Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Sime~Gen praised on Twitter by Forgotten Realms writer Ed Greenwood

Sime~Gen praised on Twitter


Forgotten Realms writer Ed Greenwood  

The title says it all. 

I was participating in a Twitter Chat ( #scifichat) one Friday when Ed Greenwood (  https://twitter.com/TheEdVerse ) of Forgotten Realms fame (and glory!) ...


...was being interviewed.  He has over 20 thousand followers on Twitter.  

The following exchange happened quite spontaneously.

JLichtenberg @JLichtenberg

#scifichat an article I did for a Trekzine called SPOCK'S KATRA will be included in the WRITERS ON THE MOON project, so my byline will be in a time capsule on the Moon!

TheEdVerse's avatar

Ed Greenwood @TheEdVerse

Replying to @JLichtenberg

Awesome, indeed!

And being as you're here, I want to thank you VERY much for all the great Sime/Gen reads you've given me down the years. I re-read them!

Virtual hugs,


JLichtenberg's avatar

JLichtenberg @JLichtenberg

Replying to @TheEdVerse

#scifichat thank you for doing this interview at the chat today -- it was fascinating, and hard not to interject comments.

TheEdVerse's avatar

Ed Greenwood


Replying to @JLichtenberg

Don't refrain from interjecting, please! More the merrier! I'm a reader first, a fan second, a writer third, and I LOVE hanging out with creative folks!

(I live in a small village where if someone suggests a book as a gift, the reply is usually, "Nope. She already has a book.")

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Reputation and Privacy

In Russia, they have "Face Pay". One pulls down one's mandated Covid-19 mask to be recognized, and ones bank account is debited, or whatever.

Apparently and allegedly, Amazon forces its delivery drivers to consent to biometric spying.
Large pharmaceutical businesses in America have a highwayman-like approach to would-be recipients of the Covid-19 vaccines, expressed as "Your data or your life." 
Apparently, and all kudos to EFF for this insight, all over America there may be a secret sale of fingerprints and other biometric data going on, largely without the knowledge or consent of the owners of the fingers, retinas, and other body parts and secretions.

The Kroger company has recently sent out letters to inform customers that their personal pharmacy and clinic information has been hacked. 

We have also heard that some of those genetic/DNA companies that we all thought were for tracing our relatives and our Neanderthal-or-not origins with a reasonable degree of privacy have been sold for "research" without our knowledge or consent.  They keep trying to get our consent retroactively. That research might be like the Japanese kill and eat whales for "research", or it might be the whooohaaan type of research, all the better to eat our collective lunch.

EFF also reveals some information about where advertising is going.  It is something to do with a flock of birds and predatory targeting.

Legal blogger Michael Yates, representing Taylor Wessing and a whole slew of high net worth celebrities no doubt, has a very interesting article. He gives reputation defending professionals five really good tips to protect their high powered clients, but published authors can use the info for themselves. We're public figures, too, and because our books' back matter usually contains photographs and biographical information, and there's a perception that we are perhaps younger and more financially successful than we really are (which is good for business, but not so good for flying under the radar) Michael Yates's tips might be worth bookmarking.


One good bottom line might be to freeze ones credit. It's free to do, and like a thong, you can take it off any time you like, and put it back on afterwards.

One last tip, for privacy if not reputation, an absolutely excellent You Tube review if you will of how secure your home title might be, as presented by the go-to Quiet Title lawyer.


All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Virtual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

Last week, from Thursday through Sunday, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts held its annual conference (normally in Orlando) virtually. Last year they skipped it completely. It was nice to get back "together," if only online. Unlike virtual ChessieCon in November 2020, with only live sessions (because, as usual, almost all were extemporaneous discussion panels) except for a slide show on costumes, the IAFA conference prerecorded or uploaded all the paper presentations. Only discussion panels, author readings, and events such as meetings weren't recorded.

You can check out the organization here:


Disadvantages of the virtual con: Missing the hotel stay, the Florida weather, and the lavish meals. Not being able to watch all the "live" panels one might want to, because they weren't recorded for later viewing. No opportunity to see people face-to-face and talk at length. Also, one couldn't devote undivided attention to con events for the entire four days. Being physically at home, I could hardly pretend I wasn't there and ignore the pets, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.

Advantages: Much cheaper than the traditional conference. No need to leave home; I don't like traveling. The great pleasure of having flexibility on when to view most of the presentations. The complete program, with live links to prerecorded / uploaded papers and talks, was posted well before the actual weekend of the event and will remain on the website until the end of March. I think I got exposed to at least as many papers as I do when attending in person, maybe more. I also managed to fit in the few live sessions I felt a strong need to watch, e.g., the Lord Ruthven Assembly vampire panel, the LRA annual meeting, and the IAFA business meeting and awards presentation on Sunday evening. The best feature was being able to hear or read papers whenever convenient, without being forced to choose between them if they happened to be scheduled in the same nominal time slot—what a luxury!

I listened to Jean Lorrah reading from a forthcoming Sime-Gen novel, which of course I wanted to get right away. We have to wait, though, since it's not finished, much less published yet. The Lord Ruthven Assembly (our vampire, revenant, and Gothic division) had a lively panel on vampires called "The Dead Travel Fast," with a lot of discussion spinning off from the differences between the traditional folklore undead, usually bound to the vicinity of their mortal homes and families, and the wandering vampires of much fiction from Lord Ruthven (1819) on. Even though my computer doesn't have a microphone and camera, Zoom allowed me to watch sessions passively with computer audio, and the text chat sidebar enables written comments. I liked that method; it was nice and simple. A presentation on superheroes saving the world, referencing the widespread "Thanos Was Right" meme, brought up the concept of "fan labor"—how fan reception and response add value to commercially produced films and literature. Like many papers and discussions, this talk tied into the conference theme of the "Anthropocene," which inspired many presenters to discuss human impact on the environment as reflected in fantasy and science fiction. In other areas of interest to me, there were several papers each on Stephen King, Harry Potter, and Terry Pratchett. A talk focusing on Tolkien featured a slide show of maps. An advantage of viewing such material online is being able to see details better than one can from a seat in a meeting room. One of my favorite papers dealt with Delia Sherman's FREEDOM MAZE, exploring issues of identity and the "decentering" effect of the time-traveling teenage protagonist's landing in 1860 where she's mistaken for a slave, instead of a white Southern girl from a "good" family as she's been taught to think of herself in 1960. That presentation inspired me to reread the book, as a good piece of literary criticism ideally does.

The weekend concluded with the business meeting and awards on Sunday evening. IAFA's officers are considering the feasibility of offering some kind of virtual track every year, which would be useful to many members who can't travel to Florida for whatever reason. The plan faces potential problems and complications, however, not least the risk of seeming to establish a two-tier system of participation and the possible impairment of the deal with the hotel, in which perks such as meeting spaces depend on selling a certain minimum number of hotel rooms and meals. At any rate, this year's con seemed to rate as a brilliant success; it definitely was for me.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Star Trek Fanzine Takes My Name, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, To The Moon

Star Trek Fanzine

Takes My Name, 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg, 

To The Moon 

I have an article in the fanzine, SPOCK’S KATRA, which will be sent to the MOON! 

Here’s the announcement I got via Facebook from Kirok L'stok



Good news everyone! We're all going to the Moon!


At the end of January my good friend, writer, poet and all-round creative, Bron Rauk-Mitchell, signed on for the "Writers On The Moon" Project created by Susan Kaye Quinn, 'a rag-tag fleet of stories for a Lunar Time Capsule' which is going to be on the Peregrine lander.

Bron was allowed 20MB but has graciously given up some of her space on the mission to fellow creatives and I was lucky enough to be one of them. As you can guess, space was at a premium so only one book/file could go so I picked Personal Log 3, Spock's Katra, the Trekzine we put out in December, 2015 to commemorate the passing of Leonard Nimoy.

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

My article is titled Spock's Katra and starts on Page 49 of Personal Log 3, Spock's Katra.  The names of the authors are at the end of the 'zine. It's free to download.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Blown By The Wind

David Oxenford's Broadcast Law blog is always informative, well written, and copyright-related. Recently, he discussed why, perhaps, "The Wind Done Gone" was a transformative adaptation of "Gone With The Wind", but the bold insertion of Star Trek characters into the Dr. Seuss story, "Oh, The Places You Will Go" was copyright infringement.


Oxenford does not delve into whether or not the JibJab political cartoons based on copyrighted songs were fair use or not. His analysis is thought provoking.

One wonders whether or not a mash up of news footage was inspired by the CME newsgroup advertisement How The World Advances with Brittany Lincicome (she drives a golf ball and it ends up at the feet of Sir Richard Branson on a large plane's staircase).  Is inserting a golf ball or three into a news clip "fair use"? 

Just because you make a funny version of a copyrighted work does not mean you are safe from a copyright infringement claim.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Animal Regeneration

Here's an article about sea slugs that purposely decapitate themselves:

Decapitated Sea Slugs

It's believed they occasionally "jettison" their bodies to get rid of parasitic infestations. The abandoned torso (if that word applies to slugs) swims independently, sometimes for months, before eventually decomposing. The severed head, however, grows a whole new body, often within three weeks. Meanwhile, it continues to feed on algae as if it doesn't notice it has no digestive system, not to mention other essential organs such as a heart.

Self-amputation, called "autotomy," shows up in other species, such as lizards who let their tails detach to escape predators, then grow new tails. Starfish can generate new arms to replace severed limbs, and in some case a segment of a dismembered starfish can develop into a separate animal. In my high-school biology class, we bisected flatworms to watch the pieces regenerate over several days. Sea cucumbers sometimes eject their internal organs under stress and regrow the lost organs. Mammals, in contrast, have limited capacity for regeneration, but (according to Wikipedia) two species of African spiny mice shed large areas of skin when attacked by predators: "They can completely regenerate the autotomically released or otherwise damaged skin tissue — regrowing hair follicles, skin, sweat glands, fur and cartilage with little or no scarring."

Why do plants regularly lose limbs and grow new ones anywhere on their trunks, while most animals are much more limited in this respect? Why the difference in regenerative capacity between lizards and mammals, although they're all vertebrates? The sea slug's self-decapitation makes tales of vampires and other monsters that can re-grow lost appendages seem more plausible. The slug's independently moving detached parts remind me of a vampire novel by Freda Warrington in which a decapitated vampire regenerates a complete body from his severed head. Meanwhile, the headless corpse grows a new head; however, the resulting individual rampages mindlessly like a zombie. In the science fiction genre, I once read a story whose protagonist hosts a visiting alien at a house party. This alien's species has detachable limbs, so losing an appendage is no big deal for them. Also, this particular ET has a totally literal comprehension of English. When the protagonist compliments a concert pianist with the remark, "I wish I had her hands," the alien tries to do the host a favor by amputating those hands and presenting them as a gift. . . .

It's hoped that understanding the sea slug's remarkable ability "could one day lead to advances in regenerative medicine and other fields." Many science-fiction future technologies include medical treatments that enable injured patients to grow new organs and limbs. Maybe that vision might eventually come true.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Reviews 63 - A Peace Divided - Peacekeeper #2 by Tanya Huff

Reviews 63

A Peace Divided

Peacekeeper #2


Tanya Huff 

Here is a 2017 title by Tanya Huff, A Peace Divided.  

It is #2 in a Trilogy, which is a follow-after series about Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr, hero of the 5 Book Series that starts with Valor's Choice where she is a Staff Sergeant.

She is a Space Marine, through and through, complete with her opinion of the Space Navy.

I would suggest reading all these novels -- Tanya Huff is just one of those bylines you grab without reading the back of the book to find out what the thing is about.  She's just that good a writer.

However, simply as a stand alone novel, A PEACE DIVIDED works fine. It is one long drive toward completing the mission of rescuing hostages. The hostages predicament is a result of the various war-stories in the 5-book series VALOR.  

But it's simple enough to understand as a plot driver.

The important thing for Romance writers is to plumb the depths of the Relationship (yes, love, but camaraderie and respect and reliance, and much more) between Torin Kerr and her exemplary Pilot with an ego from here to there and back.

This is not a Romance, but it is Relationship portrayed with speculative potential you must not miss.

Gunny Kerr has mustered out of the Space Marines - where she was trained and conditioned to solve problems by destroying things and people as necessary -- into the PEACEKEEPERS where destroying things is frowned on and destroying people forbidden (and the definition of people has been enlarged.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Sunday, March 14, 2021

"Merely" Really?

Margaret Carter's post "Problems With Monopolies" on Amazon, DRM, and Cory Doctorow struck me as so interesting that I am devoting my blog time to a reaction.
 "A rentier is someone who derives their income from 'economic rents': revenues derived from merely owning something."
Apparently, Doctorow called landlords "rentiers" and claims that landlords are able to set rents without regard to the market. I don't think that is accurate. Studies by Zillow (and others) find that renters will move on if their landlord raises the rent. Advertise a rental for much more than the competition is offering, and that overpriced rental will sit empty.

"Merely owning...?" There's nothing "mere" about owning property. One has the initial cost, the financing, the insurance, state and local taxes, maintenance and upkeep, utilities bills, commissions, permits and licenses, and more.

Following Doctorow's logic that DRM is like rent... it seems to me, breaching DRM is more like Home Title Fraud (where someone steals the homeowner's identity and makes it appear that the homeowner relinquished their rights to their property.)

Perhaps those with a DRM beef should look into The Right To Repair, which is covered by legal blogger Oliver P. Couture PhD  representing McKee Voorhees and Sease PLC , and spend their time petitioning the Library of Congress, particularly if they happen to need to repair game consoles such as the Xbox 360 which Microsoft no longer supports (but which it will still lock if someone attempts to repair it).

To find out about the exemptions that the LOC already has granted, read this:

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Problems with Monopolies

Cory Doctorow's LOCUS article for this month delves into a lot of background about markets and monopolies that's new to me:

Free Markets

He begins by explaining that the classic threat to the free market wasn't considered to be government control, but corporate monopoly. Adam Smith in THE WEALTH OF NATIONS warns of the power of rentiers, which Doctorow defines as follows: "A rentier is someone who derives their income from 'economic rents': revenues derived from merely owning something" -- for example, a landlord. Doctorow extends this concept to companies such as Amazon and Google, "Big Tech" in general, with the power to control "access to the marketplace." A monopolist, in this view, isn't simply a corporate monolith with limited competition; it's an entity "who can set prices without regard to the market"

The primary example Doctorow focuses on is, not surprisingly, DRM. In addition to the alleged purpose of preventing copyright infringement (at which he maintains DRM utterly fails), the relevant law "felonizes removing or tampering with or bypassing DRM, even when no copyright infringement takes place." Therefore, a buyer of an e-book (such as a Kindle novel) can't read it on any device not authorized by the seller. As a result, Big Tech, not the author who owns the copyright, gets "permanent veto over how my books can be used: which devices can display them, and on what terms." However, since all e-book platforms (so far) make DRM optional, Doctorow and his publisher have the power to sell his work DRM-free.

He discusses at length the very different status of audiobooks. Amazon requires all audiobooks released through its Audible program, whether produced by Amazon itself or some other publisher, to be "wrapped in its proprietary lockware." That's something I didn't know, since I don't have any audiobooks on the market and never buy books in that medium. In response to that policy, Doctorow turned to Kickstarter to release his books in audio format, and he analyzes in detail how that project worked out. He also explains how much more complicated it is to download and play an audiobook with an independent app than to buy it through Audible. I previously had little or no awareness of the hard line the Big Tech companies take toward "noncompliant apps."

I have an ambivalent reaction toward Doctorow's stance on Amazon. In principle, I acknowledge that dominance of a market by one company isn't desirable. In practice, as a reader I love knowing I can find almost any book I've ever heard of on a single website. It's a vanishingly rare occurence when I can't find a book listed there, no matter how long out of print. I also turn to Amazon first for many items other than books, music, and visual media. I like buying from it because of its reliable, usually fast delivery and because it already has our credit card on file, so I don't have to enter the information on unfamiliar sites. As a writer, for my "orphaned" works I like the ease of self-publishing through Kindle and the fact that the vast majority of e-book buyers are likely to read the Kindle format. At least one of my publishers feels the same way, having pulled their products from all other outlets because those sales were negligible compared to Amazon sales. Yet I do understand having qualms about being at the mercy of one powerful commercial entity's whims.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Reviews 62 - Battle Ground by Jim Butcher - Dresden Files #17

Reviews 62

Battle Ground

Dresden Files #17


Jim Butcher 

Reviews haven't been indexed yet.

Here are a few previous posts discussing Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series and worldbuilding with theme.





Battle Ground is like part of a book, or the middle of a long book. 

It starts with a night time approach to Chicago with dread in the air, gives a quick (nice and smooth) reminder of where we are in the long-long Dresden saga, then plunges right into magical battle preparations, explosions, destruction, blood-blood-blood, David-vs-Goliath battles, squad actions, cooperative attacks and defenses, followed by more and more and more strategy, tactics, execution, collective injuries, and deaths.

It ends with several issues and affairs yet to be settled, but the initial problem is resolved (mostly).

Remember that Harry Dresden himself was dead and a ghost for a good, long, adventurous stretch of time when Jim Butcher colored in the details of how Dresden's multiverse differs from ours, or what we think ours is.  

So though some characters we remember clearly from previous books die, we're not so sure they won't be back.

There are a lot of characters, and most of them we remember from Dresden's previous adventures.  They are given introductions that remind you of them, but don't explain who they are to Dresden.

This is all very well done -- but the craftsmanship won't be apparent unless you've read the previous  books.  

I don't recommend starting to read The Dresden Files with this entry - but I do recommend the Series very highly. It is not Romance, but has Love Story and Relationship dynamics driving the plot and the character motivations, interspersed with whopping good magical combat scenes, and plenty of not-so-magical brute force combat.

Dresden is a Hero - old school style, with guts, determination driven by the love of people, and particular persons more than others. But mostly he is a Champion, a defender of humanity - which is always under attack by other-dimensional Beings and magic users from our every day reality.  Then there are the simple crooks to be thwarted. Like Sherlock Holmes, Dresden - as Chicago's only professional Wizard - is hired to solve cases for people  who desperately need help. He just can't resist a plea for help.

So now, when he needs help to save all of Chicago, those he's helped rally round, and even take over. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Sunday, March 07, 2021

Ebby Flowy

One thought... and a second one.

My first thought on hearing that EBay has the will and the ability to remove all Dr. Seuss books from sale was, "Does that prove that they have the ability to eliminate ebook piracy, if only they had the will? Is this the proverbial camel's nose under the tent?"

I spent yesterday afternoon surfing the Bay, looking for piracy. To EBay's credit, I did not find much compared to my last survey. So, my second thought was to give EBay kudos.

What is the betting that the EBay bookburners will not find this ? (Which may or may not contain bootlegged Seuss... I'm not going to buy a copy to find out.)


Not everything advertised as "Gutenberg" is really Gutenberg.  I see a lot of living authors whose work is surely not out of copyright.  

I also see a lot of ebooks being offered on DVD, and I see that some sellers offer electronic delivery as an option, whether for individual works or for collections.

Speaking of collections, one might smell a rat with this link, not for piracy, but for plausibility.  Eight full sets?

EBay seller ratings are not reliable, I have found in the past, so when buyers take the time to leave something more than a minor constellation of stars, it's worth sniffing around.  To find ratings, click on the hyperlink to Seller Information, then click on either Positive, Neutral, or Negative to read reviews.

Reviews are only viewable for items sold in a limited, recent timeframe.

All the best,

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Visualizing Characters

Any Superman fans here? I mostly enjoyed the first two episodes of the new series SUPERMAN AND LOIS on the CW network, although for me neither this program nor the older series SMALLVILLE measures up to LOIS AND CLARK. My husband complained about my griping over Lana Lang's black hair (same objection I had to that character on SMALLVILLE). Everybody knows Lana is a redhead, just as everybody knows Lex Luthor is bald (eventually ending up bald even if he doesn't start that way). Her hair is one of the iconic traits of her character in the comics. It wouldn't have been hard to have the actress wear a wig—flame-red, auburn, strawberry blonde, any shade within that general category. A visual image of a fictional character so jarringly different from expectations interferes with my immersion in the story.

Many actors have portrayed Count Dracula, the classic character I'm most familiar with, probably lots more than I've gotten around to watching. Christopher Lee and John Carradine come closest to my image of Dracula, although even Lee never performed him in a script fully faithful to the novel. Among the myriad attempts at adapting the original, the Dan Curtis TV movie starring Jack Palance makes a pretty decent try, but Palance in the title role made it hard for me to suspend disbelief. In my opinion, he's the least suitable Dracula I've ever seen.

For fans of Dorothy Sayers' mysteries, the adaptations broadcast on public TV under the umbrella title MURDER MOST ENGLISH dramatize the novels with a high degree of fidelity. Ian Carmichael, however, doesn't quite fit the image of Lord Peter Wimsey as described in the books. Still, he comes close enough not to undermine my suspension of disbelief. As far as Sherlock Holmes is concerned, for me Jeremy Brett was perfect (until he began to gain a little weight in the later seasons, but he can hardly be blamed for that). And from my perspective, Anthony Hopkins IS Dr. Hannibal Lecter, probably because I'd seen clips from the movie (although not the entire film) before reading the book.

How much does the appearance of an actor who plays a character from a novel or comic series matter to you? Does it make a difference whether or not print illustrations (as in comics or on book covers) exist to provide a template? If you view the movie before reading the original text, do you visualize the character as looking like the actor?

For writers, this topic bears on how much visual detail to provide in describing characters. Some novelists touch very lightly on physical appearance. The only characters in DRACULA described thoroughly enough to draw portraits of them are Dr. Van Helsing and the Count himself. Robert Heinlein sometimes delineates characters in detail, but not always. Although the clothing and body paint of Eunice in I WILL FEAR NO EVIL are often described, we get very little hint of how she herself looks except the "telling" rather than "showing" remark that she's very beautiful. According to Heinlein, she's meant to be Black, but the actual text of the novel says nothing to indicate that fact (nothing to contradict it, either, though). As a reader, I want to know what fictional characters look like, preferably early in the story. It's jarring to imagine a character one way and later receive information that invalidates the image I've formed. It also bugs me to visualize a fictional person as a particular gender and then find out well into the story that I've been mistaken, unless the author has a sound narrative reason for the ambiguity. As a writer, I know it can be difficult to work in descriptions of characters—particularly a viewpoint character—with grace and subtlety rather than producing a "wanted poster" list of traits. It's especially hard to manage this task with a first-person narrator, of course. If she gazes at herself in the mirror and says things like, "I brushed my luxuriant blonde hair," she'll come across as insufferably self-absorbed. That's probably a major reason why I use third-person limited rather than first-person narrative in my fiction.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

How To Learn To Write - Part 2 - How do writers influence their audience

How To Learn To Write

 Part 2 

 How do writers influence their audience? 

Part 1 is


Part 2 is my answer to a question on Quora. 


On Quora, George Ireland requested my answer to the following question:

How do writers influence their audience?

