Thursday, June 17, 2021

Canine Conversations

A speech language pathologist, Christina Hunger, claims to have taught her dog, Stella, to "talk":

Can That Dog on Instagram Really Talk?

The communication method depends on a soundboard like those used by some apes, with the animal pushing buttons that stand for words. They produce sound recordings of words such as "outside" and "play." According to the author of the above article, Jane C. Hu, a cognitive scientist, there's little doubt that Stella "understands" the meanings of some buttons in the sense that she knows certain actions, in terms of choosing a button to push, cause certain results. Was she deliberately combining words to form a message when she pushed "outside" followed by "Stella"? Maybe. I'm highly skeptical, however, that she combined "good" and "bye" to make "goodbye" or that "'Later Jake' (Jake is Hunger’s partner), in response to him doing a chore, meant 'do that later'," and Hu seems to agree. Granted, it would be big news to discover "a dog could plan future events and express those desires," but does Stella's performance prove her capable of abstract thought to that extent?

I'm neither a cognitive scientist, a linguist, nor a zoologist. Reacting as an interested layperson, though, I don't go so far in the skeptical direction as a critic of ape communication I read about somewhere who dismissed an ape's situation-appropriate use of "please" as the animal's having been trained to push that particular key before making a request. How is that different from a toddler's understanding of "please"? He or she doesn't start out knowing what the word "means." It's simply a noise he has to make to get adults to listen when he wants something.

Another catch in interpreting Stella's dialogues with her mistress, as pointed out by Alexandra Horowitz, a psychology professor and expert on dog cognition, is that the dog's "vocabulary" is limited by the available buttons. Also, it's possible that Stella, instead of acting independently, may be responding to unconscious signals from her owner. Yet we know dogs do "understand" some words in the sense of associating specific sounds with things, people, and actions. A border collie (recognized as one of the most intelligent breeds) named Rico is famous for his 200-word vocabulary. After being ordered to go fetch any one of the objects whose name he knew, he could get it from a different room, a procedure that eliminated the risk of his picking up cues from a human observer:

Rico

Psychologist Steven Pinker, author of THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT, takes a dim view of attempts to teach animals some form of human language, as if learning to "talk" would prove the animals' intelligence. He maintains that rather than trying to induce apes and dolphins to communicate like us, we should focus on understanding their own innate modes of communication. He may have a point. If IQ were measured by how many different odors one could distinguish, how would our "intelligence" compare to that of dogs?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Afterthoughts Part 3 - Grimdark in Genre Fiction

Afterthoughts

Part 3

Grimdark in Genre Fiction 

Part 1 

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2021/04/afterthoughts-part-1.html

Part 2

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2021/06/afterthoughts-part-2-good-and-evil.html



I found a question posed on Facebook in Fantasy & Science Fiction Writers Group by Jonathan Russell on May 5, 2021, "Is anyone else sick to death of Grimdark in genre fiction?"  


----Wikipedia quote-----
Grimdark is a subgenre of speculative fiction with a tone, style, or setting that is particularly dystopian, amoral, or violent. The term is inspired by the tagline of the tabletop strategy game Warhammer 40,000: "In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war."[1][2]
---end Wikipedia quote-----

I responded as follows.  

Art requires contrast.  

The problem with "Grimdark" genre fiction is not the presence of ugly-underside-of-human-nature, or even the thematic statement that life is hopeless, Evil Always Wins. 

Those elements are present in the real world, and thus have a place in works of art such as Genre Fiction.  However, as in "reality" the whole point of there being "darkness" is that it showcases the "light."  

Light without darkness is just blinding and meaningless.  

Our current problem stems from an absence of "light" not the presence of "dark."  

This historic origin of this "Grimdark" view may be a shift in our daily vocabulary, likely due to popular self-help books trying to buck up the dejected.  

It was suddenly recommended, as a prescription to fix society, that strong demands for performance in any situation were responsible for an epidemic of depression.  Therefore, no employee should be required to do more than they "can." The employee got to decide what they can or can't do - where the limits to their efforts should be. 

As a result, it became "politically correct" to explain one's failures as "I'm doing all I can."  Which declaration immediately let you off the hook because you weren't responsible for doing something you obviously can't do.  That was an entirely NEW concept in American culture, peopled at that time with the "Can Do" Generation.  

