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

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