John Joss a nonfiction and novel writer, journalist, answered very correctly, 


Writers in any medium—technical writers, journalists, poets, advertising copywriters, PR writers, film and television writers, speech writers, business-proposal writers, nonfiction or novel writers—influence their audiences by having mastery over grammar, syntax, spelling and vocabulary. They also have a clear understanding of the needs of their audience(s). Then they apply pen or pencil to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and write the correct words that address the subject with brevity and clarity in terms that they know that audience can grasp and will ‘act’ upon.

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

And all of that craftsmanship and skill set acquisition applies equally to fiction writing. 

However, fiction never works well if the author writes consciously to influence the reader, or spur to a specific action the writer has selected.  It comes off preachy, exposition heavy, abstract, and even insufferably arrogant (read Ayn Rand for examples).  Characters seem wooden, two-dimensional, stiff, cardboard, and cliche.  

Reading fiction is taking a ride in a Character’s head — or perched on a shoulder.  

Reading fiction is always an adventure, leaping out of the everyday existence and into a situation or problem entirely outside the reader’s experience. It may be a situation the reader would like to visit in reality (such as a Romance) or it may be one they’d never, ever, want to visit (a cautionary tale such as Orwell’s 1984).  

The writer defines the Character, and the resources of material goods, talents that may lie hidden, skills already proven, aspirations driving the character toward a goal, just as the player does when entering a Game. 

Within these parameters of personality and resources, the character must solve the problem, resolve the conflict, and make some progress toward the aspiration.  If you can’t get there from here, the novel is about going somewhere else to start over.  But it is progress.

The novel may be about redefining what goals would be satisfying or worth while — such as a Law Student who drops out of school to raise kids.  Sequels might be about the Law Student joining the PTA then running for School Board, then Legislature, maybe national office after that - maybe finishing the Law degree while the kids are in High School.

A reader whose life is stalled always enjoys working the problem of a Character who is acting to break out of a stall.

Such an adventure inside the mind and life of a Hero might seem like it is an  “influence” spurring a reader to pick up the pieces of their own broken life and move on.  But that isn’t what the writer is doing.  

The writer is selling FUN - entertainment - and if you don’t have FUN you can’t sell it, and you certainly can’t deliver what you don’t have in stock. So the writer is not selling INFLUENCE when writing fiction — it’s no fun to “be influenced” — it is lots of fun to gain a more dimensional understanding of yourself, your world, and the goals you might choose to drive toward. 

By reading fiction, a person can gain enough perspective on the world to define their own real-world options as a problem to be solved. Riding in the head of a character who is working out (usually by trial and error; sometimes by being instructed) a methodology of problem solving and techniques of conflict resolution, can inspire (not influence, inspire) a reader to attempt some real-life experiments. 

Now here’s the trick. 

The writer must have a clear vision of the “world” they are inviting the reader into. The writer must evoke (not describe, summon) the fictional world in such a way that the reader can recognize it as possibly somewhat like their own everyday-life, but different. The writer must know, understand, grok, comprehend that difference so completely that, without effort, the writer transmits the specific, singular, vividly portrayed difference that distinguishes the fictional reality from everyday reality while at the same time asking the question — is it distinctively different?

This is what I learned from Gene Roddenberry while doing the multitudinous interviews for STAR TREK LIVES! 

— good fiction doesn’t TELL the reader the answer to the mysteries of life.  Good fiction asks questions.  Good fiction re-phrases the questions the reader has been pondering. Good fiction questions the viewer’s assumptions about reality, about life.  Good fiction poses old questions in new forms and leaves the viewer to chew it all over.

Good fiction does not choose the answer for the reader, or limit what the “right” answer might be.  

Good fiction, I learned from Leonard Nimoy while doing interviews, is “open textured” — giving an outline and inviting the viewer to fill in with their own imagination.  

Good fiction does not “influence” but rather inspires and motivates.  Robert Heinlein inspired, as did Star Trek, many readers to major in math, science and engineering. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg