction professional publishing.

Jean Lorrah may have been the first English Professor to get tenure on the basis of a science fiction novel publication -- and a collaboration, to boot.  The byline reads by Jean Lorrah and Jacqueline Lichtenberg. We established a convention that the first-drafter of a novel gets top billing, so the Series alternates our bylines.  Now we've been joined by one of our best fanfic writers, Mary Lou Mendum (a Ph.D. in plant genetics), So 3 women collaborators get the triple byline on her novels as we all work on them.

Mary Lou is also a Trek fan, and one of the most prolific Sime~Gen fanfic writers. Her second professional Sime~Gen novel is now in production at Wildside Press.

A 4th professional has joined the Sime~Gen Group - he's a video game producer and is working on the Sime~Gen space age story, bringing up the Star Trek/Kraith space-adventure-with-aliens elements in Sime~Gen.  He's aiming at graphic novels, board games, video games, and many other platforms.  Jean and I incorporated Sime~Gen and the corporation is under contract to Loreful LLC giving them 150 years of our thousand year future history (Heinlein style) to play with First Contact stories.  He gets to invent the aliens.

QUESTION:  Your website says that these works were influenced by Marion Zimmer Bradley - can you tell us more about that?

I think I jumped the gun on that question.  See above.

QUESTION:  Eventually, other writers started contributing to the Kraith Universe.  Were you actively managing these stories?  Or was there fanfiction about fanfiction?  

Both, I suspect and I tried to cover that above.  I was learning to do what Gene Roddenberry was doing as he managed all those writers, directors, and actors.  What GR did was different from what other TV Series Producers had done -- he included science fiction novel writers who had never sold a script in his first season writers.  Then he bought David Gerrold's script (Trouble with Tribbles) before David (who is still a good friend on Facebook) had sold a book.  Subsequently David had many best seller science fiction novels to his credit (good ones!), and kept on working in visual media, too.  GR connected different artistic media outlets and released enormous creativity into the world by doing that.
A volume of the 6 volume Kraith Collected, collected from all the scattered 'zines.

Star Trek Lives!

QUESTION:  In 1970-1, you had a project called the Strekfan Roster Questionnaire, with one questionnaire for zine publishers and another for general fans.  Can you tell us about the genesis and goals of this project?

I was raised in the news business.  I knew a news story when I saw one.  Up until Star Trek, science fiction fans wrote and published fanzines by the hundreds (I know because I got most of them!), but except for the N3F Round Robin fiction efforts (proto-RPG and more of an APA than a 'zine), science fiction fanzines were NON-FICTION.  The NEWS STORY was fanzines with fiction, original fiction using non-original characters interacting with original characters).

That this shift to amateur publication of fiction (the first since maybe the mid-1800's women's Gothics), and fiction based on a TV show, was a huge news story.  But  none of the newspapers or magazines I saw had any mention of this development.

So I set out to write a news article, maybe for the New York Times or the local county newspaper -- just a news article I could submit, as I wasn't employed by them at that time.

To do that article, I needed the classic structural elements, "who-what-where-when-how many" --  I didn't know!  So I started asking fanzine publishers (by snail mail)  about their readership, and found out there were too many fanzine publishers to ask one by one and using different wordings.  I needed to ask everyone the same questions the same way, like a survey.

So I created the Roster Questionnaire trying to find out the scope of the 'zine readership.

Well, I still needed to know "who" these people were.  So I did another Questionnaire for the readers, got that published in fanzines, got a lot returned very articulately filled out.

It was hard to get a handle on the size of the groups of readers and publishers, writers, editors, teams of teams of people, because the number of 'zines and their readerships were growing and growing.  I realized this couldn't be an article -- it was a book.  And not a small one.

A bit deeper into the concept of a book, after I got Gene Roddenberry to enthusiastically say he'd write a forward if we could sell the book, I realized I couldn't do it by myself.  So I took on Sondra Marshak and she recruited Joan Winston.  Just like Trek itself, a book about fans had to be a collaborative effort between fans of different points of view.

Interviews with the cast and crew were Sondra's idea.  She organized and executed most of that.  But I did a lot of it, too.  We recorded conversational interviews, then I transcribed them (back in the day, to get typescript, you had to listen-type.)

Joan Winston added eye-witness accounts of the New York Conventions as she was on the famous Committee, and ran publicity for them.

Joan sold STAR TREK LIVES! to Fred Pohl at Bantam Books while she was a Guest at a Star Trek con in Canada.  Pohl had turned down STL! on first submission because they had a contract with James Blish who got that contract via SFWA connections when he became ill.  Because of illness, though, Blish missed a deadline.

Publishing works like a freight train.  Books ride a flatcar pulled along a track. Eventually, the produced book is slotted into a display at a book store.  A publisher must fill their slots at the bookstores because the slots are automatically emptied every few weeks.  If the publisher doesn't put a manuscript on the passing flatcar, headed for their wall-slot, the publisher loses that slot to another publisher, and all the sales that go with it.  Publishing was and still is a slender margin, competitive business.  Publishers pay Amazon extra to feature a book, just as they used to pay chain bookstores to put a book in the window, or in an aisle dump.

Book contract deadlines are set to bring the book to the slot with the inevitability of a juggernaut.  Publicity is cooked up, contracted, paid for, to hit at a certain date. Publishers must fill their slots and editors feel that pressure.

Pohl needed to fill a Star Trek Book Slot at the big chain bookstores that would suddenly go empty because a manuscript deadline was not going to be met.

Hearing about Blish's delay, Joanie pointed out to Fred at the meet-n-greet cocktail party that a complete STAR TREK book was ready to go into production in time to fill that slot.  He remembered liking the book manuscript, had some editorial changes and additions he wanted, but figured we could do it.  Remember, Pohl had bought my first sale years prior.    We were not unknown writers to him.

We signed the contract and worked ourselves to melt-down to get all the changes done.

Remember every single time some pages were deleted or edited, chapters moved around, and myriad references deleted or added material had to be changed, the ENTIRE BOOK had to be retyped by hand, without typos.  The retyping was my job, and I had to rephrase many sentences on the fly.

In the end, we couldn't do it so just whole chapters got retyped, which messed up the manuscript page numbers, putting an added burden on the copyeditor and typesetter.  Today, nobody has that problem any more.

There was no electronic means to email a copy to my collaborators.  I was in New York, Sondra in Louisiana, and Joanie in Manhattan.

We got it done and made the deadline, and paid the huge phone bills.  It went 8 printings!

My goal with the project that became STL! was to inform the world why STAR TREK was important in human history, an event as important as the Agricultural Revolution.

Sondra took that comparison as hyperbole.  It's not, and that has, I think, been illustrated amply by now.

It was Trek fans playing a computer game who hooked computers together in different cities starting the internet.  The Web came from another country, with the invention of the "Browser" able to read pages posted on the internet if they had code in common.

Much of what NASA has accomplished after the first orbital mission, was done (and funded by) people who caught the vision via Star Trek.  Many of the changes because of social networking (web 2.0) were instigated by Trek viewers, if not actual fans.  And paper fanzines moved to the web.

Socially, women's place in world history has shifted into the path Trek illustrated was possible.

Trek didn't originate any of this change.  A TV show doesn't initiate change.  A TV show - especially fiction - just brings everyone yearning for a particular change onto the same page.

Trek gave us a "common language" to discuss these issues, and Characters to speak for us.

Trek was (and is) Art.  Most TV at that time was not Art.  Trek stood out in high relief, clearly different from all other shows, while disguised as just another TV show.  People thought science fiction was for kids, or just adolescent males.  Trek proved them incorrect.

QUESTION:  In 1975, along with Sondra Marshak and Joan Winston, you published Star Trek Lives!  How did that come about?

Ooops, I answered that above.

QUESTION:  STL! explored why Star Trek affected and stuck with so many fans.  Why do you think that is, even today?

I haven't watched the newest CBS streaming only Trek: Discovery.  Streaming is another outgrowth of the moment I understood ToS was not just another lackluster attempt at TV science fiction, and I have been an early adopter.  I now prefer to binge-watch whole seasons in a row, rather than wait a week between episodes.

We live in a new world where you don't have to drop everything and rush to the TV screen before they yank away what you desperately want to savor and enjoy.

But there is a problem I have with some of the films that might apply to the new series.

Fred Pohl and John Campbell, and Heinlein and Asimov etc had a litmus test for placing a story in the science fiction genre.

I think it applies to all genres, and even Series.

If you can take the science out of a story and still have a story, it wasn't science fiction.

Likewise, if you can take the Trek out of a story and still have a story, it wasn't Star Trek.

Many of the current entries into the Trek genre are just mundane stories that could happen to any characters anywhere.  And so, at heart, they lack the driving theme, the seminal statement of the nature of humanity and the nature of reality and the relationship between them, which is the core essence of science fiction.  Roddenberry insisted on including the Spock character because that was the only way to make the series Science Fiction, not "Wagon Train To The Stars."

But I do think the newer efforts to extend the Trek franchise are valid, exciting, and inspiring Art in and of themselves.  Mostly, they are good science fiction, too.  But I think many of the stories would be better stories in and of themselves were they set in Universes of their own, designed to contain and showcase those stories.

I think what fans love about Star Trek is that it is science fiction, but the label "science fiction" has become associated in their minds (largely through High School literature courses) with dull-and-boring.  Adding "adventure" just makes the genre more boring to some girls if the "action" gets in the way of the "story."  It's that way for guys, too, though they don't necessarily know it until later in life.

Debate has raged for decades trying to define what is or is not science fiction.  I can't settle that here, but I think Roddenberry's sense that, no matter what, Spock had to be on the bridge, shows he understood what science fiction genre actually is.

One definition says that science fiction is about the impact of science/technology on human personality/character/psychology/society/culture.  That's what GR added with Spock -- a visual commentary on how humanity changes (as he always said, Becomes Wise) under the impact of new discoveries.

Science fiction happens at the collision zone between hard and soft science.

Science fiction is scientists at play.

I'm a Chemist, Jean Lorrah is an English Professor, and Mary Lou Mendum is a plant geneticist, Aharon Cagle (Loreful LLC videogames) is a high level marketer -- we write science fiction.

We are seeing the new generation gap created by cell phones and iPhone connectivity, AI, and Internet of Things (IoT).  How current 15 year olds differ from current 65 year olds illustrates the subject matter of science fiction, the signature issue that sets that one genre apart from all others.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg