Tuesday, March 31, 2020

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic - Part 7 - How Do You Know These Two Are Soul Mates

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic
Part 7
 How Do You Know These Two Are Soul Mates? 

Previous Parts in this series are indexed here:


Opposites attract, but do they always make a good team?

It is Ancient Wisdom that you shouldn't marry someone expecting them to "change" -- or expecting you can "change him."

But people do change, and the velocity of change can be ferocious during early life development (which is why we avoid marrying too young), and oddly enough, during the elder years (with the Second Time Around story).

It is said that if you're not a Democrat or Socialist when you're in your twenties, you have no heart, but if you're not a Republican or Capitalist when you're in your fifties, you have no brains.

Ferocious attention has been devoted to proving or disproving this notion that maturity dictates an individual's view of how society should govern itself.

In 1962 John Crittenden published a paper based on research funded by an award of a Law and Behavioral Science Fellowship at the University of Chicago Law School.


The way party affiliation, or political views, tend to correlate with age has been a focus ever since.

Recent studies have shown that today people don't change their politics when they move to a state dominated by the other party, and people do not shift from progressive to conservative (or any other pair of polar opposites) of opinion as they age.

Science fiction writers ask: "Well, maybe they did shift, but they don't now. Why? What changed?"

Maybe there has been that kind of change in human nature, or maybe not.

Writing Science Fiction Romance will bring you to wrestle with the adage that human nature never changes.  Science Fiction is about science impacting human cultures.

See Part 18 of the Targeting a Readership series - Targeting a Culture

Cultures change -- but the basic nature of the humans who form the culture doesn't change much. What does happen, over 280 year spans or multiples of that) is a shift in emphasis in a human generation.  What people all born in the same 20 year span think or feel is most important, most critical, most consequential.  Or in other words, what bothers them the most.

For that reason, we tend to make marriage matches with people of about the same age, and from the same culture (if not country).

Within the parameters of politics and generation, a person can find their match much more readily.  Many matches work just fine for all the decades of life to be lived, but a good match can be torn apart if one of the couple finds an actual Soul Mate.

Often, a couple merely matched will break up when one of them becomes so deeply infatuated (at a later age, it's really hard to admit to a teenager syndrome of infatuation) with another person, and believe they have found a Soul Mate.

A writer exploring the making and breaking of a marriage, in any setting and time, has to convince the current readership of the Soul Mate status.

It is possible for Soul Mates to stray because of an infatuation - what happens then? Does the marriage break then reform?

How does a person who is caught deep into an infatuation discover that the object of infatuation is not the Soul Mate they seem to be?

What is the diagnostic test for Soul Mating?

What will the reader accept as proof?

Today, families are riven apart by politics and arguments about how ethical, moral, or intelligent those who support one view (or the other) are.  The view espoused over the family dinner table can label a person so "deplorable" they will never be welcome in this house again.

So the problem, even if the hosting couple are genuine Soul Mates, becomes how do you change your in-laws' minds about an issue of right/wrong ways of thinking, of solving ethical dilemmas?

Such a dramatic scene, played out in show-don't-tell, in symbolism and dialogue, and storming out of the room, and returning in a different mood, and maybe pulling down reference books to prove a point, may become our next towering Classic that lasts forever.

To convince your reader that two Characters are true Soul Mates, show them handling such a delicate, strife-ridden family scene.

That scene would be the middle of a Happily Ever After novel, an epic fail of family bonds.

Say, for example, this family dinner were the celebration of a young couple's engagement where they are discussing Setting The Date.

The first half of the novel has to reveal the reasons why each of the family members holds the view of right/wrong that they do -- the view of justice, and the correct way to proceed with the wedding plans.  If the family is large enough, you can bet any date chosen will exclude someone.

It has to be soon because so-and-so is thinking of entering Hospice.

It has to be later because so-and-so has a scholarship for a year in school in (some exotic place that will give them major credential in job hunting - say Tokyo?).

It has to be here because most of us live here.

It has to be there because so-and-so can't travel.

It has to be somewhere else cheaper, or where the weather is nice that time of year.

Or if someone is running for public Office, there will be political reasons for place, date, and timing, possibly even religion or lack thereof could figure.

Watching this family define and solve the problem will telegraph to the reader which couples are actual Soul Mates -- and which are likely to break up next.

The first half of the novel reveals how each faction in the family arrives (by reason, by emotion, by unthinking commitments) at their stances on the matter.

The Soul Mate parent-couple in the family will show-don't-tell the solution, and lead all the factions toward each other.

This could take several chapters -- as groups break away and reform in the kitchen, the back porch, the front yard, even the garage to show off a new car, or one being fixed.

The Soul Mates won't impose their solution on the engaged couple, but rather bring up the basic principles they have always taught their children for social and family problem solving.

If the reader agrees with those principles, the reader will likely believe the elder couple are Soul Mates -- and by association, that the married-children of that couple are likewise Soul Mates.

For contrast, at least one couple should be merely a good match with a solid working relationship.

The second half of the book is all about the engaged couple trying to make the family chosen date-time-place actually work for them.  How they go about making the adjustments will reveal to the reader whether this young couple are Soul Mates.

Soul Mates fight each other harder and hotter than any other sort of partner.  But the fire exploding through their arguments heals rather than wounds.

Soul Mates argue - but they don't fight.  And they argue all the time over everything.  Vociferously.  Adamantly defending their positions.  Stubbornly returning to that position. All until they suddenly discover the error in their argument - then they change their mind and immediately admit that out loud.

A Soul Mate might not behave that way with anyone else, might fight all the time with others, concede or crow victory, and just be obnoxious about it.  But that behavior would change when in the presence of the Soul Mate.

The second half of the novel would include the engaged couple arguing shown in high contrast to another couple in the wedding party who fight each other over the same issue (e.g. which restaurant should the dinner be at).

The couple that fights, and simply can't be guided into arguing, ends up in divorce court just before the Soul Mates' wedding, while the couples that argue show up at all rehearsals and do their jobs smoothly.

What is the difference between an argument and a fight?

An argument is about what is right.

A fight is about who is right.

When it's about who is right, it is all about power, dominance, and avoiding confronting emotions.

When it is about what is right, it is all about the mutually shared, urgent, burning desire to choose right over wrong.

That is how Soul Mates are distinguished from other couples, and, whether they are conscious of it or not, readers can see the difference.

Sorting out right from wrong is hard, and humans rarely agree on how to apply those principles to solve real world problems (like choosing a restaurant).

The symbolic difference between fighting and arguing is simply whether the pair doing the shouting are articulating their reasons for their stances, then delineating why the other person's reasons don't apply to this case, or how that reason is based on a fallacy.

Soul Mates argue, destroying each others' reasons for holding a position, until they both agree -- often they evolve to agree on something neither knew before, or would have adopted as a position.

When Soul Mates argue to a conclusion, they are each thankful to the other for imparting new information or correcting an error.  Learning from a Soul Mate is a great joy, not an ignominious defeat that leads to subjugation.

A mismatched couple will fight, and if one of them always wins, the marriage will likely break up unless one of them prefers being subjugated.

Marriages based on a good match generally go through many fights, many arguments, ending with a basic score of 50/50, keeping the balance so neither is subjugated.

To convince readers your Soul Mates are genuine, you need contrasting couples, contrasting families, and contrasting Singles, divorcees, widows, etc.  We need to see them all fighting, arguing, and settling the matter to see the stark difference in methodologies.

The future Science Fiction Romance Classics will lay out this pattern around at least one Human/Alien couple.

The Classic that defines the field will (maybe already has) illustrate the nature of Soul Mates by how they go about solving problems using an Alien methodology.

My candidate for CLASSIC SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE is the Alien Series by Gini Koch -- #16 came out in February 2018


Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, March 28, 2020

False Flags

This week, the Authors Guild exposed a gob-smacking abuse of the public trust and of the concept of law order and copyright. Kudos to Authors Guild for that!


There are many Covid-19 scammers pretending to be helpful, while actually ripping off the public or writers, artists, musicians and film makers, or pursuing a political agenda, and  IA appears to be one of them. Authors and bookstores cannot survive if society tolerates digital looting.

Andy Chatterly, co-founder of the for-profit anti-piracy business MUSO (which will send out take down notices on behalf of its paying subscribers) has published a white paper on the rise and rise of digital piracy... which is discouraging reading for creative individuals and small businesses.


Recently testifying to the United States Senate subcommittee on Intellectual Property under an apparent false flag were members of The Pirate Party, as discussed by the Chris Castle, guest of the editors of thetrichordist.

It's kind of like bank robbers testifying on how bank vaults could be made more transparent and accessible to the public.

Particularly dispiriting are Chris Castle's revelations (or not) about the part played by academics and lawyers (and sometimes by members of the legislature under the influence of lobbyists) in weakening copyright and exploiting and enlarging loopholes in already Gruyere-like IP laws.

Thanks to MusicTechPolicy for a lively report on what Jonathan Yunger had to say to Chairman Thom Tillis's and Ranking Member Christopher Coons's committee about the functioning and effectiveness (or not) of the DMCA.


That's four lengthy links. Enjoy!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 
SPACE SNARK™ http://www.spacesnark.com

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Science in SF, Continued

The second part of Kelly Lagor's LOCUS article on "Putting the 'Science' in Science Fiction" is here:

Putting the Science in SF

As in the previous essay, she quotes opinions from various authors and editors, including Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Pinsker, Lee Harris (editor at Tor.com), and Sheila Williams (editor of ASIMOV'S), among others. Some bits of advice on the "delicate tightrope walk" of "getting the level of detail just right so as to not be so technical you alienate your readers, while avoiding being needlessly inaccurate":

An SF author should keep up her "baseline knowledge of popular science" (in Elizabeth Bear's phrase) at a level sufficient to make her aware of what's going on in the scientific world and where she needs to seek out deeper research into any particular topic or sub-field. Academic journals and popular science books and articles each provide useful resources, which should be consumed in the proper balance. Other comments logically point out that the amount and kind of research needed will depend on how much the author already knows about the field. The level of scientific detail required to make a story plausible also depends on the subgenre. Readers of different types of SF have different expectations; as Lee Harris observes, "we’re much less critical of the science in the latest superhero epic than we would be in a hard science fiction story." Another observation states that "with great familiarity can come great reluctance"—a writer might hesitate to delve into the technical details because he or she finds it hard to resist including excessive exposition that might turn off the reader. Some other suggestions: Don't hesitate to consult experts firsthand. The kind and degree of technical specificity varies depending on the viewpoint character—what would he or she notice and care about? And getting the depth and scope of detail correct ultimately grows out of knowing how much the reader needs to understand to enjoy the story. "Sometimes, when it comes to details, less is more."

By the way, Lagor's phrase "needlessly inaccurate" seems to imply the existence of conditions under which inaccuracy is needed, a position I'd find hard to agree with. Whether the density of detail is heavy or light, surely whatever IS on the page should be accurate, within the limits of how technical the particular text gets. Even in fantasy, I find a story more interesting and entertaining if the writer gives the impression of accuracy in mundane matters such as architecture, food, travel times, etc., as well as basing the biology of imaginary creatures (for example) on a plausible analogy with real ones. The more incredible the central premise a reader has to accept, the more plausible the supporting details ought to be.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Targeting a Readership Part 18 Targeting a Culture

Targeting a Readership
Part 18
Targeting a Culture

Previous parts of the Targeting a Readership series are indexed here:


These posts are about marketing, where the first step is to determine who the decision makers buying your product are, where to find them, how to reach them, and thus how to craft a narrative hook that will make them remember your byline, maybe even the series title.

Marketing is heartless, mathematical, me-me-me oriented, and all about moving product at a profit (buy low, sell high).

Targeting is more about empathy, resonance, understanding.  Targeting is like entering a group conversation.  If you are not naturally a member of the group, nothing you can say will hook the attention of the group.

For a writer, that means writing swiftly, quickly, not getting trapped in endless rewriting, or in other words mastering the wordsmith's craft of vocabulary, grammar, spelling, punctuation and symbolism that evokes emotion.  The real trick to becoming prolific is to also master the template for the type of story your targeted market is willing to buy.

To the reader, the cost of a story includes not only the purchase price, but the reader's time and emotional investment.  Hence Netflix facilitated binge-watching of series that could hold up -- not so much the anthology series of yore, but today's more DALLAS type, prime-time soap story-arc series that progress at a crawl.

If you are a natural member of the group you target with your story, you will listen, follow the story of their narrative, and add to their narrative -- not insert your own narrative, not disrupt the conversation, not attract their attention, but rather further their adventures on the way to THEIR goal (which just happens also to be your own).

You won't be seen as the annoying pest, trying to butt in where they are not wanted.  You will be welcomed and your contribution to the discussion will be discussed.

So, for a writer, what exactly IS a "readership?"

One of the many useful ways to define a "readership" for marketing purposes is as a "culture."

So what's a "culture?"

The best place I know of to start molding your notion of "what" culture is happens to be a very old non-fiction book I've mentioned here many times, THE SILENT LANGUAGE by Edward T. Hall.

Note the cover blurb "targets" a readership neatly.  "THE SILENT LANGUAGE shows how cultural factors influence the individual behind his back, without his knowledge."

People who feel in charge of life, and who think they make their own independent decisions experience a frisson of alarm if they view this sentence as authoritative.  That emotional frisson rivets attention.

If this is seen on a book cover on a store's rack, the target will find his/her hand reaching for the book, turning it over, looking inside to find out more.  "Nobody can do that to me!  I won't allow it."

Readers come away from this (rather brief) book with a wide comprehension of "what" culture is, where it is inside themselves, and the writers among those readers start thinking of ways to "show don't tell" their Characters responding to Culture.

How can a writer "target" an entire CULTURE or sub-culture such as a certain generation among all residents of the USA?  Your chances of pulling off this stunt increase with your ability to define and identify a culture.  But you also have to understand what marketers mean by "targeting."

In How To Use Tarot And Astrology in Science Fiction Part 6 Confronting Change, we referenced this Time article

Consider this LONG PERSPECTIVE article from a Time writer.


That article traces the interactions between generations as Millennials sweep the reins of power from the Baby Boomer generation (as usual ignoring the Silent Generation).

---end quote------

And just after that reference, I wrote:


PLUTO IN CAPRICORN is where we are now, and it is about CHANGE IN GOVERNMENT, shifting borders (we did that in Channel's Destiny, moved the Territory border to make room for Householdings).

This item on generation gap, shifting views, is related to a Blog post on writing craft I did a long while back:


About halfway down that blog post is a list of what signs Pluto was in at various points in history and how that played out in "generation gap" thinking.

Get a good grip on this principle, and the spectacle of NEWS today will suddenly make sense.

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

Each generation generates a "culture" of its own, and within it many sub-cultures.  A writer can build a world to showcase a story, but that story needs a "backstory" (each Character needs ancestors, a history, a changing perspective through life).

To learn how to convey, in symbolism, with few words, how Characters from different generations communicate, understand the generations in terms of culture.

That difference in culture has been termed "The Generation Gap."

Most often parents grow up to discover their children have ditched major tenets of the parent's and grandparent's generational-culture and behave in "deplorable" ways because of it.

The parents are not aware (because they don't see it in terms of culture) that they, themselves, did exactly the same thing and considered it righteous to ditch the elements of their parent's culture that no longer pertained to modern life.

The themes your reader are struggling with in daily life are mostly derived from the elements of their parent's culture that they see as deplorable and necessary to ditch.  So study that "generation gap."

Google "Targeting definition marketing," and get this definition:

Targeting in marketing is a strategy that breaks a large market into smaller segments to concentrate on a specific group of customers within that audience. It defines a segment of customers based on their unique characteristics and focuses solely on serving them.
------end quote------

Note the "focuses solely on serving them" -- but you have to know "who" them is before you can determine what "serving" means.

So bring THE SILENT LANGUAGE up into the 2020's by noting this article:


The Twitter/Facebook social-media, Web 2.0 tool-set put into the hands of humans whose culture included elements that prevented the adaptation to living in a world where you're personal, private, small circle of friends could be multiples of 10,000.

We came from villages of a dozen families where most people never traveled more than 50 miles from home.  We knew everyone - their grandparents and great-grandchildren (because people had children in their teens).  We associate IN DEPTH, by nature and by culture.  We reject anyone not a natural member of our group, our village culture.  Anyone "different" is rejected -- watch kindergarten and first grade children playing in a school yard.

REJECTION -- pecking the unfit to death as duck flocks will do -- is built into our physical bodies (not Souls, though, hence Soul Mates are often from different cultures).

Today, we live in the 3rd generation of a cultural-change sparked by Web 2.0

I noted that in 2008 on this blog entry:


And still delving into this phenomenon and what it means for book sales:


In 2009 writers were collaborating via the Web


And in 2010 I still saw vast joy in the freedom the Web was providing:


In 2011 writers were already exploiting the social networking tools:


It really got started in the 1980's as computers appeared in everyday houses, and those computers got online. In the 2000's kids were raised with the necessity of having a laptop in high school.  Now kids "must" have some kind of tablet computer for grammar school -- or schools are full of desks with screens.

Children raised in a computerized environment are now having kids - that's 3rd generation.  Their great grandparents didn't know how to type, but these people "thumb type" at the speed of light.

What has speed of thumb typing to do with Targeting a Culture?

Thumb typing is a cultural symbol, and it increases the broadcasting power of the youngest, least experienced in life, people growing up without being surrounded by a closed multi-generation community.

Classmates are from families who come from all different places, often speak different languages, certainly read different books, watch different TV shows, etc.  A "class" is just a bunch of kids who happen to be the same age.  They come from different cultures and hit different stages of maturity (as we mature, we shift cultural environment) at different ages.  And they REJECT that which is "different" and peck them to death on social media.

This younger culture has even named this PECK TO DEATH process -- "Cancel."

The school corridor version was named "crowding."

Now whole commercial chain stores, or brands, are being "crowded" to death (often real bankruptcy), and individuals are learning the hard way that if they stick up for the REJECTED, they, too, will be CANCELLED.

This experience, and watching their parents generation doing the same, will shape the themes they love most in stories.



A lot of attention has been given to repercussions of cancel culture on celebrities, from JK Rowling, to Kevin Hart to Lena Dunham.

Less talked about is the way algorithms actually perpetuate cancel culture.

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

The article identifies the widely used algorithm that, when activated, sends minor items (even personal opinion tweets or YouTube items by non-celebrities) viral as triggered by "outrage."

That's a current cultural artifact.  Eventually it will shift to some other response, but the magnifying power will remain and even grow.  The common villager whose heritage equips him to associate with about 1,000 people suddenly is aswim among millions and they are all facing him, yelling vile epithets.

The tiny firecracker of bullying and "crowding" - ganging up on the different one - now has become an atomic bomb, capable of destroying not just one teen-school-life, but millions of adult careers.

Humans don't know (on the SILENT LANGUAGE cultural level, the part of us that functions behind our back, without our knowledge) how to manage that much power.

Internationally, countries are struggling to keep "different" countries from attaining atomic missile capability.  We know we don't know how to handle that much power -- but the internet has swamped us before we can realize we don't know.

It is knowledge that has to be infused into our being on the pre-verbal level, before we learn to walk and talk.  Culture is pretty much set in stone by age 7, and one element of culture is kindness.  Not to just act kindly - but to have no unkind emotional responses to the "different" one.  A kind person doesn't FEEL like hitting back, gathering a mob and destroying the intruder.

To our 2020's online culture, that lack of hostile response to intruders is just plain Science Fiction Alien material -- no human could relate to it.

To portray a non-human Character, study the culture of your target readership, and create such an Alien to make them empathize with, and understand on that "behind his back, without his knowledge" level how to communicate across a cultural gap.

 The more people who understand on that level, the easier it will be for your children to live in their world, beyond the generation gap.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 22, 2020


Not everything is anti-social.

Kudos, for instance, to Publishers Weekly (PW) for making their digital publication available.

Many authors are turning increasingly to social media, and to platforms such as Zoom, since live book launch events, book signings, readings, conferences and so forth are being cancelled.

The Authors Guild shared a guide for writers and authors on You Tube on how to use Zoom.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has shared some useful information about Zoom (and the information they retain about their users).

Like "the parson's nose" (more widely known in America as "the curate's egg"), offerings from The EFF tend to be good in parts.

And then, there is the Bah, Humbug! stuff.

For instance, allegedly, there are many online sites that appear to offer visitors choices about how much they agree to be tracked, and targeting with advertising, but according to sources, the clickable link is the internet equivalent of a placebo. It does nothing.

David Zetoony,  writing for Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP explains.


Lexology Link.

Then, there is the bad review, and what can you do  (as pertains to hotels on the receiving end).

Blogging globally for the Australia- based law firm Baker McKenzie, lawyers Graeme Dickson,  Andrew Stewart, Kerrie Duong, and Nicholas Kraegen discuss entertaining and scurrilous examples of probably false and defamatory observations made on social media by anonymous "reviewers".


Lexology Link.

Presumably, if the reviewer actually captures a bed bug or two, and keeps them for proof, and also takes date stamped photographs of the damage inflicted to the body by the alleged bed bugs, there's not a lot the hotel can do.

Authors may extrapolate.

Some authors in a discussion forum have recently noticed the appearance of probably malicious sites with names that differ from that of the widely-trusted Facebook by a mere character or two. Beware "facedbook" links, for example.

Legal blogger Sandy Zhang, writing for Eaglegate discusses "the lawsuit that is shaking up the tech world" in which Facebook sues a cheap domain name seller, instead of going after small time name-squatters and phishers.


Lexology Link.

EFF, also has something interesting to say about phishing and scams when people are feeling vulnerable and online more than ever before.

It's a very good guide!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Risk Assessment and Fear

So schools, bars, restaurants, theaters, concert venues, casinos, etc. in Maryland have been ordered to close, and gatherings of more than fifty people are forbidden. Both of the cons I was scheduled to attend this spring have been canceled, sadly but inevitably. While of course we'll obey the official edicts and exercise prudence in daily life, I can't help thinking some reactions are overkill. The panic-buying, for instance, aspects of which baffle me. Bottled water stripped from store shelves, when there's no threat to the drinking water supply? We have electricity, running water, heat, and cable and aren't at risk of losing them. Major retailers reassure us that there's no long-term shortage, only a distribution problem that will clear up rapidly if people stop panic-buying. If everybody would just buy what they require for a week or two at a time, the stores could keep up, and we'd all be able to get what we need.

It's a familiar truism of human psychology that we overestimate rare dangers and underestimate common ones. The extraordinary threats draw attention BECAUSE they're rare. Here are two short pieces on that tendency:

Jared Diamond on Common Risks

Drawing the Wrong Lessons from Horrific Events

As is often pointed out, we're far more likely to get into a car accident driving to the airport than to die in a plane crash. We're more at risk of injury or death in traffic on the way to the big-box store than of exposure to the coronavirus (in this region, at least). The population of Maryland is about six million. Our county has a population of 573,000. As of Monday, there are 37 confirmed cases in Maryland, only two in this county. Since members of our family haven't traveled abroad lately or come into contact with anyone who has, our individual risk of crossing paths with the virus is near zero. Yet the daily deluge of breaking news still makes me anxious (mainly, on a personal level, about being unable to restock the items we need for daily living), and to stop brooding over it takes real effort.

Psychologist Steven Pinker has a section on phobias in his HOW THE MIND WORKS. He notes that almost all phobias (irrationally exaggerated fears) fall into a few categories, derived from things that threatened our prehistoric ancestors. Hence our common fears of spiders and snakes, even though most species encountered in urban areas of North America are harmless to humans. "Fears in modern city-dwellers protect us from dangers that no longer exist, and fail to protect us from dangers in the world around us." Instead of spiders and snakes, we should be afraid of "guns, driving fast, driving without a seatbelt, lighter fluid, and hair dryers near bathtubs." While we may exercise sensible caution about such things, most of us aren't terrified of them (although driving-phobic people do exist, and transportation assistance is available for those who can't force themselves to drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland). For every freeway-phobic person, large numbers suffer from fear of flying, despite the greater safety of the latter mode of travel.

In C. S. Lewis's THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, senior devil Screwtape reminds his nephew Wormwood that "precautions have a tendency to increase fear." When standard precautions become routine, however, "this effect disappears." (Think how blase we've become about airport security lines. I remember when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and non-flying companions could accompany departing travelers right up to the gate.) Screwtape advises Wormwood to keep the "patient" obsessing over all sorts of extra things he can do "which seem to make him a little safer" and can be developed into "a series of imaginary life-lines" in response to imagined potential developments. (Accumulating a hoard of bottled water even though there's no threat to the public supply?) Earlier in the book, Screwtape points out that "real resignation, at the same moment, to a dozen different and hypothetical fates, is almost impossible."

One of my favorite Lewis quotes comes from an essay he wrote in answer to the question, "How are we to live under the threat of the atomic bomb?" It's a longish passage, but I think it's worth reproducing here:

"In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. 'How are we to live in an atomic age?' I am tempted to reply: 'Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.' . . . .

"In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds."

As a last resort, we could reread Daniel Defoe's A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, Stephen King's THE STAND, or Connie Willis's DOOMSDAY BOOK and remind ourselves our current plight isn't nearly so bad as that, nor is it likely to become so.

In case you have time to watch a video of about six minutes, here's a calming message from a layman of our church—with a Maine Coon. Cats make everything better:

Jeff Conover

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

How to Use Tarot and Astrology in Science Fiction Series Part 6 - Confronting Change

How to Use Tarot and Astrology in Science Fiction Series
Part 6
Confronting Change

Previous parts in How to Use Tarot and Astrology in Science Fiction Series are indexed at the bottom of the index post about Astrology


In 2020, we are up against the forces of change focused on governments, country sovereignty, borders being moved, annexation of lands, ousting of Kings, plus the looming promise of major shifts in how management decisions are made -- Big Data plus Artificial Intelligence.

Privacy seems gone as facial recognition (however flawed) is deployed.  The recent Coronavirus mutation brought scenes of people marching down airport corridors, outlined by a camera that revealed their body temperature (looking for those running a fever).

The world has already changed -- most haven't noticed it yet.

Humans are averse to change.  Just ask a two year old!

Humans want "the world" to function the way they think it does.

On the other hand, people also want to change the world to make it function the way they want it to function, not as they think it does right now.

On the third hand, people change their opinions throughout a lifetime.

In Part 5 of this series, we looked at "The Story of a Life" -- biography.

The closer a fictional narrative resembles the form and shape of a real life, the more informative and thought-provoking it will be for readers.

The Generational Novel or Series, or Vampire Romance, novels with settings that span long story-arcs, centuries in Time, can put the reader's current world into a new perspective, suggesting new solutions to a reader in a quandary about their current life.

The narrative selected and spun by current news media is not the only narrative in dynamic play at any given moment because generations overlap, interpenetrate, and blend through transitions.

2020 is one of those blending times -- and it could be this whole decade that reveals the swirling dynamic change.

People living through this see it from the perspective of their own generation, and each sees a portion of the truth (like the Blind Men And The Elephant -- though I'd expect the Blind Women and the Elephant to reveal a different story).

Right now, the media portrait of the world appears to be ramming many countries, including the USA, into civil war or some semblance of blood in the streets.

People living through this, people who are your audience looking for you to escort them one an adventure into a different world, are disturbed by the daily confrontation with CHANGE in their everyday life.

In January, 2020, during the Trump Impeachment trial in the Senate, the following article was sited on Facebook:


Politically though, Tannehill noted the U.S. trend towards divisive rhetoric and policies under President Donald Trump, who has been repeatedly accused of various forms of racism and has pursued a nativist agenda.

"The politicians enacting it are populists who benefit from stirring Us vs. Them narratives, placing blame for the woes of the nation on others who are somehow less worthy," she wrote. "They yearn for a mythological past [without] these people. It's a highly viable tactic for shoring up support."

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

Writers who study these broad trends are seeing a slide toward genocidal wars -- not just in the USA but world-wide.

This awkward trial of a sitting President is just one component of the thrust of CHANGE at the deepest level of government -- Constitutional level change.

The consensus seems to be that if what he did wasn't a crime, then it ought to be.  We have to do something about this -- that's the Pluto in Capricorn manifestation in the spotlight of media attention.

So how can a Romance writer approach the audience living through having the rug pulled out from under them?

On Facebook, I commented on a thread generated by that Newsweek article posted by someone who sees it as driving the USA toward a genocidal war, thusly:

If we accept a straight line extrapolation, yes, but humanity lurches ahead in a zigzag, often reversing course for a few centuries.

Consider this LONG PERSPECTIVE article from a Time writer.


That article traces the interactions between generations as Millennials sweep the reins of power from the Baby Boomer generation (as usual ignoring the Silent Generation).

I collect articles like that one on Millennials in one of my Flipboard Magazines, Pluto in Capricorn


Pluto in Capricorn is the "magazine" where I collect articles of the far-far past of Ancients, current events, astronomy, astrophysics (FTL drive foundations, plus what we might discover and what we have to go explore), and space travel. That magazine also includes some genetics (most of which I put in a different magazine), Volcanos and other items that might destroy this current Ancient civilization.

PLUTO IN CAPRICORN is where we are now, and it is about CHANGE IN GOVERNMENT, shifting borders (we did that in Channel's Destiny, moved the Territory border to make room for Householdings).

This item on generation gap, shifting views, is related to a Blog post on writing craft I did a long while back:


About halfway down that blog post is a list of what signs Pluto was in at various points in history and how that played out in "generation gap" thinking.

Get a good grip on this principle, and the spectacle of NEWS today will suddenly make sense.

OK, maybe not less alarming sense, but a kind of sense that clues you in on where to dodge the falling hammer of generation shifts.

It is a double-pattern, an 84 year cycle superimposed on a 248 years, with a transition superimposing one on the other every 165 years (or so).

Kids are born continuously, not usually in waves (like Baby Boomers), so the concept of "generations" all moving in the same way is nonsense, but where the outer planets are when a kid is born indicates a predilection for an affinity to a particular generation's response to life.

All that is modified by that individual kid's own characteristics then reshaped and maybe hammered by environment. None of this is cut-and-dried. Living life is an art-form.

A writer who understands how the portrait of a civilization morphs with the cycles of Pluto can build a world that seems real to people living today.

Consider, the USA is approaching the first Pluto return (to where Pluto was in Capricorn when this nation was born) in history.  With Pluto in mid-Capricorn, we created a NEW FORM of government by blending two old forms (democracy and republic) while firmly excluding the concept of Monarchy or any other form of dictatorship.

People are thinking about Civil War, but it could be an actual Revolutionary War complicated by the advent of the Internet, Artificial Intelligence, and Apple's War For Privacy From Government Intrusion (even if you're a dead criminal.)

Even science fiction writers may not be thinking "big" enough.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Search and Pay / Tweet and Pay

SEARCH AND PAY.  That's like making a rod for your own back, isn't it?

You can't make this up.
There are no depths to which some will sink to screw musicians, and if the law required internet geniuses to look up book titles and author names, and to pay royalties, maybe authors would be doing better. As it is, there are all manner of loopholes. We can learn something from how musicians are treated.


What they do is, they change the song title ever so slightly.  You cannot find what you are obliged to look for, if you "look for it" by deliberately using the wrong search terms.

Legal blogger Brooke L. Wilner, writing for Finnegan, warned recently that merely re-Tweeting someone else's infringement of copyrighted material can land the RT-happy social media user in a position of having to pay the piper (or creator).


Finally, writers' weekly-- well worth the free subscription-- sometimes lists websites that will pay for reviews. Any port in a storm might be welcome for those working from home....

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Weird Insect Sex

I recently read a fun, clever SF romance called STRANGE LOVE, by Ann Aguirre. On Zylar’s world, overpopulation has led to stringent restrictions on mating and reproduction. Adults seeking mates have to participate in the Choosing, a rigorous series of trials. Having failed in four Choosings, Zylar has one more chance, or he’ll be sentenced to life as a drone, neutered and relegated to menial tasks. As the novel begins, he travels to a distant planet to meet the potential mate with whom he has been corresponding. It’s not unusual for members of his species to mate with aliens, since actual conception of offspring occurs through high-tech gene manipulation. However, a solar flare storm has damaged his ship’s AI, as a result of which he unwittingly ends up on Earth. He finds the female he mistakes for his prospective mate in the middle of an apparently devastated landscape, actually the aftermath of a battlefield reenactment weekend. He scoops up Beryl Bowman and her dog, Snaps. Even though Zylar is basically a humanoid insect, he and Beryl fall in love, and eventually they enjoy erotic intimacy despite the differences between their biology. His species has a decidedly bizarre reproductive physiology, which Aguirre based on a genus of cave-dwelling Brazilian insects.

In those four species of the tiny Neotrogla, females penetrate males with a penis-like organ called a gynosome. "Once the female has penetrated the male, her gynosome inflates, releasing a set of spines that can be used to keep the male from escaping. The sex lasts forty to seventy hours." This is a rare case in nature where the female has the ability to coerce the male into sex, the reverse of the usual power balance. In addition to collecting sperm from the male, the female receives nutritious "seminal gifts" to nourish her for the benefit of her eggs. Biologists theorize that this system evolved because of the scarcity of food in the insects' dry, barren environment. Here are a couple of articles about the weird sex lives of Neotrogla:

Scientists Discover the Gynosome

The Females Wear the Penises

In most animal species, sexual selection makes females the more choosy sex, while males will mate with any available and willing female. Those cave-dwelling insects reverse the typical pattern, with males being more picky and females competing for them. This page discusses animal sex-role reversal in general:

Wild Sex

So for SF authors who want to devise unique methods of alien reproduction, Earth biology includes potential models far odder than the well-known pregnant male seahorse—including females with "penises" and males with "vaginas." And I definitely recommend Aguirre's STRANGE LOVE; it's ingenious, suspenseful, often humorous, and sometimes sensual.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Index to How Do You Know If You've Written a Classic

How Do You Know If You've Written a Classic

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.


Part 3 answers 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.


Part 4 - Fifty Year Test
Best Sellers made into movies or TV from the 1960's, James Clavell's Tai-Pan


Part 5 - James Clavell Move Over
Current Science Fiction carrying on the classic tradition.

Part 6 - Romance and the Ph.D. Thesis

Part 7 - How Do You Know These Two Are Soul Mates

Part 8 - What Do Readers Do

Part 9 - A Film Worth Watching Again

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Willy Nilly and the Erosion of Privacy

Does personal privacy matter? Less so, it seems, in the age where a priority is put on the convenience of others and the profitability of "data", whether the subject of the eroded privacy likes it or not.

"Willy Nilly" harks back to the Old English for "will he" and "ne-will he", "ne" being the negative prefix which is not usually cited in online dictionaries. Most resources condense "ne-will" to "nill", but not all.

Millennials don't seem to mind.  Authors are accustomed to having to give up some privacy as a trade off for pursuing a career, and some authors use pen names... and sometimes, a pen name is not the guarantee of privacy that it used to be.

Perhaps, it is not a good thing for all those sites --that post disclaimers asking paid users to refrain from making employment, or housing, or lending, or other important decisions about the person whose alleged info they are selling online-- to be allowed to monetize private information.  They don't always get it right.  Even if they did get everything right, that information tends to deny persons a fair chance or a second chance.

It is divisive.

Ironically, to read a Loeb and Loeb legal blog article about privacy, you have to accept cookies.

Lexology link.

Loeb and Loeb LLP legal bloggers Melanie Howard, David W. Grace and Ashley Van Leer explain for the benefit of trademark owners how new USPTO rules make trademark owners' street addresses and email addresses available to the public. Authors cannot hide behind their intellectual properties attorney any more.

That is lovely for the "Person-Locator-type" internet businesses that sell personal information, and also for scammers, robocallers, spear phishers, and other common varieties of spammers... and advertisers and marketers.

By the way, on the subject of government helpfulness.... the Copyright Office will be raising many fees as of March 20th, 2020. (Not for photographers.)

Reverting to advertising and targeting, and the annoying loss of privacy, the Charles Russell Speechlys LLP  UK focused legal blog has some must-read insights into data driven online targeting.

Lexology link.


Legal blogger Olivia Crane does a deep dive into what data-driven online targeted advertising means, especially for Britons. This author sympathizes with Olivia Crane's unpleasant experience with shower curtains.

I had a similar experience recently with a synthetic planking product that popped up and virtually stalked me wherever I went (online).  This was after I made a purchase which I regret to this day... so where was the commercial sense in metaphorically bludgeoning me with a Lumber product?

It seems to me, the sensible advertisement targeters might be using "targeting" in much the same way as click-fraud.  "This woman recently bought a new roof for her house (usually a 15 - 30 year warrantied purchase), let's sell her name to roofers, so they can try --in vain-- to sell her a new roof!"

Most authors use Facebook, too.  The Socially Aware legal blog asks, "Are your facebook posts discoverable?"  Of course they are!


J. Alexander Lawrence and Lily Smith for Morrison Foerster LLP give chapter and verse on how far your privacy can be eroded and information you shared semi-privately on Facebook can be exploited and used against you in a court of law.

So, if you are ever going to sign a lease to rent a home that says "No cats", and having an illicit cat is grounds for eviction, do not post photos of your beloved cat on your Facebook page with distinctive features of said rental house in the background... for example.

Finally, for readers who love fine art, your ability to acquire anonymously is receeding, as Andrea N. Perez, writing for Carrington Coleman explains.


Art lovers are presumed to be terrorists and/or money launderers until they prove otherwise according to the EU's Fifth Directive.

What an excellent book title "The Fifth Directive" would be!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Giving Self-Publishing a Bad Name

If you live in or near Maryland, you'll have heard about the scandal and criminal charges surrounding Baltimore ex-mayor Catherine Pugh's self-published series, "Healthy Holly." The books are intended to teach children about health issues such as nutrition, exercise, etc. Pugh sold $500,000 worth of them to the University of Maryland Medical System while serving on its board. She has also been accused of pre-selling books that were ultimately never printed and of sometimes selling the same hypothetical copies more than once to different customers, then not fulfilling the orders. UMMS donated its share of the books to the Baltimore City school system, which has stated that it didn't use any of them in the curriculum. Most of those copies have been warehoused rather than given to children. (In addition to the publishing-related charges, Pugh has also been convicted of fraud and tax evasion.)

Here's a timeline of the major events in the developing case, with a photo of a few of the book covers:

Healthy Holly Book Scandal

The books have been described as "clumsily" and "sloppily" written and produced. They're said to "contain grammatical and spelling errors, such as a main character’s name being spelled two different ways and the word 'vegetable' appearing as 'vegetale'." It strikes me as sad that many people may get their sole impression of self-publishing from this case.

This article goes into more detail about the series and what was done with the copies:

Just How Many "Healthy Holly" Books?

Only two of the books are listed on Amazon, as far as I could see, and neither has a "look inside" feature, so I couldn't evaluate the quality of the writing. Secondhand copies are priced at absurd levels, up to five figures. The reviews of the single book that has any (HEALTHY HOLLY: EXERCISING IS FUN) discuss the author's illegal actions, not the texts of the stories themselves. They all rate it one star except for a two-sentence five-star review, which I think is pretty funny: "I bought 50 of these and finally my rooftop deck permit got approved. 10/10 would buy again."

I'm willing to believe Pugh originally wrote and published the series with good intentions. Yet apparently the temptation of leveraging her political career to promote and sell her work overwhelmed her. Note to self: "Never use official connections to pressure readers into buying books"—not that most of us are ever likely to face such a temptation on that scale.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic Part 6 - Romance and the Ph.D. Thesis

How Do You Know If You've Written A Classic
Part 6
Romance and the Ph.D. Thesis

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.

Part 3 answers 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.

Part 4 - Fifty Year Test
Best Sellers made into movies or TV from the 1960's, James Clavell's Tai-Pan

Part 5
James Clavell Move Over
 Current Science Fiction carrying on the classic tradition.

In Part 4 of this series on Classics, we looked at James Clavell's Tai-Pan, then in Part 5 we noted James Michener's The Source which was contemporary with Tai-Pan.  Today, these works are available in all modern formats, and still noteworthy.

Science Fiction writers are still working with these grand themes, so it is easy to see how Romance blends seamlessly into Science Fiction.

The envelope theme of Romance Genre novels is the profound concept "Love Conquers All."

The word "conquers" indicates a conflict resolved and the word "all" indicates the vast universe out there that is inimical to Romance.  Any obstacle, including the prohibition against traveling faster than light, can be conquered by Love.

But "love" is not defined, leaving writers to create different definitions of love and different ideas about what "all" might be, how and why it resists the force of Love.

So at its core, Romance Genre is a Ph. D. thesis about the nature of the human being, and the world(s) that humanity is embedded in.

In other words, the very nature of reality itself.

Each world the Romance writer builds to contain a novel is actually a Ph.D. thesis - a unique, original contribution to the sum total of human knowledge.

What do you have to say that has never been said before, or never been stated in exactly this way?

Problem solving, as we've noted in previous posts, is the art of restating the problem until the problem itself reveals its own solution.

Problem solving is the art of posing questions - unanswerable questions - the Art of the Impossible.

Science Fiction is the story of solving impossible problems by expanding the realm of science.

Science Fiction is the literature of ideas.

Romance is the literature of an idea - Love Is Real.

So what exactly is love?

Choose a definition for your Characters to use and you've begun to build a world for them to live in.

As with these Classics we mentioned in Parts 4 and 5 of this series, to find the issue relevant to today's readers, look back in history - even pre-history.

Archeologists have retrieved bits of pottery and statues, foundations of buildings, tools, weapons, and artwork that reveal some of the religious convictions, and social values of civilizations long past, and peoples whose names for themselves aren't even known.  We know a lot about the elements of human nature that have never changed.

Love is one of those things - an intangible motivation so strong it can redirect a whole civilization.

We look back at the foundations of modern civilizations, and we find one of the oldest that still exists is the Judeo-Christian Bible in which the Creator of the Universe commands his people to love him, as if love is an act of will, a choice.

The Oral Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, a memorizable song or chant,  was, according to Rabbinic tradition, given to Moses at Mount Sinai in the year 1312 BCE, one thousand three hundred twelve years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

That is only 3,332 years before this year, 2020.

In those three thousand years, our civilization has struggled to find a definition of "love," and to live by it.  Love your neighbor as yourself has proven much more difficult than anyone imagined.

Many Romance Novels have detailed how marriages can be founded on a love for an imaginary person superimposed over the real person.  Beauty and the Beast -- at some point the Beast beneath the illusion is revealed.  Or conversely, at some point, the truly lovable treasure of a person is revealed from under the illusion of a Beast.

In other words, we "project" an image onto other people, then establish an emotional reaction to our imaginary image, not the actual other person.

If humans do that today, it seems likely they did it three thousand years ago, and more.

Study the Classics we have mentioned, see how they draw the picture of human traits that persist even when presented with new problems.  Find a new problem, ripped from today's headlines, apply a human habit from thousands of years ago to that problem and generate a new solution.

There you have your Ph.D. thesis.  That is what a Best Selling Classic novel is - a unique, original contribution to human knowledge.

If the subject you choose is Love, chances are you will create a Classic Romance.  If you use the science fiction method of posing questions, chances are you will create a Science Fiction Romance that has the potential to become a Classic.

Remember, Romance is about Soul Mates teaming up to create their own unique Happily Ever After - a stable life.  The Classics we've noted declaim loudly there is no such thing as stability, or a stable life.  Those Classics don't deal directly with the Soul in all its theoretical complexity as discussed here:


Romance is about doing the impossible, that which has never been done, creating stability.

It could take a Ph.D. thesis to convince a generation of young readers that stability is possible in this world, for human families and nations.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Just Because It Looks Like A Smutty Joke....

Just because you might dress up dissing your competition as a mildly dirty joke --even a fart joke-- does not necessarily mean that you can expect to come away from Court smelling like a proverbial rose.

That could be said to be the bottom (groan) line of an entertaining law blog article about false disparagement and the failure of a "puffery" defense.

Penned by legal bloggers Amy Ralph Mudge and Randall M. Shaheen, representing Baker & Hostetler LLP,
they really cut loose with the puns and wit, while making serious and useful points about dirty competitive strategies.
Lexology version:


In case you wish to know, "Puffery" is the legal argument that the offensive suggestion is too ridiculous --or hilarious-- to be taken seriously by a reasonable person.

There are object lessons for writers who do their own marketing. Not every author compares his/her/their work to a rival's works in ways that compliment the rival.

Does anyone still read Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies? This writer has never forgotten the lessons of Mrs. Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By  and Mrs. Be-Done-By-As-You-Did. 

Another recent legal blog deals with truthful advertisements, from which one can extrapolate advice about comparing your products and services to those of others... or not.  Christian P. Foote, writing for Carr McClellan



One would have to have a major inferiority complex to sue a rival for claiming that their (the rival's) own sweet product has "no added (ingredient)" which must mean the same thing as the rival disparaging the offended party's product by suggesting it is unnatural.

Alas, some will see offensive "micro-aggression" where none was intended. The internet is full of potential for such misunderstandings.

On a positive note, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is open to public comments on its Endorsement Guides. The guides mostly affect Influencers, but commenting is an opportunity for writers to comment publicly with wit and charm.  Your name and comment will be published.


All the best,

Rowena Cherry