Sunday, August 30, 2020
In Sickness And In.... Space
Instead... an advertisement caught my attention yesterday. It appeared to suggest that everyone in America is approximately equally sick, spends approximately the same on medical care and prescriptions, and that savings if the cost of "health care" (which might be code for the cost of insurance, co-pays and deductibles) goes down would more than balance out the cost of tax increases.
The rogue health and fitness blog, which is promoting a book, seems to suggest that there is a connection between Big Food (that is, heavily processed food which is highly profitable for the manufacturers and very poor in nutritional benefits for the consumer) and Big Pharma (which makes the expensive drugs to alleviate the symptoms caused by poor diet).
Better access to better nutrition might be a better idea, for instance, universal "Blue Apron". That would stick it to Big Food and to Big Pharma!
Maybe space travellers eat highly processed food, and this can cause flatulence as well as other unpleasant symptoms.
Have you seen the Farmers Dog advertisements? Sometimes it seems like we, too, eat Kibble. We just don't think of it that way.
For interesting information about health issues and space travel:
And changes to genes in space:
And they don't even mention huge kidney stones. But, Harvard does:
Farting in a space capsule can cause disharmony among the crew. It's not funny up there.
It's also a fire hazard in the confines of a space capsule, which is why space Kibble has to be created with care.
All the best,
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Here's another article, long and detailed, about robot personal attendants for elderly people:Meet Your Robot Caretaker
I was a little surprised that the first paragraph suggests those machines will be a common household convenience in "four or five decades." I'd have imagined their becoming a reality sooner, considering that robots able to perform some of the necessary tasks already exist. The article mentions several other countries besides Japan where such devices are now commercially available.
The article enumerates some of the potential advantages of robot health care aides: (1) There's no risk of personality conflicts, as may develop between even the most well-intentioned people. (2) Automatons don't need time off. (3) They don't get tired, confused, sick, or sloppy. (4) They can take the place of human workers in low-paid, often physically grueling jobs. (4) Automatons are far less likely to make mistakes, being "programmed to be consistent and reliable." (5) In case of error, they can correct the problem with no emotional upheaval to cloud their judgment or undermine the client-caretaker relationship. (6) The latter point relates to an actual advantage many prospective clients see in having nonhuman health aides; there's no worry about hurting a robot's feelings. (7) Likewise, having a machine instead of a live person to perform intimate physical care, such as bathing, would avoid embarrassment.
Contrary to hypothetical objections that health-care robots would deprive human aides of work, one expert suggests that "robots handling these tasks would free humans to do other, more important work, the kind only humans can do: 'How awesome would it be for the home healthcare nurse to play games, discuss TV shows, take them outside for fresh air, take them to get their hair done, instead of mundane tasks?'” Isolated old people need "human connection" that, so far, robots can't provide. The article does, however, go on to discuss future possibilities of emotional bonding with robots and speculates about the optimal appearances of robotic home health workers. A robot designed to take blood pressure, administer medication, etc. should have a shape that inspires confidence. On the other hand, it shouldn't look so human as to fall into the uncanny valley.
As far as "bonding" is concerned, the article points out that "for most people, connections to artificial intelligence or even mechanical objects can happen without even trying." The prospect of more lifelike robots and deeper bonding, however, raises another question: Would clients come to think of the automaton as so person-like that some of the robotic advantages listed above might be negated? I'm reminded of Ray Bradbury's classic story about a robot grandmother who wins the love of a family of motherless children, "I Sing the Body Electric"; one child fears losing the "grandmother" in death, like her biological mother.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Worldbuilding For Fantasy Part 1 - Paranormal Detectives
One would expect building a world to house a fictional drama would be the same for Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Western, Historical, or Fantasy.
The process is, actually, mostly the same, at least at the beginning where the story Idea first blossoms. The process diverges later, as you decorate with symbols, visuals, and plot-clues, foreshadowing, and then sketch out the whole rest of the world beyond the story-venue.
The most efficient way to build a world, destined for any (or all) genres, is to start by studying your audience's everyday existence, their "world" - the boundary between what they know to the point of boredom and all the "here be dragons" boundaries of their world.
Thus children's books are easy to world build for, but much-much harder to write. You have to be careful not to talk down to children, while at the same time imparting a vision of what the next stage of their maturation is all about.
The same is actually true of adults.
The work-a-day adult actually lives in a fairly small world, associating with a few people, maybe a couple hundred, commuting the same route, shopping the same stores, grabbing fast food at the same stand-up counter.
That is changing rapidly now, as circumstances have boosted the use of work-from-home. Working online both reduces the number of people you see daily, but increases the number you interact with.
The Romance Writer must change with the times.
Thus today's working-stiff population is trending toward having a larger view of the world, via Facebook etc., knowing what's going on in the lives of people they barely know.
Many read Romance mixed with almost anything - Victorian Dukes, Cowboy Drifters, -- unexpectedly different but intriguing men attracted to women of strong character, driving ambition, determined to achieve a goal.
If you have a story to tell of Alien Romance -- meeting up with a VERY "different" sort of person from somewhere you've never heard of and can't imagine, Science Fiction is a natural choice. But Fantasy, alternate-reality worlds where Magic is Real, is also a great venue to place a story of Impossible Love.
Love Conquers All.
The cliche is a cliche because it's true.
So if you want to tell the tale of an Impossible Love with a story-arc that transforms the impossible into the possible, that moves the border around your reader's life, that enlarges the known world, Paranormal Romance is a natural.
In other words, take our Real World, change something we take for granted, and build an entire world around that one difference. And you'll have your alternate-reality where one of your characters grew up.
Now, bring that Character into the reader's reality and spur his adjustment.
This describes Gini Koch's ALIEN series,
and the feature film STARMAN - as well as THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
Those are all technically science fiction.
What makes a World you Build into a Fantasy world?
But what, exactly, is Paranormal?
Google the word.
Learn to pronounce
denoting events or phenomena such as telekinesis or clairvoyance that are beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding.
"a mystic who can prove he has paranormal powers"
And further down the Google results, note:
What is the difference between paranormal and supernatural?
The paranormal genre includes creatures like zombies, werewolves, aliens, and ghosts, as well as phenomena like telepathy and time travel. “Supernatural” refers to phenomena that are forever outside the realm of scientific explanation, such as god, the afterlife, and the soul.Jan 21, 2020
Note how neither explanation of the word is useful to a writer attempting to craft a world that at least several publishers would buy to be published under a Paranormal or Fantasy imprint.
The vocabulary of the English language is under as much swift, drastic change as is our general lifestyle.
Wikipedia offers this modernized take on the word, Paranormal:
Description Paranormal events are purported phenomena described in popular culture, folk, and other non-scientific bodies of knowledge, whose existence within these contexts is described as beyond normal experience or scientific explanation.
Note the very non-dictionary choice of wording, prejudicing the reader before the definition is offered. "Purported" and "non-scientific" both telegraph the writer's opinion that anything called Paranormal is in fact non-existent, non-sensical, or only uneducated people would be so gullible as to think any of those things could happen.
"Popular Culture" or just "Popular" also telegraphs the writer's opinion that such ideas are beneath notice, unworthy of the educated who would never be part of "the populace."
If you, as a developing writer, haven't yet studied semantics and the semantic loading of words, do so before attempting to craft a Paranormal Novel.
If you note how "Paranormal" is used to designate movies (study the movies with that label), you'll see how the meaning of the word is warped and reshaped by common usage.
You can do that with the World you build -- you can take everyday English words and redefine them with a different emotional impact, a different semantic loading.
The most easily available laboratory for learning to do that is today's News Headlines -- almost every one you see, including CNN and Fox News, contains some word that telegraphs to the reader how to evaluate and respond to the information in the item. Become sensitive to that and you will improve your Paranormal Worldbuilding ability a hundred fold.
Another way to explore how modern publishers are re-defining vocabulary is to read novels.
I want to point you to a very popular writer who has built a complex "Paranormal" world with science fiction-detective style plots, where the detective is a Magic User and able to detect where "magic" (which is never actually defined) has been used.
The RIVERS OF LONDON series by Ben Aaronovitch (set in an alternate but not very different London) is from DAW Books -- very prominent Science Fiction and Fantasy publisher I sold a few books to when it was under previous management.
The advent of DAW publishing is a whole phenomenon all by itself - the first publisher of its kind.
Aaronovitch has painted a picture of "reality" that includes the personification of a River who can have sex with the Main Character, a Detective who can detect magic traces after the fact.
The Magic specialty division of law enforcement is after an Arch Criminal who has given them a lot of trouble, and who is building a magic artifact, a giant bell. It's unclear what the results of letting that bell ring might be, but the indications are that it would bring an entity from another dimension that would then "rule the world" (megalomaniac style, rule).
The Rivers of London Series is a huge best seller, but is structured like an ordinary Detective Novel. The personality of the Detective is what carries the story, but the world he lives in holds many astonishing surprises for the reader.
The science fiction overtones come from the adroit handling of some of these astonishing surprises -- just like the Characters on Star Trek, the Characters in LIES SLEEPING just take the astonishing factoids for granted.
But there is a sterility to the story telling, very much like a Colombo episode, rather than anything like the Decker/Lazarus series by Faye Kellerman (that I keep reviewing here -- a series you should study for the HEA depiction).
The Main Character has a "thing" going with a female avatar of a River, but there's no conflict or story advancement there. The plot is all about chasing the Villain, unraveling his plot, putting the kibosh on his plans to use Magic.
There is no penetrating thematic argument asserting WHY this alternate Reality is essential to the well-being of our everyday reality. There is no actual conflict having to do with the way the Characters are embedded in their reality.
Note, by contrast, how Jim Butcher, in his Dresden Files Series, has chosen a Character who is embedded in, irked by, shaped by, challenged by, his environment. His identity as a Wizard gives him only one way to earn a Living - basically as a consulting detective, or Paladin for Hire. His work brings him athwart the Great Powers running his world.
He is very conspicuously a Native of that alternate reality.
Ben Aaronovitch's Detective, who actually works for a government agency, officially, floats apart from his world. It doesn't shape his character, even when he takes advantage of it. He shrugs off the bizarre reality of having shacked up with a River (I mean a real one, flowing water and all -- with an Avatar that is never explained properly).
Now Lies Sleeping is part of a Series - and if you drop into the middle here, you wouldn't expect all the explanation that went before. But there should be more than there is. The absence of these connecting links leaves us with an interesting Character - who floats disconnected from his reality.
Note carefully -- RIVERS OF LONDON is an international best selling series. People keep buying installments for a reason.
There might be an appetite for stories about people just coping their way through a world that is irrelevant to them.
Paranormal Fantasy lends itself easily to this sort of novel - disconnected from our reality, with Characters as disconnected from their Reality as we feel we are from today's reality.
There are a lot of "magic using detective" novels selling very well these days - and that might be because Detective Procedurals are traditionally about an objective onlooker (the Detective) prying into affairs disconnected from their personal life.
Detective novels hold particular appeal for those who want a rest from drowning in "soap opera" reality with husband, kids, cousins, clashing personalities, demanding bosses, etc.
Solving a puzzle external to the Self provides a much needed respite from Reality.
Science Fiction as a genre usually pivots around a mystery -- a scientific mystery that needs explaining by a discovery, by learning that some impossible thing is actually real.
Science Fiction is about confronting The Unknown.
Paranormal is about confronting The Unknown.
Romance is about confronting The Unknown (hence the popularity of the Arranged Marriage, or governess-marries-Duke).
And all of them are about making The Unknown into The Known.
That's what "adventure" is -- going OUT into The Unknown, and learning it so it isn't unknown any more.
The Happily Ever After state of existence is more "Unknown" than "Here Be Dragons" ever was. It is considered completely impossible.
The Paranormal Romance writer's job is to take the Reader on an adventure into a realm where the HEA is known, Normal, attainable, but perhaps at a cost, at a risk, with every high stakes.
A Magic using Detective - using paranormal powers to pry into affairs not his own (think about Apple refusing to hack into an Apple phone belonging to a deceased terrorist), is the perfect plot-vehicle to discuss how to discover and attain the HEA.
Does it take MAGIC to understand HAPPINESS? Or do you, as a human, need to marry a River?
Sunday, August 23, 2020
We have always taken flowers and potted plants to our hospitalized loved ones, but how many of us have thought about the science behind our intuition? Patients feel less pain and recover faster, if they can look at Nature. Apparently, patients even do better if the wall art is of meadows, waterfalls, seascapes, treescapes et cetera instead of abstract art.
Nature is good for you. Are you good for Nature?
The opening premise of the second article, which is by Joan Meiners reminded me of "DUNE". In Dune, when a person dies, they bequeth all the water in their body to a beneficiary. Water is the most rare and precious treasure a person owns in the arid DUNE world.
Depending on age, size, and lifestyle, a human body is between 75% and 50% water.
The trouble with modern American burial customs is that the value of returning all that water and other nutrients to the soil is commonly, massively outweighed by the toxic --and even carcinogenic-- soup that is created by embalming. Ms. Meiners reports on Troy Hottle's fascinating analysis of a a green death (with a positive carbon footprint of up to -864 kgs of Carbon Dioxide) and a not-green death (adding up to +350 kgs of Carbon Dioxide).
Green burials are explained here:
Apparently, someone who chooses to befriend the Earth in death can give life to a new tree, or provide free light to a park. (Columbia University's DeathLAB's Constellation Park.)
Much older societies provide free lunch to vultures, as explained in "Fifteen of the Strangest Funeral Customs from Around the World."
Of the fifteen in this article, one reminded me of the Arthurian legends of Merlin being entombed (alive) by Morgan Le Fay (or by The Lady of the Lake) inside a tree (or a tower, or a rock or a cave).
For more inspiring information about Merlin
Merlin legends are fascinating, and sometimes Gandalfian. There is also a reference to the cost of Magic. Most SFF writers know that there has to be a dark lining to every silvery cloud-of-power. In one version of the Merlin story, he can see the future for everyone else, but not for himself, and worse, his supernatural powers are diminished by lust, in fact his libido is his undoing... even the death of him.
All the best,
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Surviving the Slow Apocalypse
More about the "slow apocalypse" from Kameron Hurley this month:Of Men and Monsters
Writing about police brutality, serial harassers in the SF field, incompetence and corruption in government, etc., she says, "Monsters masked as men have always walked among us." She deplores the difficulty of making broad structural changes, with the result that the same problems cycle around and continually resurface, "because we punish individuals instead of remaking systems." About the "monsters," she goes on to say, "What ensures their continued existence is the esteem we hold them in, the lifting up of powerful bullies out of fear: fear of retribution, fear of discomfort, fear of what would happen if we did not uphold the status quo." She focuses in particular on the "monsters" in the "professional spaces" of the science fiction community.
In connection with the protests, riots, and assassinations of the 1960s and early 1970s, she acknowledges, "There have always been times like these." Learning from the past is a necessary prerequisite for creating a better future.
Therefore, it strikes me as incongruous when, although she concludes with an expression of hope, immediately before that she declares, "It’s been difficult for me to write anything these days that isn’t prefaced with how difficult it is to do much of anything but survive during the final death throes of America as we know it."
Are things really THAT bad? I tend, rather, to accept Steven Pinker's thesis in THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE and ENLIGHTENMENT NOW that these are the best of times for our planet, not the worst. Yes, even now. What if COVID-19 had struck in the middle of the nineteenth century, before the germ theory of disease was accepted? Only sixty or seventy years ago, the deaths in police custody that have roused such passionate cries for change would hardly even have been considered newsworthy. Our country has survived worse, such as the Civil War, the Great Depression, and two World Wars. As my stepmother used to say, much to my annoyance when I was a teenager impatient to grow up, "This too shall pass."
Speaking of writing, my personal coping mode is the opposite of Hurley's. I don't feel competent to deal with the weight of the present crises through fiction. In my last few works, as well as the WIP I'm starting now, I've practiced writing with a light touch and hints of humor that I hope will offer readers (along with myself) an hour or two of pleasurable escape.
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
Theme-worldbuilding Integration Part 22 - Furnishing Your First Home
Theme-Worldbuilding Integration Posts are indexed at:
Worldbuilding From Reality posts are indexed at:
Our everyday world is spinning into a huge eruption of change.
The change in the way the world works may have a direction we have not yet identified.
Science Fiction is now famous for having spotted many trends and created many inventions, many IMPOSSIBLE things, that children who grew up reading those novels such as Heinlein's adventures for children then just went and invented because they didn't believe adults who said it was impossible to go to the Moon.
How do you find those trends? How do you create a vision of the future, of life on far-away planets out of touch with Earth, of life in the asteroid belt? What impossible things (other than a cure for the COVID-19 virus and its relative, the common cold) have to be invented and then deployed to children who grow up considering them commonplace?
Science Fiction writers missed the impact of the World Wide Web. They got the Internet, and Artificial Intelligence, but not the direct-person-to-person social impact of the Web, or today Video-Conferencing.
They got the video-conferencing possibility, even in 3-D hologram, but not the social impact.
Mix Romance with Science Fiction and you follow the threads that begin to depict social impacts, the impact on families, on people living together, raising each others' children, and even working at a distance.
How do you find the key invention you can spring on the world, the impossible thing your Characters take for granted, and sketch out a future where the impact of that impossible thing is made clear? Is it a cautionary tale or a Wish Fulfillment Fantasy?
Think about the following quick reprise of prevailing trends of the last 70 to 100 years. Follow these datapoint out another hundred years and look for the connecting links, the threads that embroider a theme.
It's striking how few products are durable now, compared to earlier times.
I just used a stapler I'd bought at seventeen for college. A bit of rust underneath but no hint that it won't last the rest of my life. Go back further, to the office furniture that's twenty or sixty years older still. Or the wood, stone, ceramic, or glass that might be in use centuries. In some cases, millennia.
The fragility now is sometimes mislabeled as planned obsolescence. That's not products that cease to work; that's products that still work but you're not satisfied with.
I'd say the fragility now is not unrelated though. If you can save a penny or a dime per unit in a VCR by using a plastic cog instead of metal, you do. Even though its failure will make the entire device unusable. Because by the time that happens, there'll be much better VCRs. Or people will be shedding their VCRs for DVD players.
And the sad truth of product sales—physical or software—is that people do not buy on the basis of quality. They might say they do. But they buy on features.
Time to market vs. features vs. price point vs. quality. Quality and durability are niche markets. *I* seek out quality, will wait for it, and will pay a premium price; most people aren't me.
And I replied to this post as follows:
------quote Jacqueline Lichtenberg--------
It is done that way on purpose.
However next to the durability list by decade, put a column of the total US (and world) population, then remember what people were saying about the population growth problem in the 1950's during the baby boom.
Next remember why the dollar price of a paperback book skyrocketed. Then remember the '50's transition to PLASTIC and the economic reasons for that. Note the total audience in the US for a TV show to be a success and get renewed.
Cross-correlate all those data points and memories with the population growth curve.
Then look at University course material in the Business and Accounting (even Law) majors, and your eyes will pop out at the discovery.
Then cross-correlate your discovery with a much-longer-range view of the History of Philosophy (from say 500 BC to today), then probe the course curriculum material for a major in Philosophy in 1950 compared to the content of those courses in 1990.
THEN you'll have a whole new understanding and a bunch of brand new questions about the nature of reality.
I could go on into particle physics, but check this list of data points before you delve into particle physics and astrophysics (my favorite topics, you know).
Lin Bordwell noted there must be a special place in hell for Fox News.
I replied to that because I was still revved up about the long-view data-point-set I had replied to David Lubkin with, about how the world has changed, what we see with our daily view eyes, and the hidden reasons behind the change we see.
The writer - especially of science fiction, but double-especially of Romance - needs to focus on those HIDDEN reasons, the hidden forces driving the apparent reality that people react to.
That is where THEME comes from. Theme is not intellectual in origin. It is GUT - pure, primal, survival instinct, and totally non-verbal.
But once you've isolated and refined that gut experience, the writer has to cast that understanding into a story that shares that experience with readers who have never had it, and may never have it. People need to understand other people - and the easiest way to fill that need is to walk a mile in another's moccasins -- to become the viewpoint character in a story.
Here is my comment on Fox News and how it fits with the sweeping forces reshaping our children's and future grandchildren's world:
Since the Fox founder resigned and then passed away, Fox's philosophy has become muddled, mixed, and there is no clear editorial policy right now except the fight for ratings. There's the problem with today's news organizations! I posted on David Lubkin's item about how products don't last these days:
I inserted a link to the comment I made to David Lubkin's post, then added:
Relevant to why products don't last, Fox News (and all the national ones) are doing the same thing as manufacturers of products are doing, and they are doing it for exactly the same reasons.
Tax Law is the core of the matter for writers -- which utterly changed the fiction writer's business model. Cj Cherryh summarized it beautifully, but I can't find her post on that.
When News was actually NEWS, the "News Division" of a network was a loss-leader -- not intended to make money, but as a tax loss write-off and brownie-point audience winner.
Bit by Bit tax law was changed, probably, for all I know, in footnotes and amendments to "must pass" headline bills voters don't read, so that networks and other outfits (like CNN), Indie outfits, MUST make a profit delivering news and weather.
Advertising doesn't work the same way any more, either.
But like FICTION, News audiences are the PRODUCT not the CUSTOMER. Hence clickbait, rumor-mongering, emotion-whipping, opinion-shaping headlines - clickbait headlines - are the only way they can make money. So the competition has shifted from JUST THE FACTS FIRST - (the scoop) - to AIN'T IT AWFUL - (puff-piece).
OK, if you've read all that, you're probably fuming and chomping at the bit about all the counter information you've got on tap. There are things you want to say. Who wants to listen?
That's how writers think, which is what my blogs here are about -- not about reality and not entirely about writing craft, per se, but about what a writer does inside their mind before they reach for craftsmanship tools and produce a product someone will pay for.
To write a story, you have to have something to say. What you have to say, what you feel you must say, is your theme.
You've seen how scholars divide writers' output into phases or epochs. Your theme can change as events impact your life, just events impact your Characters and cause them to "arc" as we highlighted in the series on the mysteries of pacing.
You have a theme. Your work will hit commercial sales level when you let that theme show in your fiction. That theme, uniquely yours, is personal but also universal, "the same but different" as they say in Hollywood.
Writers have always striven to monetize an otherwise useless ability - the very common, maybe universal, ability to tell yourself stories.
The difference between a writer and a non-writer is absolutely non-existent.
What differences you observe between writers and non-writers are not talent at all, but the determined, grim-faced, teeth-gritted, do-or-die acquisition of skills, craft, lore, expertise. The craft to present your personal theme as a universal theme which the reader will experience as their own personal theme (because it's universal.)
One of the skills writers have to develop more robustly than non-writers is multi-tasking, learning to "integrate" two and more opposed, mutually exclusive, modes of thinking, and not let the reader see you doing it.
At first, all great writers suffer through producing awkward, flawed, ass-backwards arranged, incomprehensible manuscripts. They aren't worthless. They just need work - work that can't be done until the writer acquires the right tools.
One of those tools is the ability to build an artificial world around a Character who is suffering through a life-lesson, a karmic-backlash, or debt payoff, or getting his ass caught in a bear trap.
Those first, awkward, manuscripts have to be abandoned, decomposed, re-digested, then mined for the salient ingredients of theme.
Theme is what a decorator does when furnishing a house, office, store, or TV Set -- or these days, a Zoom or Facebook Room, or whatever Google is running for conferences. All objects are chosen to illustrate a theme - a color palate. Nothing is allowed in that does not fit the unifying theme - color, shape, texture, composition.
A proper Zoom "meeting" set behind you (an artificial background) is your "world" built out of the "theme" your meeting is about.
Have you watched the sets of News Shows these days? Every couple years, they (for no explicable reason) remake the sets for news anchors.
Today, we know the views of streets or the artwork is just a projection on a big screen behind the News Anchor. Fake sets.
Likewise, a couple just at the "move in together" part of Romance has to build their world by furnishing their apartment or house. Whose sofa gets sent to recycle? Whose arm chair gets kept? What COLOR rugs, walls?
Moving-in is building a world. It needs a theme if it is going to become permanent. If the pieces don't go together, they will fly apart. Coherence of blended themes is key to the HEA.
What's your theme?
Create a Zoom background that reflects your gut-theme in non-verbal symbolism.
Your first novel, or room-decor, is your first home, so furnish it with a unified theme that bespeaks the firm foundation of the Happily Ever After.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
"Publish And Be Damned" (Of Sensational Defamation)
"Publish and be damned," is believed to have been the first Duke of Wellington's response to literary blackmail. He was offered the opportunity to pay heftily to have a chapter about his extra-marital sexual exploits omitted from a tell-all series.
Brian Cathcart tells the scurrilous tale.
Modern day legal bloggers, Patrick Considine, Peter Bartlett, and Dean Levitan writing for Minter Ellison reflect on the current state of sensational defamation and suggest four lessons for publishers (media companies), following a major lawsuit which resulted in the largest defamation payout to a single person in Australian history.
So much for blackmail, and scurrilous scandal that may or may not be approximately accurate, at least as regards His Grace. It boggles the mind why writers of fiction would both "date" their work and expose themselves to the risk of a lawsuit by mentioning a living person, even a celebrity (known to have fewer rights in America) in an unflattering context.
Ron Charles, writing for The Washington Post reports on one such instance in particular, and several recent instances in general.
Ron's article is a jolly good read, with a nod and a wink to the Odyssey and to Shakespeare's Historical Plays, and also to Walt Disney's famous water fowl, an actor or two, and current and former politicians.
Talking of Hollywood, legal blogger Toni Oncidi for Proskauer Rose LLP notes that publishing Hollywood actors' full birth dates is perfectly acceptable.
In these days of rampant identity theft, it seems wrong to this writer that birthdays can be exploited against the wishes of the celebrity... but no doubt it's good for LifeLock. For those not being exploited and exposed by IMBD and its like, many of those "person-locator sites" are required by law to remove information upon request, but they don't make it easy to find out how.
Be watchful, also, about the information you provide for "two factor id" on sites such as Twitter.
According to legal blogger Jenny L. Colgate, writing for Rothwell Figg's Privacy Zone blog, Twitter has been exploiting that supposedly super private data and sharing it with advertisers.
All the best,
Thursday, August 13, 2020
A recent post on Quora asked, "What are the traits of ghosts in your culture?" Musing on that topic, I first thought of our familiar depiction of a ghost as a humanoid figure draped in a sheet. Now rather cartoonish, this image has inspired generations of children to wear sheets with cut-out eye holes as Halloween costumes. I assume that idea originated with the white shrouds in which corpses used to be buried. In A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Marley's ghost wears his burial garb, complete with a wrapper around the chin to keep his jaw closed. Otherwise, ghosts in the British and American tradition tend to look the same as they did in life. Hamlet's father appears "in his habit as he lived." We can tell they're ghosts only if they vanish before our eyes, walk through objects, or become transparent. In many legends, they display the wounds of violent death, perhaps carrying their severed heads if they died by beheading.
Other cultures have different concepts of spirit apparitions. Among the many categories of Chinese ghosts, some have "mouths like burning torches," "mouths no bigger than needles," or "hair like iron needles" (from Wikipedia, "Ghosts in Chinese Culture"). The supernatural status of beings like those would be hard to miss! There's a ghost in Bengal that takes the form of an owl and another that appears as a ball of fire like a will-o-the-wisp.
Japanese ghosts—yurei—typically have white clothing and black hair. They may be accompanied by floating flames of blue, green, or purple. Most often, they don't have feet. In anime, we can recognize a ghost by the fact that its bodily form fades to nothingness where the legs and feet should be.
In American popular culture, we have conventional ways of recognizing other kinds of supernatural beings. A character who never seems to eat, seldom or never appears in company during the day, and recoils from religious objects might be a vampire. If several unexplained "wild animal attacks" have occurred locally, the person who has hairs in his palms, eyebrows that meet over the nose, and/or two fingers of the same length (typically the index finger and the one next to it) is the logical suspect to be the werewolf, especially if he or she consistently disappears on nights of full moons. Sometimes a fiction author can use traits such as these as red herrings, to point readers toward a supposed vampire or werewolf while another character is the true villain or something altogether different is going on.
During the witch hunts of the early modern period, if a person suddenly fell ill or suffered the unexplained loss of valuable livestock or other property, accusing someone of malicious magic seemed the logical response. A remembered curse from a neighbor (usually a woman, most often one who was already disliked) shortly before the stroke of misfortune could lead to examining her for evidence of witchcraft, such as a suspicious mark on the body or the keeping of a pet that might be a demonic familiar in disguise. In fiction, these "proofs" might be reliable, some other character might be the real witch, or there might be no actual magic at work after all. When as a child I read Elizabeth George Speare's classic THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, I was quite disappointed to find that there's no genuine witch in the story. The book is a realistic historical novel about accepting differences, and the titular character is a kindly widow ostracized because she's a Quaker.
In my recent story "Spooky Tutti Frutti," I expect readers to figure out the nature of the ghost long before the protagonist makes that discovery. The title includes an obvious hint, for one thing. The mysterious girl tends to disappear abruptly when the protagonist's back is turned, and she acts clueless about common features of contemporary life. I hope the readers will enjoy waiting for their suspicions to be confirmed.Spooky Tutti Frutti
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Reviews 56 - Winds of Wrath by Taylor Anderson
Reviews haven't been indexed yet.
In Reviews 53, 54, and 55 we scrutinized three very differently structured Series, long-running Series in different genres, none of them Romance Genre.
Note Gini Koch's ALIEN series
is not among these because it is Romance. A romance reader striving to sell their own novels into the Romance genre can't really learn much new from reading perfect mixes of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance and Gaming -- which is what Gini Koch's ALIEN series is.
Here are 16 novels in the series listed in order on Amazon, rated as steamy paranormal romance, but that's not how I see it.
And today we look at the structure and pacing of Winds of Wrath (June 2020 Book 15) by Taylor Anderson, a wrap-up ending for his long-running Destroyermen Series (which I adore!).
There is a reason all these series are so long, other than that I love long series of large books.
Each of these series tells A story - one-long-continuous-story. Each is "the story of" something very different from the others. They make a set to contrast/compare and learn from.
The Destroyermen series features a wondrous lesson in THE EXPOSITORY LUMP,
C. J. Cherryh's exposition style in the Foreigner Series
The Destroyermen also has a long-long expository trail of the things the Characters did and what happened because of it in previous books. But in this current book, the explosive (literally, as it is a war-story) pacing carries the plot and story to CONCLUSION.
War is a tedious thing to live through. "Hurry up and Wait" is the mantra of the soldier being moved about on a worldwide chessboard by Generals who don't know their names.
And that has been the pacing core of the Destroyermen Series - hurry up and wait. The developments flash across the page at a dizzying rate, then slow to a creep for pages and pages.
Anderson usually moves some characters through action, great battle scenes, and long-range maneuvers, then jumps to another set of characters on a different side of the World War, on a different continent.
The astute reader (and student of our World Wars) will recognize the structure. It is a World War.
To keep his readers fascinated, Anderson inserts long, detailed descriptions of the ordnance development, of the science and inventiveness of the natives of his invented world. It is description, all static exposition, tedious as war itself, but precisely based on the developmental stages this world went through during World Wars.
War spurs industry, creativity, invention. The non-humans of this parallel world at war learn fast and prevail by creativity alone.
Here, in the final book of this story, survival depends entirely on creativity, on guts, and on freehand invention of strategy and tactics by a total amateur, the Captain of a Destroyer whipped from World War II Earth's South Pacific and plunged into a parallel Earth's war for survival.
The Alternative History creation is superb, the imagination fabulous, and the characters engaging
But it's the pacing you should focus on.
Here is the index to the entries on Pacing.
If you want a Character to do an "about-face" in life-direction, to change from "I'll never get married" to "Will you marry me" -- you need more space than just one novel.
Gini Koch's Alien is susceptible to the marriage idea at the beginning, before they meet and become irrevocably entangled.
Other soldiers of fortune types are resistant, as resistant as guys who believe there can never been any such thing as Happily Ever After.
To change such a Character's ideas about Love and Romance, you need TIME and SPACE for him to arc.
Sunday, August 09, 2020
Giving A Shit. Or Not. (Of Word Choices, Word Order, And Grammar.)
Perhaps the courtesy bit is being taken too far. Clarity of meaning might be more important... unless the intention is deliberately to mislead.
Aspen Laser explains:
Finally, if you care about copyright, and if a State, or state entity --such as a school or library or prison or tourism board or university etc-- has ripped off your copyrighted work, the Copyright Office wants to hear from you.
All the best,
Thursday, August 06, 2020
What does it take to turn you off fictional characters so thoroughly you don't want to read about them? Even if I dislike some aspects of a protagonist, that's not necessarily a downcheck for the story as a whole if it engages me otherwise. Scarlett O'Hara is far from a nice person, yet I sympathize with her despite her flaws and have reread GONE WITH THE WIND many times. Any character who constantly and indiscriminately peppers his or her conversation with words formerly called "unprintable" (as opposed to using them for emphasis when the situation justifies them) repels me. I detest this habit in Stephen King's early novels, but I find those works so fascinating in general that I put up with the annoyance.
I just finished reading a well-written, emotionally credible ghost story in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION. The protagonist, a middle-aged divorced man, sees not only the ghosts of his parents but "wraiths of the living" in the form of apparitions of his ex-wife and their son. The man's unhappiness and his increasing estrangement from the people around him make the story painfully depressing to read, although still effective in its way. The character loses my sympathy, however, when he collects his mother's personal effects from the nursing home and decides to throw away the family photograph.
One of my favorite mystery authors, best known for her dog-themed mysteries, also collaborated on a food-themed detective series. I was so disappointed in the first novel that I never gave the sequels a chance. Two reasons: The protagonist, a young, single woman, inherits money from a relative on condition that she go to graduate school. Instead of rejoicing in the opportunity, she chooses a major, not on the basis of interest—she has no apparent interest in furthering her education in any field—but on the principle of taking the easiest subject she can find in order to get the money. Also, while preparing for a first date with a man she hasn't even met yet, she seriously considers having sex with him. That strikes me as so dumb I couldn't believe in the character, much less like her. Those personal aversions of mine might not even register on the mental radar of a different reader.
Characters who display consistently negative reactions to situations and people turn me off. If the viewpoint character constantly spouts snarky insults, whether aloud or through internal monologue, the writer may intend for the reader to admire her clever wit and sympathize with her grievances. I react, instead, by assuming that if the character dislikes or disdains everybody and everything, there's something wrong with him or her, not with the other people. I once read a horror story about which I recall very little except that it began with the middle-aged, male protagonist lingering over late-night TV to avoid sex with his wife, who had recently developed a renewed zest for it. That glimpse into his mind was enough to make me loathe the character.
I don't mind reading a short story or possibly a novella focused on an unlikable protagonist, if the work has other virtues to hold my attention. I refuse to endure a whole book with such a character, though, unless the story exerts an irresistible fascination for some other reason. For instance, a certain bestselling series about a solitary, embittered man swept into an epic fantasy realm was a very hard sell for me; the protagonist struck me as so unpleasant and depressing that only the strength of the worldbuilding prevented me from giving up on him.
For me to willingly spend an entire novel, trilogy, or series in the mind of a person I would avoid in real life, the work needs to have other enthralling qualities to make up for the unpleasantness. Where do you draw the line with unlikable characters?
Margaret L. CarterCarter's Crypt
Tuesday, August 04, 2020
Mysteries of Pacing Part 10 - Show Don't Tell Character Arc
Previous parts of Mysteries of Pacing are indexed at:
Note in that index post, at the top there are links to 3 of my Reviews of Series I've been following on this blog. Assuming you have at least looked over the cover blurbs and first and last chapters of some of the novels in each Series, think now about the Main Character in each series.
If you don't like the Series I've highlighted, pick some others you do like. The point here is to follow a single Character through years, and even decades, of life's vicissitudes and rewards.
I'm also assuming, if you've had the ambition to write novels for a while, you've also delved into a large number of biographies, both of famous people and of less well known who have lived through major world events (such as the World Wars, famine in Africa, adventures with the Peace Corps, etc.).
Many people have lived interesting lives without making Headlines you can rip a story, plot, or setting out of.
Given that breadth of reading experience, and the ambition to write something as gripping and fascinating (maybe even instructive) as those books you love, consider the story you want to tell.
Now reconsider whether any of the books you have read actually TELL you a story.
If you're using the examples I've highlighted in Reviews, the answer is, "No, they don't tell the story."
The deepest, most gripping, thrilling, and informative books (novels and non-fictiion) SHOW you the story in such a way that you remember it as telling you the story.
The serious clue to what is happening when you remember a good book comes to you when you meet the author of that book and get into a conversation, not so much about the book but about life in general.
You come to realize one of the oldest bromides in the writing profession -- "The book the reader reads is not the book the writer wrote."
And the reason for that difference is the element in worldbuilding we've discussed at such length, Verisimilitude.
Making your world, your characters, your story into something resembling the reader's internal world (derived from but not identical to the real world around her) gives the illusion of verisimilitude because we all believe our own internal world is real, or very close to reality.
Verisimilitude is not about reality, but about resembling reality closely enough to "suspend disbelief" long enough to explore the validity of one's beliefs, to see reality from a perspective unavailable without suspension of disbelief.
One of the writer's tools for creating Verisimilitude in a Character, especially a Main Character, or Viewpoint Character whose story you reveal in the plot of his life-experiences, is Dialogue.
Characterization of a Viewpoint Character, one whose silent thoughts and reasoning, emotional reactions and subsequent evaluations, are revealed to the reader, requires that the Character's dialogue, words spoken aloud, be reflective of that Character's Arc.
As we discussed in Part 9, Character Arc is a vector quantity, having both magnitude and direction. That makes it complicated, but extraordinarily simple to portray.
Here is a blog describing (as most writing tutorials do) what the ultimate goal of your crafting of a story should be -- but devoid (as most writing tutorials are) of exactly how to take your inner vision and make it into words other people will enjoy. Nevertheless, if you're confused about what the goal is, read this
Here are a few posts exploring creation of Verisimilitude:
And here's the index post for the series on Dialogue which now has 15 entries.
Dialogue is not real-speech-transcribed. Characters don't speak like real people. Dialogue is an art form designed to move the plot while incidentally leading the reader (or viewer) to create their own Character from the words spoken.
Dialogue is "Di" -- that is, two-fold, an interchange between at least two. One might be an Alien, a Computer, a Pet animal, a working animal (the Cowboy's horse), and the speaking Character may infer or imagine the responses to suit himself.
Robert Heinlein famously characterized Mike, the Artificial Intelligence awakened on Earth's Moon whose job was to run the infrastructure of the habitation there.
Dialogue, likewise, must not be Exposition. Exposition is the writer filling the reader in on "need to know" matters the Characters already know.
Beginning writers often use the line "As you know, ..." and proceed to insert Exposition into the spoken words of the Character. This never works well because it stops the forward momentum (Pacing) of the plot developments.
In a Mystery, for example, you can show-don't-tell a Character lying by using Dialogue to relate an Event the Narrative went through step by step. Describing that Event to another Character, but leaving out or inserting information can move the plot forward.
There are many other exceptions, but wherever you find yourself using Dialogue to explain something to the Reader, re-write it into plain Exposition. Then you can mine the Expository Lump for salient bits, sprinkle them elsewhere in Dialogue, and delete the fabricated lump.
Description, Dialogue, Exposition, Narrative, are the basic tools of the story teller. Each has a purpose, and when used for that purpose, each one can be crafted into a method of advancing the plot.
The plot is the sequence of Events that happen TO the Main Character, impacting the Character's character, thus propelling the Main Character along an Arc. Some Events hit hard and speed the Character to new Realizations that change the Character's decisions, thus affecting the plot-arc. Some Events change the DIRECTION the Main Character is going in Life.
This year, 2020, we are striving to "get back to normal." This concept "get back to normal" is an attempt to retain the DIRECTION our lives were going in while compensating for the speed-bump of quarantine which slowed down, delayed, and frustrated us. Our life-Arc changed speed and now we struggle to keep direction.
Think about the world around you and find the "Arc" to understand how to craft a novel using Character Arc.
For a Character to "Arc" - the Character's life (inner and outer life) has to be in flux. Finding where your Character's "novel" happens along that Character's life-path is one of the hardest techniques to learn. Romance is easy in that the novel happens between first meeting and happily-ever-after. Science Fiction is much harder, but generally the novel happens from before-the-Protagonist-knows to after-the-Protagonist-finds-out. Science is the never-ending quest to figure the universe out.
Usually, we start a novel where two forces that will Conflict first meet, intersect, become aware of each other, or just plain collide. Each of those forces are represented by a Character, and that Character (two Lovers-to-be or Hero and Villain) will CHANGE under the impact of the meeting.
Yes, both Hero and Villain, or both Lovers, have to change.
Romance is, as I've noted many times, something that happens in Reality under the impact of a Neptune Transit to the Lover's Natal Chart. Neptune's effect is to blur, dissolve, erode, or confuse, mislead.
Neptune is also called Wisdom. Neptune is about a method of cognition which is not logical, a data channel which streams information into the deepest part of the Psyche.
Neptune, Romance, doesn't usually cause Change or Arc in your character or life-direction. It is other things going on while Neptune prevails that cause serious change of direction.
If such other direction-changing forces are acting on a Character, Neptune will move through and ease, smooth, lubricate the path of Change.
Romance makes falling in Love easy. Without Neptune, falling in love can be a disaster because people resist the kind of change it takes to blend an innermost soul with another.
If a Main Character, Protagonist, Hero, is to undergo such a profound change of innermost character, how can a writer Depict that change without inserting long, boring, exposition lifted from Psychology Textbooks?
Here is the index to Depiction:
Dialogue is one of the most powerful tools for depicting a Character, with one caveat -- avoid trying to spell out an accent or dialect.
You can use spelled accents the first few times a Main Character encounters the Character who talks funny, but let the Main Character's "ear" become gradually accustomed to the dialect, and fade in a correct spelling, leaving only the rhythm and vocabulary of the accent.
And you can use that same technique with choice of vocabulary. You've seen it done (not really well) on Star Trek where Spock uses "big words" (even small ones may be obscure). His dialogue is not laced with scientific jargon, but with precise English dictionary words where colloquialisms serve native speakers well.
In lieu of spelling out accented speech, a dialect or non-native-speaker, try altering choice of vocabulary, or phrasing.
Note how many older people use slang, old sayings, cliche or pop culture references from their teens and twenties, decades previous. Note how today's young people have a whole new vocabulary, and new celebrities and movies to quote.
As an aspiring writer, you probably love words, and have a junk-pile of trivia in mind of words nobody uses much.
Find the etymology of words, old and new (easy using Google and Urban Dictionaries etc), and you will find the backstory of your Main Character depicted in the vocabulary of their youth.
Start the story with the Main Character's dialogue redolent of that epoch, and let the impact of a younger person's speech infect the older, let them discuss current events using non-current vocabulary.
Trying to explain the usage, connotation and denotation of unfamiliar words can be a Lover's Pillowtalk Device.
Love is about communication. Use vocabulary to depict Character, and Character Arc as one absorbs the speech idiosyncrasies of another.
For example, one protagonist may start out hiding from emotional confrontations by sprinkling speech with "bromides."
Even if you know what a bromide is, and often use them yourself, Google "the bromide." Check some of the "dictionaries" that come up and compare the entries -- they aren't all the same, and make wonderful ongoing conversational tag-games for Characters engaged in something more important.
A "bromide" can be identified as "...a comment that is intended to calm someone down when they are angry, but that has been expressed so often that it has become boring and meaningless." This evolved from the wide usage of bromide compounds as sedatives.
The evolution of language describes a Culture Arc, which can be one of the Mysteries of Pacing, as one Character acclimates to an Alien culture.
See https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/bromide - and note the tabs at the top of the page that separate slanted definitions.
Over the course of your Series of Novels, let the Characters absorb each others speech patterns, whether it surfaces as on-the-nose discussion of words, usage and meaning, or as is more congruent with verisimilitude, just unconsciously imitate each other.
That's how we learn language, imitating.
Try doing a scene where a younger Character learns some word-usage, or a "bromide" saying, from an old TV series (like Perry Mason in B&W), from an older Character who uses such a phrase naturally.
The reader may absorb lessons in appreciating language and its accurate usage, while the Characters you are depicting learn how much they mean to each other.
Sunday, August 02, 2020
Sharing Key Takeaways from the FTC's PrivacyCon, legal bloggers Lauren Kitces, Marisol Mork, Kristin Bryan, and Dylan J. Yepez for Squire Patton Boggs, report on the five important privacy topics discussed at the fifth such annual event.
The six topics were Artificial Intelligence, Health Apps, Internet-of-Things, Privacy and Security related to virtual assistants and digital cameras, International privacy, and miscellaneous privacy and security issues. The Key Takeaways are an excellent summary.
As regards Health Apps, it is important to read up on recent news from FitBit, and to have confidence that FitBit promises that the acquiring advertisement company will respect users' medical privacy and will not use FitBit users' health and wellness data for one brand of advertising.
Chaim Gartenberg reports for The Verge:
The Trichordist writes at length about the Internet-of-Things, wittily terming it the Internet of other people's Things, because of the massive amount of copyright infringement online.
This link is to Part 4 of a multi-series set of articles based on the amici curiae SCOTUS filing in what the authors claim might be the most important copyright case of the decade, because it might set fair use standards for years to come:
While on the topic of copyright, Chris Castle explains that copyright infringement lowers "the customary price", or what consumers would pay to read the book or dance to the music if not for its availability free on the copyright infringing sites.
One wonders, does Apple know? Tiktok icons pop up in the app store. It would be good to have the Supreme Court rule on what is fair use and what is not!
Returning to the legal blogs, Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP takes a look at Facebook and its use and possible abuse of biometric identifiers.
One should be wary about giving consent when banks and brokerage houses try to bully one (usually via the artificially intelligent receptionist before one gets through to a real banker or broker) into agreeing to have ones voice recorded to use as identification for the future. It's becoming increasingly tricky to have confidence that ones voice isn't recorded and used for that purpose regardless of ones wishes.
What happens if one catches cold? Would ones voice pass muster? What if one of the places storing ones voice were to be hacked. If it is already unwise to say, "Yes" to any stranger on the telephone, how much more dangerous to ones privacy and ones property would it be if biometric data is widely used for identification and security?!
Finally, for Baker and Hostetler LLP, legal bloggers Linda A. Goldstein and Amy Ralph Mudge discuss a social media bot dossier. Allegedly, this is about a company called Devumi, that was accused of selling the appearance of thousands of fake social media fans to boost the reputations and egos of persons wishing to appear influential or popular, especially on LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.