Promises and guarantees went from "I'll do it," to "I'll do all I can" which morphed into meaning under no circumstances will I enlarge my inventory of what I can do in order to accomplish what I've promised.

We accepted limits imposed from without (or within) as "real" and the violation of those limits as "wrong."  We must stay within limits.  

Under no circumstances may you do what you can't.

THAT IS NOT THE ATTITUDE OF A HERO.  

Science Fiction is the literature of ideas -- and adopted that idea, that heroism itself is wrong because to be a hero you must do something that is beyond your ability, and beyond the limits of the possible.  

Going faster than light was (is) considered impossible. Science fiction presented many visions of what we could do if we could break the "light barrier" as we once broke the "sound barrier."  Breaking the sound barrier was deemed impossible.  We did it. Getting into orbit was deemed impossible. We did it.  And so forth -- life was lived for the purpose of doing what you can't.

Today it is deemed anti-social to transgress limits set by others -- you must only do what you can.  You are never responsible for succeeding if it means doing what you can't do (thus changing where the "here be dragons" line lies on your psychological map.)

Science fiction like all fiction and all art reflects the audience's view of reality.  Writers are spokesmen for those who can't craft words to describe what they feel.  

Is Elon Musk only doing all he can?  

Marriages fail when one party refuses to do something they can't do.  Marriages succeed when both parties ignore their limits and do whatever it takes, regardless of any previous limitations.  

Every first novel ever written was an exercise in doing something you can't do -- before writing that novel, you "can't" write a novel.  You change reality by doing what can't be done. '

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com 

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Hacker Ways And The Decline of Language

Decadent thought leads to decadent language, which leads to even more decadent thought... and a vicious vortex of decay and corruption ensues. Is the process accidental or deliberate?

In "Politics And The English Language", George Orwell compares sloppy language to a sloppy drunkard.

"A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." 
 
In 1945/1946, Orwell seemed to believe that the decline was reversible and clarity of thought and expression could be revived if writers and speakers made an effort and followed simple, critical rules such as:

i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-foundation/orwell/essays-and-other-works/politics-and-the-english-language/
 
Today, public speakers appear not to know the difference between a benefactor and a beneficiary, or between an expletive (noun) and something that is explicative (adj).  Badly written advertisements don't say what the advertiser intends: "Like you, my hands mean everything to me." "Report your allergy to your doctor."  "As a scientist, my dog..."  How supportive of vaccine acceptance is it for one Medicare coverage provider to be advertising, "With all the uncertainty of the virus AND VACCINE..."?
 
The one-time service to help copyright owners remove infringing copies of copyrighted works from the internet, MUSO writes about the predictive value of piracy , based on a study conducted in Europe.

They describe pirates as a bellwether, and explain (approximately) what a wether is... while decorously omitting the difference between a ram and a wether.  In a nutshell, a wether is castrated.
 
If one has to explain ones metaphor or simile, and if one cannot explain it fully, perhaps the metaphor is dead and the imagery stale. That said, I dropped the "nutshell" knowingly.
 
While MUSO  may or may not be pivoting to a marketing business,  the authorities in Canada seem to have less use for intellectual property pirates.

Legal bloggers Ken Clark and Lawrence Veregin  representing the combined intellectual property team of Aird and Berlis LLP and Aird and McBurney LP predict the beginning of the end of online piracy in Canada, and describe how Take Down and Stay Down will work --in Canada-- via real time site blocking.


https://www.airdberlis.com/insights/blogs/thespotlight/post/ts-item/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-online-piracy-in-canada

On hacking, Mary B. Ramsay and Grant P. Dearborn of  Schumaker Loop and Kendrick discuss the devious ways of Hackers and the risk from phishers phishing. Never give your email address and PW in order to open an attachment, even if it appears to have come from your better half or significant other.
 
There is a story involving far greater effrontery than that shown by all those young men who make telephone calls to seniors in the hope that the senior victim will find it plausible that he or she has a grandchild in immediate financial distress... but with access to Bitcoin or Western Union.

Lexology link
https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=06214f43-8b53-46d1-9281-076a4569a61a

Original link:
https://www.shumaker.com/latest-thinking/publications/2021/06/client-alert-the-risk-from-phishing


The news has covered the Colonial Pipeline and the JBS meat packer hacks but less has been said about the hacking of iConstituent, perhaps because the latter is less inconvenient to the public.

Apparently, according to at least two sources, sixty members of the US Congress have been hacked or phished, and as a result they lost their access to iConstituent.  If you notice a pause in the begging letters and emails, you might infer that your Congressperson's internet hygiene is --or was-- substandard.  Maybe if your trusted Congressperson sends you an attachment or link, you should not open it or click through.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/congress-ransomware-attack-internet-latest-b1861759.html

On that happy note...

All the best,

Rowena Cherry   

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Plotting and Discovery

In the June issue of LOCUS, Kameron Hurley writes about how she gets from the beginning of a story to the end:

Endings and Beginnings

I'm always interested in the techniques used by other writers, and Hurley's current procedure isn't quite like any I've come across before. She describes how her method changed from free-writing in a process of discovery all the way through a piece of fiction to a hybrid of freeform and outlining. Early in her career, she "began every story with a scene, an inciting incident, a mood, a situation, and wrote until [she] figured out what happened next." She ended up with "dozens and dozens of beginnings, a few middles, and not a lot of endings." As she points out, it's hard to sell beginnings and middles to publishers.

Now she free-writes the beginning, works on it until the characters and their motivations become clear, and then plots the rest of the book. She needs to write a story opening that establishes all the vital ""problems, relationships, tensions, and setups" before she can move forward. Judging from the rest of the essay, Hurley seems to be very much a character-driven rather than plot-driven writer. She finds that, for her, it's "impossible to write an ending unless the beginning works." She concludes the essay with the principle, "Get the first part right, and you'll find the ending was staring at you all along."

This method runs contrary to the common advice to write the ending first and then work out what needs to happen to get there. Even if a writer doesn't literally compose the final scene first, it's generally assumed that for effective fiction writing the author has to know the culmination all along. On the other hand, Nora Roberts, in answer to a question at a conference session where I heard her speak, claimed she didn't outline her Eve Dallas mysteries (published under the name "J. D. Robb"). She was as surprised by the twists and turns of the murder investigations as Lt. Dallas was. The notion of writing a detective story that way boggled my mind. Imagine the backtracking and revision that must be required to make all the clues fit the solution. Yet clearly this method works for Roberts, who dependably releases two Lt. Dallas "In Death" mysteries every year in addition to the Nora Roberts romances.

I'm one of those dedicated outliners Hurley mentions, who would find her old process, if not exactly "horrifying" as she puts it, distressingly inefficient. As a novice writer, I surged forward through my narratives on waves of inspiration. In my teens, writing short pieces, I found that approach could work well enough, in the sense that I finished stories. (Whether they were any good is a different matter.) Holding a short-story or novelette plot in my head from beginning to end wasn't hard. When I started trying to create novels, though, starting at the beginning and charging forward to the end resulted in often not reaching the end because I'd get bogged down in the middle. I realized I needed to know where the plot was going and the steps along the road. For the same reason, although I used to occasionally write scenes out of order (as Diana Gabaldon, a bestselling "pantser," does), I've long since switched to linear scene-by-scene composition following my outline. With my early novel-writing attempts, if I yielded to the temptation of writing the most "exciting" incidents first, I tended to get bored with the necessary filling-in work. Some "pantsers" find an outline too limiting. I feel just the opposite; the outline liberates me from the fear of getting stuck in the middle and losing interest in the project.

Regardless of one's favorite method of composition, one of Hurley's discoveries has general application: Plot doesn't consist of "what happened to people"; it's "how people respond to and influence the world around them."

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Afterthoughts Part 2 Good and Evil

Afterthoughts

Part 2

Good and Evil


See? I told you there'd be more afterthoughts. 

Part 1 is:

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2021/04/afterthoughts-part-1.html

Part 2 is in response to an observation on a Facebook writer's thread asking how you show a Good Character turning to the Dark Side. 

The discussion thread got all wrapped up in the writer's view of one specific character, but to solve the writing craft problem you need the underlying principle, not the surface decoration.  

Here's the basic PRINCIPLE: 

"Good" respects the Free Will and Personal Integrity of others, and will not use power of any sort to over-ride the Free Will choices of others (by lying or by withholding information). 

"Evil" is so focused on gaining (whatever - money, power, relief from fear, pain etc) that the Free Will (both the power of Will and the Freedom to choose to act differently than Evil wants) of others is not important enough to make Evil hold back on use of force, and tediously explain and teach and illuminate until the other changes their mind OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL.  

Evil has no patience. Good has nearly infinite patience. 

Evil has no recourse other than FORCE - while Good has a life-time-created stockpile of various options.  

So just show your GOOD character taking pain to avoid forcing another -- then in later scenes show that character oblivious to another's right to choose their own actions.  

For more clues, read Blake Snyder's 3 book screenwriting series SAVE THE CAT!  

Previous mentions of SAVE THE CAT! include:

https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/11/worldbuilding-from-reality-part-10-does.html


https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/11/worldbuilding-from-reality-part-10-does.html


https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/08/index-to-posts-about-using-real-world.html


https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/06/theme-worldbuilding-integration-part-21.html

"Saving the cat" is the description of how to formulate an opening scene establishing the main character as "good" -- someone who would take a risk to help an innocent. See the SUPERMAN movies. 

First establish the "good" -- then the imperative reason that "good" has to impose his "good-ness" on another despite the resistance of the other -- then redeem your MC by showing the epiphany where he internalizes the difference in when to use force and when NOT to.  

If you need more clues - read some books on Martial Arts and/or training to use a Gun.  Law Officer training manuals.  

In Tarot it's called THE LORD OF SHORTENED FORCE - 5-Swords.

https://smile.amazon.com/Not-So-Minor-Arcana-Books-ebook/dp/B010E4WAOU/

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com


Sunday, June 06, 2021

The Subscription Model

There's talk on the author discussion boards about Scribd. Is it legitimate these days? I have email records of DMCAs for my books and stripped "document" versions of my books going back to 2010 or earlier, so I wondered. It is a subscription site these days. 

One has to pay just under $10 a month via PayPal, Google Wallet (or some such thing), or a credit card for the unlimited free reading, and apparently there is free Pandora stuff, too.

I wonder whether or not the musicians know? Songwriters and players are still not getting paid fairly or otherwise, owing to "Frozen Mechanicals".

There is a free trial period with Scribd, so I briefly reactivated my account, and was amused to see the fierce profile I'd left behind. I warned all comers that, if I were following them it was because I thought they might be a copyright infringer.

I noticed that, if I wish to do so, I can upload books and documents. I did not try to do so. I probably should have tried. I believe the purpose might be to enable authors and their critique partners to privately share works in progress.  I could not find anything untoward of mine, and I've heard that Scribd does deals with publishers these days, so all seems to be well.

The legal blogs have been pretty dry these last ten days, so this is a good time to remind readers that this blog will drop cookies on your devices, and there is nothing that the authors of this blog can do about it.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Thursday, June 03, 2021

The Joys of Derivative Works

I've just finished rereading THE HOLLOW PLACES, by T. Kingfisher, inspired by Algernon Blackwood's classic tale of cosmic horror, "The Willows." Her earlier book THE TWISTED ONES is a modern-day follow-up to Arthur Machen's deeply unsettling "The White People." I consider THE TWISTED ONES one of the best horror novels I've read in many a year, not excluding Stephen King's recent works. Readers don't have to know the classic stories to enjoy these two novels, but familiarity with their sources enhances the experience. Another recent read, THE HUMMING ROOM, by Ellen Potter, retells THE SECRET GARDEN on an island in the St. Lawrence River in the present day, with other variations. Again, it could stand alone with no knowledge of its model required.

On the other end of the sliding scale of derivative works we find oddities such as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, which embellishes the classic novel but makes few significant changes other than the insertion of zombies. This type of playing with texts enjoyed a fad after the success of that book. SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS (by a different author) is more transformative, as are LITTLE WOMEN AND WEREWOLVES and LITTLE VAMPIRE WOMEN (each being exactly what it sounds like). WUTHERING BITES adheres pretty closely to WUTHERING HEIGHTS while taking the obvious step of making Heathcliff a vampire; in the original he's even referred to as one, metaphorically.

Most spinoffs from previous works, of course, are far more transformative to varying degrees. PRIDE AND PROMETHEUS, by John Kessel, introduces Mary Bennet, the bookish sister in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, to Victor Frankenstein and his creature. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE also inspired a mystery series, at least one portrayal of Darcy as a vampire, and a non-fantastic exploration of Mary's life, THE OTHER BENNET SISTER, by Janice Hadlow. Sequels, prequels, retellings, and side stories to fill gaps in the originals have been written for many classic works. For instance, there's a novel revealing where Heathcliff went during his absence from Wuthering Heights and how he made his fortune. FIVE CHILDREN ON THE WESTERN FRONT is a follow-up to E. Nesbit's FIVE CHILDREN AND IT (and its two sequels) set during World War I. THE WIDE SARGASSO SEA creates a backstory for the mad wife in JANE EYRE. SCARLETT offers an authorized sequel to GONE WITH THE WIND, while THE WIND DONE GONE and RHETT BUTLER'S PEOPLE tell stories parallel to GWTW from viewpoints very different from Scarlett's. John Gardner's GRENDEL gives a voice to the monster in BEOWULF, while Maria Dahvana Headley's THE MERE WIFE translates that epic into contemporary terms. Readers can enjoy the latter without knowing BEOWULF, but they'd need some acquaintance with the original to appreciate GRENDEL. In the decades since DRACULA fell into the public domain, innumerable such books have been published, including two starring Renfield (that I know of) and two novels on the backstories of Dracula's brides by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (a third was planned but never published). Sherlock Holmes and Peter Pan have enjoyed similar treatment. Marion Zimmer Bradley's MISTS OF AVALON is only one of countless retellings and revisions of the Arthurian legendarium.

Critics who look down on such fiction as "unoriginal" have tenuous ground to stand on. The plots of most of Shakespeare's plays weren't original with him, but were based on history, legend, or prior literary works. "Originality" in the modern sense wasn't highly valued in the realm of literature until relatively recently. Authors who did invent their own stories were likely to make up fabricated sources for them to give them a veneer of respectable antiquity.

One major distinguishing feature of fan fiction is that the reader needs familiarity with the source material to appreciate original stories derived from it; that's true of some professionally published derivative works but by no means all (Kingfisher's horror novels, for example). Why is fan fiction disdained when it does the same kinds of things as the commercially published fiction mentioned above? I've read stories in the universes of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, FOREVER KNIGHT, and STAR TREK that I consider equal or superior to any of the aired episodes. The only consistent reason for the higher respect granted to the non-fanfic works seems to be their commercial status—which goes along with their legal status, but fanfic based on public domain sources doesn't typically get respect outside its own community, either.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Reviews 67 Hell Bent by Devon Monk A Broken Magic Novel

Reviews 67

Hell Bent by Devon Monk

A Broken Magic Novel 



Reviews have not been indexed yet.

Hell Bent by Devon Monk was published in 2013, 

but is relevant today because the worldbuilding is all about the energy-structure underlying "reality" or the universe, while the story is all about the use and abuse of "power" (money, politics, energy, weaponry) and how a person "just like you" might navigate a life in such a world.

Today we are learning all sorts of things (some true, some not) about sub-atomic particles and the glue that keeps the universe together -- about galaxies and stars and black holes.  There is a lot of "power" sizzling through our reality, some that might be bent to human will.  The Broken Magic series explores what some people might do with command of that sort of power.

The Devon Monk by-line continues to be associated with good, tight, vivid writing and Magic based worldbuilding.  

I've reviewed the Allie Beckstrom novels here, https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2015/03/reviews-13-psychic-technology-by.html

and have read some other Devon Monk series -- and of the lot, there's only one I didn't enjoy - the "Age of Steam" novels, Dead Iron and Stone Cold.  

https://amazon.com/Hell-Bent-Broken-Magic-Novel-ebook/dp/B00BDQ3A2U/

If you see "Relationships" as the foundation of human character that allows for firm, careful, wielding of "power," you will very likely enjoy Devon Monk titles.  Monk is particularly adept at portraying the seedy underside of reality, the ugly side of human nature, and what an ordinary person might do if submerged into such an environment.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com