Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Value of Horror

"Horror Is Good for You (and Even Better for Your Kids)," according to Greg Ruth. I wish I'd had this article to show to my parents when I was a thirteen-year-old horror fanatic and aspiring writer, and they disapproved of my reading "that junk" (not that they'd have paid any attention):

Horror Is Good for You

Greg Ruth leads off with a tribute to Ray Bradbury, who was my own idol in my teens—based on his early works collected in such books as THE OCTOBER COUNTRY, full of shivery, deeply stirring, poetic stories. Here is Ruth's list of reasons in defense of horror's value for children. Read the article for his full explanation of each:

(1) Childhood is scary. (2) Power to the powerless. (3) Horror is ancient and real and can teach us much. (4) Horror confirms secret truths. (5) Sharing scary stories brings people together. (6) Hidden inside horror are the facts of life.

The article ends with, "The parents that find this so inappropriate are under the illusion that if they don’t ever let their kids know any of this stuff [the terrors of real life], they won’t have bad dreams or be afraid—not knowing that, tragically, they are just making them more vulnerable to fear. Let the kids follow their interests, but be a good guardian rather than an oppressive guard. Only adults are under the delusion that childhood is a fairy rainbow fantasy land: just let your kids lead on what they love, and you’ll be fine."

Stephen King's fiction often highlights the connection between childhood and the primal, timeless fears haunt the human species. Particularly in IT (which I recently saw the excellent new movie of), King's central theme focuses on the power of childhood's imagination, a wellspring not only of fear but of the strength to overcome it. The boy hero Mark in 'SALEM'S LOT realizes, "Death is when the monsters get you." In his nonfiction book DANSE MACABRE, King offers the opinion that all horror fiction is, at its root, a means of coming to terms with death.

Ruth's defense of horror reminds me of C. S. Lewis's comments, in "On Three Ways of Writing for Children," about the mistaken belief of some adults that fairy tales are too scary for children. Lewis says it's wrongheaded to try to protect children from the fact that they are "born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil." That would indeed be "escapism in the bad sense." He goes on, "Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. . . . And I think it possible that by confining your child to blameless stories of child life in which nothing at all alarming ever happens, you would fail to banish the terrors, and would succeed in banishing all that can ennoble them or make them endurable. . . . if he is going to be frightened, I think it better that he should think of giants and dragons than merely of burglars. And I think St. George, or any bright champion in armour, is a better comforter than the idea of the police."

I might add that, in my opinion, the best supernatural horror (which is the type I mainly think of when contemplating the genre) has a numinous quality. In a secular age, human beings still crave something that transcends the mundane and merely physical. It's no accident that the Gothic novel was invented during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and the peak of the classic ghost story occurred during the industrialized, science-minded late Victorian era (along with a craze for seances and psychic research in real life). Ghosts, vampires, etc. feed our yearning for and curiosity about life beyond death, even if they frighten us at the same time.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Index To Posts About Or Involving Tarot by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Index To Posts About Or Involving Tarot
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Over time, I have talked about or referenced various esoteric disciplines such as Tarot and Astrology on this blog.  Below you will find a list of some of these posts where the references appear.

I did 20 posts on the Minor Arcana written as Tarot Just For Writers -- in other words, you don't have to "learn" Tarot to use it in characterization or plotting or worldbuilding, but you do have to understand "what" is being done when someone "reads" Tarot.

Here are the index posts to these 20 discussions of two of the four suits of the Minor Arcana:

Here is the index to 10 posts on the Suit of Pentacles

Here is the index to 10 posts on the Suit of Swords

These 20 posts are here for free reading, and also rewritten and incorporated into handy Kindle Books.  There are 5 volumes plus an Omnibus combination of all 5 which is cheaper than buying them individually.

The word Tarot and the word "Card" does not ever have to appear in a novel for worldbuilding to be rooted in and growing from the view of the universe that is behind what is behind Tarot.  You don't have to be able to "read" Tarot to use these concepts.  In fact, it is more authentic if you don't practice "reading."

Tarot is not about magic or power or making things in the world work the way you want them to.

It does not solve problems.

But Tarot is more closely related to the "the scientific view of the universe" than most people think -- wherein lies a vast number of dramatic themes.

Here is an index post to the discussions of how a writer can incorporate Astrology into theme-plot-Character integration without letting the reader know you know any Astrology or ever think of any of that.

Many more posts on writing craft technique and various review discussions of other writers' books use the posts on Tarot and Astrology to build further craft techniques.  Mastery of all these techniques is the goal of reading and discussing all these various topics.

Those are a few examples of gigantic topics that can be factored out and recombined into story material if you can learn to see the world through the eye of a different structure of the universe.

Some readers come to science fiction to have their view of reality challenged, changed, or even proven wrong.  Some people thrive on the excitement of being WRONG about everything they thought they believed.  Those people are ripe for becoming engrossed in a science fiction novel.

Science Fiction is not so much about "escape" from this ordinary world and your current life as it is about "entering" another world and learning to regard the bizarre place as ordinary.

Science fiction novels don't "teach" science or the facts of reality -- they inspire readers to learn science by taking them for a ride into a Character's life who does know and understand science.

Most people do understand Tarot and Astrology -- without ever knowing that those empirical sciences are the source of what they know.

This is a cultural mind-block -- and it is just the sort of mind-block that science fiction has specialized in clearing away.

There is a "science" (a rigorously organized body of peer-reviewed and tested knowledge) behind the view of the world presented by Tarot and Astrology.

That science is often referred to with the word "Kabbalah" -- but that word is as misused as the word "Tarot" -- having been sold to the public as a magical shortcut to power over the behavior of other people.  Or power over the world to bring you wealth, love, or whatever reward you crave.

If your source of definition for these words is rooted in someone trying to sell you something to fix your problems, then very likely you have no clue what these topics are really about.

And I can't say that I do know what they are "really" about because all I have discovered is how vast my ignorance is.  These 5 books on Tarot just for Writers don't tell you answers -- they just show what I've been doing to learn this view of the universe.  I'm a long way from being done learning.

That's why they call it a Path -- it goes somewhere, but without a map you can't even guess where.  It is well trodden - clearly others have trudged up this mountain of knowledge, but none of them are in sight.  Explore.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Writing With A Plank In My Eye....

The copyright agent countdown is on.

Websites and blogs that host user-generated "content" will lose their safe harbor protections under the DMCA this December, 2017, if they don't register their copyright agent.

Legal bloggers Carol Anne Been, Kate Hart, Monica B. Richman, and Tiffant Scwarz for the copyright team at Dentons law firm give fair warning that time is running out for bad actors and all-too-innocent actors as well.

To register your copyright agent, go here:

For a Copyright Office offered tutorial, go here:

As for that plank in my eye, I haven't registered the copyright agent for this alien romances blog. But, then,
Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Margaret L. Carter and Rowena Cherry don't host user-generated materials. I've noticed Blogspot sites that do appear to offer allegedly infringing content... such as pig8... and I allege that in good faith, because they appear to be publishing illegal links to copies of my works according to alerts.  They don't have a working copyright agent link or a DMCA link, or a Contact link.

2018 could be an interesting year for hosting sites.

For impoverished copyright owners, here's some advice from Scotland. "Sue here!" (That is, if your copyright-infringing Nemesis has a presence in Scotland.... an office, a site.) Suing a copyright infringer in Scotland costs GBP 300 (much less than $600.) Or so Buchan says.

Find out more from Robert Buchan of Brodies LLP.

A recent blog on THE HILL, makes the point that 84% of businesses in the entertainment industry (that would include musicians and authors) have fewer than ten employees. One wonders why successive governments claim to be supporters of small businesses, yet their actions support big Silicon Valley businesses.

Creative people need strong protection for their copyrights. If your State has elections this coming November, and you have an opportunity to put a flea in the ear of your candidates at a town hall, please do so. You might also write to your incumbents, to ask that NAFTA protects authors, and other entertainers.

Miranda Mulholland blogs about her theory that the Internet is responsible for a nose-dive (paraphrasing) in the quality of music and writing. It's because creators are under pressure to perform (write/create... not play!) faster, and they receive less income.

Quality work takes Malcolm Gladwell proclaims.

 The countdown is also on for NaNoWriMo... the contest against oneself to get a first draft of a novel written entirely in the month of November. No worries if the quality is not there in the first draft. One can edit a volume of drivel. One cannot edit a blank page.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Villainous Motives

Supervillains generally aspire to destroy or conquer a realm, whether a country, a continent, the planet, or even an entire solar system or galaxy. In a kids' cartoon series current when our children were little (I don't remember which one it was), the league of villains had one goal, "to destroy the universe for their own gain." To me, a drive for conquest purely for the sake of power makes no more sense than that. Why would anybody bother? Who'd WANT to rule the world?

In the new Marvel TV series INHUMANS, there's a society of people with Inhuman powers living secretly on the moon. The antagonist, Maximus, stages a coup to depose his brother, the king, and become the ruler himself. Maximus has several plausible reasons for this goal: As a child, he wanted the kingship, while his brother, the destined heir, had no great desire for the crown. Maximus grew up without Inhuman powers, so others looked down on him; therefore, he's driven to seize power in compensation for his "inferiority." Also, he seems to hold a sincere belief that his brother's policies are bad for Inhuman society and his own rule would benefit their people.

A three-dimensional villain needs plausible motives, especially supervillains with fantastic powers and global or cosmic ambitions. According to an often-cited principle, every villain is the hero of his own story. Why would he or she want to conquer a country, a continent, or the world? A sheer maniacal lust for power isn't enough of a motive to make a credible antagonist. Maybe the character truly believes himself or herself to be the only one who can rule wisely for the good of the country or world. Maybe the character perceives an outside threat to his or her people and preemptively expands his or her dominion before the "threat" can strike first. Or perhaps the antagonist craves power in compensation for some personal hurt suffered in the past or from a secret fear of his or her own inadequacy. If the ruler of the "threatening" country or planet happens to be a relative of the antagonist (as many of the European royal families at the time of World War I were related through Queen Victoria), family jealousies and resentments could contribute to the villain's drive for conquest. On a smaller scale, why did the evil King Ahab (in the Bible) have a neighbor framed for a fictitious crime and executed in order to seize the neighbor's vineyard? Why would a king feel the need to commit such a petty theft? Could it be that Ahab did this BECAUSE he was king and, perhaps, feared for his position when constantly challenged by the prophet Elijah? Maybe Ahab wanted to prove, "I'm the king, so I can have anything I want."

To me, a drive to become a multimillionaire doesn't feel any more credible as a motive than a craving for absolute power. One person can usefully possess only a certain number of houses, cars, or boats. Even at the most rarefied levels of wealth, there has to be an upper limit to the amount one can spend on food, drink, clothes, jewelry, or collectibles. After a certain point, money probably becomes just a means of keeping score. Billionaire Roarke in J. D. Robb's Eve Dallas series—a good guy (although a former crook) rather than a villain—seems to enjoy acquiring more money on the scorekeeping principle, as a move in a game. Also, he does productive things with his wealth; when he buys a building or a company, he makes it better. Maybe a supervillain driven by a craving for money has personal reasons to value the "score" and therefore wouldn't be satisfied even by infinite wealth. Or maybe, deep inside, he's insecure, seeking wealth to make him feel safe, and never able to accumulate enough to fulfill that need. In effect, it comes back to using money as a means to power.

Along the same line, why do rich, powerful men sexually prey on their employees, when they could find any number of women who'd gladly welcome their advances without being forced? Probably because it's the display of power in itself these men crave. It's all incomprehensible to me, so to believe in a power-hungry villain of any kind, I need to know what underlying drive produces this kind of motivation.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Recommended Reading for 14 Year Old Girl

Recommended Reading for 14 Year Old Girl
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

I was asked by an old friend to recommend science fiction books for a 14 year old girl -- the child of a friend of theirs I had never met.

I have no idea what her favorite reading, TV or movies are, just that she recently got into science fiction.  I've no clue what got her interested!

Talk about a scatter-shot list!  Whee, I don't know where to start!

One clue is that she was interested in borrowing from the library - but she lives nowhere near me, and I've no clue what sort of library she has access to.  Or even what her reading proficiency level might be.

I don't know what restrictions her parents would want, either!

I don't know if she has library access to ebooks -- here, my library lends ebooks.  Some libraries provide books via the app KOBO in all the app stores.

So I am basically stumped on this request -- and will just toss out some suggestions using Amazon.

Once you locate a book on Amazon, you can usually find it on iTunes or B&N, KOBO or wherever you prefer to do business.

So top of my list these days, for series currently being published and reprinted:

Gini Koch's ALIEN series.

C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner Series (all of C. J. Cherryh's books, actually).

For pure action, space adventure with emphasis on science and sociology (with and without Aliens, mostly no sex or romance):

All of Jack McDevitt's novels

All of Taylor Anderson's DESTROYERMEN series.

All of Jack Campbell's LOST FLEET series, and the spinoff series.

All of Mike Shephard's Kris Longknife series (young woman changes the galaxy)

To fill in Historical Understanding of the Science Fiction Field:

The best place to get these backlist gems of times gone by  where you can get any ebook format, but on Amazon you can handily get the Kindle editions and paper edition if you prefer.  This is my current publisher, now publishing my new titles.

But here are some Amazon page links -- buy anything on these pages and it is likely Amazon will lead you to the rest especially if you buy any of my novels because my fans read from this collection, so all the good books turn up in "Customers who bought this also bought .."

Wrinkle In Time

All of Andre Norton's novels, but particularly Star Rangers

All of E. E. Doc Smith's Lensman Series

You can download the MEGAPACK for various authors for about $0.99.

For more non-Romance, general science fiction, well thought out and presented, read David Brin's books, David Gerrold's books,  Alan Dean Foster's books, and all the Robert J. Sawyer books, especially WWW trilogy.

For women of galactic consequence, the Honor Harrington series (like the Kris Longknife series) has taken the science fiction world by storm.

And of course, Robert A. Heinlein and Marion Zimmer Bradley, all titles.

That is a lifetime's worth of reading!

But wait!  There's more!

Here is my Amazon page with almost all my extant titled:

Scroll down to see various editions of all titles (several year's worth of reading).

For young women, I would recommend my first novel, House of Zeor.

For a Doctor Novel approach to science fiction, my first Award Winner, Unto Zeor, Forever, praised by Robert A. Heinlein by asking if I were in fact a physician!  And this novel was credited with being the first Science Fiction Romance published in Hardcover by a mainstream publisher.

For young teenage protagonists on adventure that changes their world:

But for Science Fiction Romance, my Romantic Times Award Winner, Dushau, would be the place to start. |But it is available (new) only in Kindle. The paperbacks have deteriorated, or are expensive collector's items.

For Vampire-Science-Fiction Romance:

For space-adventure-romance

And this is hardly a complete list of top recommendations.

The field is broad, deep, and rich.  Unfortunately, most public libraries do not have these novels or provide access to them, though my books were notorious as the most stolen from libraries across the country.  I know this because my readers have said so, and because many of my fans are librarians who have noticed this phenomenon.

I know that, as soon as I post this, I will think of dozens more authors to recommend!

The nice thing about Amazon is that once you buy or download for free any of the books by any of these writers, you will be led to others of comparable content.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Reputable Companies Don't Fund Piracy... Or Do They?

David Newhoff writes, "The majority of the ads on many sites are 'non-premium', which is a polite way of saying sleazy...."

It's an interesting, and encouraging article, and I think that you should read it.  However, today, I decided to check David Newhoff's premise before I shared it. (Which is why I am a little belated in posting.)

What does that tell you about Audi motors, Delta Dental, Weebly, Norton, and Serra Chevrolet?

Here's the kicker, the pirate site "" appears to be sending every clicker to "" even if they try with great determination and persistence to click through to Serra Chevrolet, or Weebly, or Delta Dental, or Audi.

Isn't that possibly click-fraud? Judge for yourself. The url to one of my massively pirated books is

The DMCA link does not work, the "Contact Us" link does not work, so it is possible that the pirate site truly is undergoing maintenance.

In the course of this morning's research, I discovered that the firebaseapp is being used for a lot of piracy, as is Google Drive, and Google Docs.
Also Blogspot.

For busy authors, and hasty would-be copyright infringers, don't overlook sites that use "Review" as a prefix for the title of a work. There may be a review, but the "DownLoad" or "Read Online" links may not go to the reviewer's opinion of the work's literary merits.

The Trichordist has some really gripping dirt this week. (I was going to go for alliteration, and write "riveting" dirt, but the mixed metaphor disturbed my pedantic soul.)

All the best!

Rowena Cherry
PS... screen shots.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Trusting the Experts

I'm rereading FOR HER OWN GOOD: TWO CENTURIES OF THE EXPERTS' ADVICE TO WOMEN, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English (actually, the first edition, titled "150 Years of..."):

For Her Own Good

The book deconstructs medicine and psychology in particular, as one would expect, but also new disciplines such as "domestic science" (aka home economics, invented in the late nineteenth century). The venerable doctrine that overuse of the mind, especially in pursuit of "masculine" fields of study, ruined women's physical health and rendered them unfit for their natural purpose, reproduction, is only the most blatantly appalling of the now-discredited theories exposed in this historical survey.

The book serves as a reminder of how "science-based" recommendations offered to the public can change from century to century, decade to decade, and sometimes year to year. Around 1900, American housewives were encouraged to protect their families' health by obsessive cleaning in an attempt to make the home germ-free (an impossible goal in a normal household anyway). Nowadays, it has been discovered that an excessively clean environment in childhood promotes allergies. In the first half of the twentieth century, some doctors recommended smoking as a weight-loss strategy (as mentioned in Stephen King's novella "The Breathing Method"). In the same period, mothers were urged to put their babies on rigid schedules and told that picking up a baby between feedings or cuddling and playing with him or her would lead to all sorts of mental and moral ills. At the time of my first pregnancy, obstetricians badgered pregnant women to starve themselves into a weight gain of twenty pounds or less (not only almost impossible for most women but unhealthy). Eggs used to be considered evil because of their cholesterol content. Now we know dietary cholesterol has little or no direct effect on blood cholesterol; the main culprits are trans fats.

That's what we know now, at least. What guarantee do we have that the latest findings of modern science will remain THE authoritative truth instead of being superseded as many earlier truths have been? Yet the average layperson has to trust the experts, since she doesn't have the background to evaluate the research herself. (And then there are pseudo-scientific fads, which the Internet sometimes makes hard to distinguish from legitimate science.) The best we can do is exercise critical reading and thinking skills as we compare claims—which a liberal education is supposed to teach us to do, as mentioned in last week's blog post. Faith in the pronouncements of authorities is often scorned as a fallacious mode of thought, but we all accept authority as the basis for many of our beliefs. Even the most widely educated genius can't be an expert in everything.

I once came across mention of a story (don't know the author or title) in which the magicians of the world "came out" and revealed that all the alleged technological marvels of modern society were, in fact, created by magic. For many of us in relation to many fields of technology, "a wizard did it" would sound just as plausible as the scientific explanation.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Con Report - Westercon70 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Con Report
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Over the July 4th weekend in 2017, I went to Westercon in Tempe, Arizona.

I expected to have a good time. Instead, I had a GREAT time.

I hung out in the Star Trek party suit, the Sime~Gen Party, the Con Suite, and was on a number of panels, and an autographing.

It was a busy weekend, but I managed to grab some phone-photos for our historical archives.

You can see some of them below.

Freebie Table

Hall outside Dealer's Romm

Hosts of Star Trek Party with Bjo Trimble GoH

At ongoing Star Trek Party

 Bjo Trimble and me (in blue and black)

Bjo, her husband, and our Party Host

Con Suite

Before Sime~Gen Party

Sime~Gen Party Hostesses

Sime~Gen Party Begins

On a Panel

The panel audience

Another panel

I kept forgetting to take pictures because I was having such a good time!

Jacqueline (happy) Lichtenberg

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Bad Behaviour In High Places

According to the DOJ,
"Thomas Jefferson wrote: 'The most sacred duty of government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all its citizens.' This sacred duty remains the guiding principle for the women and men of the U.S. Department of Justice."

Maybe so. Maybe not so much so when it comes to equal and impartial justice for copyright owners, book authors, song writers, musicians, and other creative small businesspeople.

From Mountain View to Capitol Hill, from Menlo Park to the metaphorical foot of the Seattle Space Needle to the high buildings of the DOJ, to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City, to the Library of Congress, there's rampant bad behavior that's gone virtually unnoticed for far too long (in this writer's humble opinion.)

Please read this week's selection of copyright-related works:

For the Authors Guild, Douglas Preston discusses how deeply embedded (even in the highest ranks of law makers, educators, and the judiciary) is the piratical idea that it is unseemly for writers to be paid; that books
are worth less than a bad cocktail; that the greatest disaster for American culture is the important book that is never written because publishing it does not make financial sense..

The Trichordist makes a similar point about the short songs that may never be written because writing them, and publishing them no longer makes financial sense.

Also, on the effect of copyright infringement on musicians' incomes since 1999,  even though music consumption is now at an all time high:

Here's a startling allegation. The government of the USA is like the governments of North Korea, China, Rwanda, and Vietnam. These are the only governments in the world that refuse to pay musicians for radio airplay.

Apparently, a prominent Chinese music executive quit his job, and opened a restaurant. When asked why, he explained, "When I make good roast duck, people pay and thank me. When I make good music, nobody pays me and some even ridicule me."

It seems that, if you are a creative person, the Senate is not your friend. From a copyright perspective, the American Senate is where good legislation goes to die.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 28, 2017

States of Insecurity

The president of the Modern Language Association writes in their fall newsletter about this year's presidential theme for the organization, "States of Insecurity." She ponders "what strategies...the humanities offer for navigating our current crises." After listing some recent threats to education, at all levels, she notes that the academic community known for the postmodern position that "reality is complex and anything but natural and transparent" suddenly finds itself on the opposite side of the argument. Now we have to defend the existence of objective reality by "maintaining the primacy of facts." She naturally mentions the importance of defending "freedom of expression." She also reminds us that the present state of "insecurity" belongs to "a category of similar events—neither the first nor the last in a long series."

We liberal arts majors (proverbial career path—"want fries with that?") often face the challenge of explaining what "use" our subject areas serve. Many potential employers, we might point out, welcome humanities majors because of the flexibility and critical habits of thought they've acquired in their studies. But that's a secondary issue. The liberal arts, of course, were originally so named because they're the studies appropriate to a "free" person, the fields of inquiry that precisely do NOT exist mainly to enable the student to earn a living. I've been rereading the Rabbi Small mysteries by Harry Kemelman, in which the rabbi mentions more than once that the Talmud declares learning should not be used as "a spade to dig with"—a means of making a living—but pursued for its own sake.

The Phi Beta Kappa society also frequently speaks out for the value of liberal arts and humanities studies as a good thing in their own right. Sadly, though, how many young people these days can afford to spend four years in college solely for the joy of learning? Nevertheless, it could be argued that this principle becomes especially vital in "states of insecurity," particularly when some public figures seem to take pride in ignorance.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Depiction Part 33 - Depicting Privacy by Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Part 33

Depicting Privacy


 Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of the Depiction Series are indexed here:

Privacy is an issue that leaps to the forefront of our cultural evolution in the age of cyber-spying.

We now have the tools to filter, vet, sift, or screen thousands or even millions of people for this or that behavior, trait, keyword.  The TSA screens travelers, the CDC screens for communicable disease, the CIA screens wireless transmissions (even planting fake towers to intercept signals), and "screening" is the go-to method for controlling the behavior of large groups.

In other words, the technology has given us the easiest way to reverse the maxim, "innocent until proven guilty."

This maxim was based on the logical impossibility of proving a negative -- you can not prove your innocence, but it is possible for evidence to prove guilt.

Today, modern technology reverses that and makes it easier to prove innocence than it is to prove guilt.

Big Data, algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence makes it possible that within the next 10 years, we will be able to spot and eradicate every "extremist" -- every single person who just does not fit the mold.

Science is using such data-reduction tools to prove things about humans that may be used to establish what parameters are desirable in good citizens.  And it will be impossible to have any sort of privacy (just think about drones, speed-trap-cameras).

Here is a study to think about with respect to the human spirit, and why we need both alone-time (privacy) and gaggle-time (one-on-one interactions plus group interactions).

Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach—even if it's off. That's the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they're not using them.

In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants' available cognitive capacity—that is, the brain's ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.

The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

Read more at:
---------end quote---------

So clearly when we feel "connected" we run a "keep-warm" program in our brains to be sure we don't miss anything.

When disconnected, we function differently.

Humans (and probably Aliens) need some of each kind of "time" -- to change functional modes.

In human history, this is a well known phenomenon, though never before have we had to possibility of NEVER being alone, or private.

Privacy has always been the signature of a Family -- "what happens between these walls, stays between these walls."  Families don't wash their dirty linen in public.

Anthropologists have long studied public and private behaviors, languages, body language, etc.  Humans do behave differently depending on whether they know or suspect they are being watched.

Establishing the boundaries of a family, a Relationship of Soul Mates, requires that humans establish and share rules of privacy.

Different cultures use different rituals to do this - I wouldn't say that one method is better than another, but it must be an effective method.

In polygamy, there is still a family, a "within these walls" -- things the group knows about each other that no outsider shares.

In the Soul Mate pair bonding, there must likewise be a circle that shuts out all others, and surrounds progeny with a "nest" of privacy.  "Use your indoor voice."  Be aware of where you are and who is listening.

Executives are taught never to criticize a subordinate before that subordinate's underlings -- for a good reason.

Behavior leverages human nature.  Establishing privacy is not the same as secrecy.  What is private might easily be known to others, and is no particular mystery.  No outsider can come to harm for not knowing what is private.  What is secret, on the other hand, is secret because of its potential effect on others.

What is private is private because of its effect on those within the privacy curtain, and irrelevant to those outside that curtain.

Privacy is essential to human mental health.

How this necessity grows through the teen years is another subject, but for the moment consider signals and rituals of monogamy -- both historical and currently being developed in the technological world.

The smartphone has invaded the family dinner table -- shattering family privacy.  When in private, a group will interact with each other in certain ways that members of that group will not use when the privacy curtain is pulled aside (as the smartphone does).

So modes of dress, speech, subjects allowed and disallowed, are all components of our privacy-signals.

Take for example the ancient practice of a woman covering her hair -- some Moslem communities use this, as do some Jewish segments.

Here is an article to ponder when setting up to depict privacy among an Alien Character's people.  A simple deed can mean one thing to some people, and another to a different set of people.

Note the anthropologist's surmise in the first paragraph of that article, and scroll down to the answer:

The hair-covering was never intended to make a married woman look ugly. Beauty is a divine gift, and Jewish tradition encourages both men and women to care for their appearance and always look presentable. Jewish tradition also encourages modesty; not in order to detract from our beauty, but rather to channel our beauty and attractiveness so it be saved for where it belongs -- within marriage.
-------end quote-----

Think about how opposite "ugly" and "beautiful" are -- and yet the exact same action can be interpreted either way, depending on cultural assumptions.

Most cultural assumptions are unconscious, so we don't even know we are assuming something, never mind what that assumption is.

But none of that matters if the objective is achieved, and Privacy is marked, curtained away, and distinguished from larger associations and public behavior.

Technology may have ripped that curtain aside, but technology may yet provide the brand new curtain to encircle the Family in privacy.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Attribute, Attribute, Attribute

And if you cannot attribute...obtain a license and a waiver.

Photographers have moral rights, unless they waive them. They also have copyright, unless they assign it. Do right by everyone, and above all, protect yourself.

There are two photographs of yours truly that are beyond my control on the internet. One is of "Rowena Beaumont Cherry" and was taken by Alex Law, an excellent Canadian photo-journalist. The other is of "Rowena Cherry" and was taken at a Pebble Beach concours d'elegance by the amazingly talented Robert Puffer.  In both cases, the photographers granted me eternal, unlimited, irrevocable written permission to use, publish and distribute the photographs of myself without attribution, and without payment.

I had good legal advice, and the privilege of being acquainted with true gentlemen. When Alex Law and Robert Puffer took their photographs of me, I was unknown and newly under contract to be published, and social media did not exist. Nor did copyright infringing pirate sites that scrape copyrighted photographs and use them to suggest that the author in question endorses their illegal activities.

For readers, this is not necessarily the case. If you desperately want a particular ebook, you would do well to acquire it from a reputable site such as Apple, Kobo, Amazon, Powells, Barnes and Noble,  Chapters-Indigo etc or from your local public library.  Or from the authors' own websites, or the authors' publishers' websites.

For authors, even if the best photographer in your world is your boyfriend, or husband, or girlfriend, or sister... get the rights in writing, and make sure your rights are perpetual and unlimited. You cannot  foresee what will happen to your relationships with your friends and family, and you cannot foresee who will use that photograph of yourself with or without attribution and whatever watermarks you might have tried to put on that photo.

Gigi Hadid, and also one of the Kardashians are an object lesson in what can go wrong if someone posts a photograph of herself --that was taken by someone else-- on a social media site such as Instagram or Pinterest.

Legal bloggers Njeri Chasseau and Jason Gordon for Reed Smith LLP analyse Khloe Kardashian vs Xposure Photos Ltd.

And... legal bloggers Howard Ricklow, Helen Ingram and Chandni Ranfior for Collyer Bristow LLP  discuss Gigi Hadid and her use of a photograph taken by someone else, without giving attribution to the photographer. 

As with the copyright case involving the monkey selfie, the person who takes the photo is the copyright owner, not the being who is the subject of the photo.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, September 21, 2017

IT on FIlm

I watched the theatrical movie of Stephen King's IT this week (more precisely, "IT: Chapter One"). To me, whether a film adapted from a book is "good" or not depends a lot on its fidelity to the source. In preparation for seeing this movie, not long ago I re-watched the TV miniseries and reread parts of the novel. So what did I like about the new movie? And which makes the better adaptation, the movie or the miniseries?

Good points of the film: The bonds among the seven kids in the "Losers' Club." The miniseries did this aspect well, too, IMO. The lovely scenery and contrastingly horrific special effects. The Gothic environment of the decaying, cobweb-infested Well House and the labyrinthine tunnels below, culminating in the lair of It (the only place we get a glimpse of the true extent of Its otherworldly power, as illustrated by the eerie image of the floating children). The chilling moments when adults witness attacks on the children, by either mundane bullies or supernatural forces, and react with blank gazes, then deliberately turn away.

What the miniseries did better: Having more time to work with, it developed all seven of the child characters more thoroughly. The climax showed It in Its spider form, which the movie doesn't, although the TV episode rendered that scene so inadequately that many viewers dismissed the creature as disappointingly "oh, just a giant spider." (The other-dimensional essence of which the spider is only a projection was completely omitted.) The series wove together the past and present, as in the book, so we see the children's experiences as the gradually re-awakened memories of their adult selves. Granted, if the movie had been structured that way, viewers might have found it confusing, especially since "Chapter Two," the adults' return to Derry, is apparently not going to appear until 2019!

Drawbacks of the new film: Again, the cosmic dimension is totally absent. We don't see the vision that reveals Its other-dimensional origin, when it came not "from space" but "through space" in the prehistoric past (a clear homage to Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space"). I've read a hint that this scene may appear in the second movie. I hope so, because without it so much of the story is missing. We do see one glimpse of the "deadlights," but viewers who haven't read the book won't get the allusion. In general, the Derry backstory that gives the novel such depth is covered too briefly in the film for my taste.

As reviewers have noted, the movie doesn't have time to develop all seven of the children as fully as desirable. In particular, I was disappointed that their individual methods of fighting It are almost completely neglected. What happened to Eddie's asthma inhaler shooting "acid," Stan's invocation of the bird names from his birdwatching guide, or Bill's preternaturally fast rides on his bike, Silver? (The miniseries included some of that.) Particularly, the character of Stan as the obdurate rationalist, who regards the supernatural as an unbearable "offense," needs better development. In the film version, he simply keeps repeating, "This isn't real." I was also sorry not to see Beverly's slingshot with the homemade silver bullets.

Beverly is a bit too old. In the book, she's on the verge of puberty, not yet there. One of the novel's major themes is belief. Children are especially vulnerable to It because they're still young enough to believe in the supernatural and suffer the simple, primal fears It feeds upon. That same capacity for belief, however, gives them the ability to destroy It, while adults wouldn't be able to. Therefore, it's important that Beverly remain on the "child" side of the line along with the boys. The central problem of the present-day story is whether they can resurrect not only the bonds that united them in childhood but also the power of belief that they've lost with maturity.

On the whole, I was pleased enough with the movie to plan to buy the DVD when it becomes available and look forward to the second half. But having to wait two years? Really?! Aren't the producers concerned that the prospective audience, at least the majority that aren't hardcore King fans, will lose interest by then? Or at least forget the details of the first half?

In case you'd like to read my essay in STRANGE HORIZONS on Lovecraftian motifs in IT, here it is:

The Turtle Can't Help Us

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery -- Lazy Writer Syndrome

Star Trek: Discovery 

Lazy Writer Syndrome


Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Science Fiction fans are focused on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY these days.

Before the debut, a lot of publicity was released, some of it misleading by accident and maybe some by design.

I have not seen any of the trailers or episodes yet -- I will, no doubt, devour them with special attention.

Alien Romance readers should think long and hard about how it came about that Star Trek (a much scorned and sneered at TV Series) became Iconic.

We discussed Icons and how to create them:

If you want to create an Iconic Science Fiction Romance that becomes a Classic, think long and hard about this discussion thread that emerged on Facebook in June, 2017.

A comment dropped on that post drew my attention because it mentioned Kraith (my Star Trek fan fiction series)


Maurice Kessler · Friends with Michael Okuda
DS9 fulfilled the promise of lead Trek characters at odds with each other in interesting ways, IMO. Perhaps this show will emulate that level of work; we're only now seeing marketing-filtered descriptions of how this show will be written. I'll wait until seeing the pilot to assess.

One thing I don't need to assess: How much I miss your Kraith storyline, and how sad I am that it was never finished. The best non-aired Trek, ever.

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

To which I responded:


Jacqueline Lichtenberg Maurice Kessler Thank you for the nod to Kraith -- keep in mind that there were 50 creative contributors to Kraith. I built the universe and set a main story-line, then invited everyone to play in my sandbox. I was honored by eye-witness reports of worn, well read copies of Kraith Collected sprinkled around Gene Roddenberry's office waiting room. You may find that the Sime~Sime – Gen Universe video game under contract to Loreful via Aharon Cagle will meet your "best ever" criterion as we are inviting and luring many writers into the Sime~Gen Universe on the pattern of Kraith. Loreful has licensed 150 years of the Sime~Gen Chronological timeline and has the target of telling the story of the gigantic SPACE WAR that lies ahead of the Sime~Gen Civilization. The idea is that HUMANITY has actually changed - that the average human has more inherent compassion than the average Ancient (us). We are collecting current science articles on the SIMEGEN GROUP to depict the "current" state of the world when the mutation takes down our civilization.

------end quote-----------
As I was reading the other comments, more comments kept appearing.  So I reread the comment I had put at the top of the link to the article about Star Trek: Discovery

On the original re-posting I wrote:

--------quote by JL------------
Lazy writers can't write interpersonal conflict without showing one of the characters in a negative light. Two perfectly righteously people (human or not) can be at odds, and generate amazing stories without either one being "in the wrong" or operating from a baser motive. Lazy writers don't bother to plumb the depths of the Characters or the Issues. So this show written by lazy writers might not be "my" Star Trek.

And under that a link to this item:

Star Trek: Discovery to ditch a long frustrating Trek rule

------end quote of JL-------

The article on says:

As part of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future (and one that Trek franchise executive producer Rick Berman carried on after Roddenberry’s death in 1991), writers on Trek shows were urged to avoid having Starfleet crew members in significant conflict with one another (unless a crew member is, say, possessed by an alien force), or from being shown in any seriously negative way.
-------end quote---------

The article also notes what I've been hobby-horsing on in these blog posts -- Conflict Is The Essence Of Story.  I didn't make that up, you know -- I was taught it, then discovered how it had been used consistently down the ages by the best story-tellers.  Drama is conflict.

For writers on Trek shows, the restriction has been a point of behind-the-scenes contention (one TNG and Voyager writer, Michael Piller, famously dubbed it “Roddenberry’s Box”). Drama is conflict, after all, and if all the conflict stems from non-Starfleet members on a show whose regular cast consists almost entirely of Starfleet officers, it hugely limits the types of stories that can be told.
------end quote-------

A bit below that is the quote that defines LAZY WRITER SYNDROME:

“We’re trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions,” Harberts said. “People have to make mistakes — mistakes are still going to be made in the future. We’re still going to argue in the future.”

“The rules of Starfleet remain the same,” Berg added. “But while we’re human or alien in various ways, none of us are perfect.”
--------end quote--------

"...none of us are perfect."  There it is folks, the source of the reason Romance Genre is not as respected as it should be, and the reason for the popularity of the scorn heaped upon the Happily Ever After ending.

This may also be the philosophy that has eroded the Family Structure of society as a whole.

"Family" is composed of relatives -- and it is true that humans generally just do not get along with all their blood-relatives.  In fact, the most acrimonious and life-long-grudge-holding conflicts naturally occur between blood relatives.

In-laws is yet another problem - the people you love probably fall in love with people you hate at first sight.

The Philosophical idea that is actually untrue, and thus prevents people from achieving a "Happily Ever After" life (or if they do achieve it, they do not recognize that they have, indeed, achieved happiness) is that PERFECT PEOPLE DO NOT CONFLICT.

But the most perfect, or perfected, people do conflict with each other, often adamantly, vociferously, publicly, and emphatically.

Humans are a mixed bag -- very complex -- very complicated.

It is possible for one component of a given individual to be PERFECTED while other components are sadly screwed up.

Some of us have achieved maybe 90 or even 99 percent perfect -- and such people become Historic Figures (such as Moses, Miriam, Abraham-Isaac-Jacob, Joseph,  and a few other Biblical Figures.  Every culture has these Iconic Historic Figures held up to children to emulate - Buddha, etc.

We all have our Ideals, and one or two examples to emulate.

And we have living examples in every generation of people who have perfected one or two aspects of human nature.  We discussed a biography of one such individual of the 1900's known as The Rebbe.  Different people who knew him personally saw different aspects of human nature that he had perfected.  This biography we discussed (and there are a lot of biographies!) pinpointed some of his most famous disagreements with others of similar stature (not fame, stature).

And previously mentioned here:

Such people who have finally "got it" very often come into conflict with others who have likewise perfect that certain aspect of their Nature.

But they don't lock horns as ENEMIES -- they don't go to war with each other, or deride or denigrate each other.  They may not wholly respect each other or each others' opinions on certain specific matters, but they do argue (a lot).

Sometimes, they even change their positions as a result of arguing.

That, more than any other evidence, indicates the individual has perfected some aspect of their Nature -- the ability to persuade another to change a position on an issue without gloating or counting coups (without WINNING, thus rendering the one who changed their mind a LOSER).

And likewise, the ability - willingness, even eagerness - to change your position on a matter because of the influence of another person's views.

Such change is not just change to accept new information as fact.  It is more akin to Spiritual Enlightenment than to scientific proof.

If you need a real world example of how such people, who have perfected some aspect of human nature, interact and argue, read The Talmud which is a series of excerpts delineating the disagreements among great Rabbinic Scholars of various epochs.  Comparing the opinions of different generations across hundreds of years with more contemporary commentary, lets you watch how such people drill down to expunge every last tiny contradiction from a view on a given topic.  There is a podcast of the Orthodox Union's Daf Yomi that is very revealing on this subject.

You can find similar examples in every known civilization.

So, humanity has produced a few notable examples of perfected humans.

The statement "nobody's perfect" is untrue.

A Lazy Writer would never notice that commonly held untruth.  A Lazy Writer does not do the homework necessary to discovery examples that contradict commonly held beliefs.

A Lazy Writer is only interested in affirming or confirming the Lazy Reader's ideas of how the world is.

Science Fiction is the Literature of Ideas (by some definitions), and like all Literature exists for the purpose of challenging any or even every idea the reader/viewer has.

"What if ...?" everything you think you know is actually wrong?
That is the essence of what makes science fiction fun reading -- and fantasy, and especially Paranormal Fantasy -- what if what you are most certain of is actually totally wrong?

What is "the real world" really?  What is reality?  And who cares? Why does it matter if you're wrong?

So Einstein theorized that it is not possible to "go" faster than light.  Therefore, science fiction writes about galactic civilizations using FTL transports like The Enterprise to explore.

The scientific community universally accepts a theory because the proofs look solid and they seem to work when applied experimentally.  Science Fiction takes that theory and builds a world where that theory has been proven wrong.

That is how you write science fiction.  You read (and comprehend) science articles, research papers, speculation by theoretical mathematicians, etc., and the more reliable the thesis, the more widely accepted that thesis, the better it is for a building block of a "different" universe.

Biology studied life on Earth, and from decade to decade, revised the opinion on whether the can or can not be life on "other planets" (especially extra cold ones, ones without water, etc.)

When the majority is certain there can not be any "life as we know it" on other planets, science fiction writers tell stories about Aliens.

When the majority is convinced there must be life everywhere, science fiction will be telling stories about Humans Alone In The Galaxy.

The same technique applies to human nature.  When all your readers are convinced "nobody's perfect" -- write stories about a few perfect people.

The problem the writers of Star Trek Discovery are having is a lack of imagination.  Gene Roddenberry could imagine -- and he imagined "the impossible" which is what made Star Trek both Iconic and Classic.

He imagined that HUMAN NATURE HAD CHANGED -- and the reasons implied in his world building were A) the Genetics War of the 1990's and B) the impact of technology on the economy.

Most human misbehavior is rooted in the economy -- "Gold or Money Is The Root Of All Evil."

OK, so "What if ...?" nobody uses money any more?  What if everyone can have any "thing" (material objects, food, clothing, shelter, education,) they want in abundance.  What would "people" do?  So Roddenberry showed us people who worked (and took risks) voluntarily.  They didn't join Star Fleet because they needed the work.  They were there because they wanted to go beyond the horizon.

Roddenberry's postulate, often repeated in the speeches he gave, was that "When We Are Wise..." we will do, work, see, learn, and be very different.  We will have plenty of conflicts, but we won't have an inner need to conquer and control.

He showed sports with score keeping, but no shame in losing.

We are now very close to the kind of technological "singularity" which could releave all humans of the necessity to work for a living.  Artificial Intelligence may reproduce itself, run the factories and farm the land, and bring everything you ask for to your door.

Then what will you do?  Die of boredom?

Stephen Hawking says we must explore the stars now, settle other planets.

From that article - down the page --

More From BGR
NASA just found 10 new Earth-like planets
Elon Musk is planning a city on Mars, and here's why
NASA wants to probe Uranus in search of gas

"The human race has existed as a separate species for about 2 million years," Hawking said. "Civilization began about 10,000 years ago, and the rate of development has been steadily increasing. If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before."
------end quote--------

And it also says Hawking knows it is currently impossible to colonize the stars - we don't have the technology, know-how, political will, whatever it takes, we do not have it now.

Look back at history and pre-history, and you can detect very little (if any) change in human nature.  Culture and technology, values, religion, varieties of government come and go, but humans still produce geniuses and the learning disabled, with a majority in between.

We all, each and every one, belong to some 1% demographic, and to varying degrees to all the other 1%'s -- we are each unique, yet all the same.

And the distribution doesn't change much over millennia.

Lazy writers don't study all that history, pre-history, archaeology, anthropology, biology of animals, plants, life in boiling water at volcanic vents under water, or preserved in permafrost.  Lazy writers can't write science fiction because they don't study enough science -- or for that matter, often they don't study enough fiction.

Yes, Lazy Writers don't read widely and deeply enough in fields other than their specialty.

If you are going to write the Literature of Ideas, you have to know Literature and you have to know the history and present state of Ideas.  I often use the word, Philosophy, to indicate Ideas of all sorts.  In truth, that word represents the Ideas of just one Ancient Greek.  The actual word might be epistemology.

Hard Working Writers learn a lot of extant epistemologies, invent and create a raft of original epistemologies, and spend most of their time studying what might be termed, Comparative Epistemology 101 for non-majors.

This is hard, time consuming, tedious, even on occasion boring.

Hard Working Writers study the phenomenon of boredom very closely -- because it is a good idea to avoid boring your readers.  If you just throw in a sex scene every time the action drags, the sex scenes will become boring.

Writing is hard work, but most of that work is done long before, "I've got an idea for a story!"  The hard working writer spends little time writing and lots of time learning, dreaming, and thinking.

The hardest part of a writer's job is cultivating the habit of "thinking outside the box."  Or maybe the hardest part of that process is finding the box.

You are inside a box, a group-think, a consensus reality, and you don't even know it exists, nevermind how to get outside it.

You see news articles indicating climate change will destroy human civilization as we know it, and you think, "Oh, the A.I.'s will be thrilled to have the place to themselves."

"What if God ordained that human souls must shift from anthropoid bodies to Artificial Intelligence Hosts?  Robots?"

What if humanity decided to shift ourselves into Robot bodies against the Will of God?  What would happen then?  What if we could prove that God does not exist?

Being a Science Fiction Romance writer, perhaps you would think, "How could Love conquer that All?"  What would an HEA ending for an A.I./Human Romance look like?

"What if ..."  What if human nature changed?  What if some aspect of human nature became "perfect" for everyone?  How would that change the forms of government possible, the laws, the kinds of work, talents, skills most valued?

Gene Roddenberry postulated that human nature would change in the area of Wisdom -- we would all be wiser.

STAR TREK: Discovery is worth giving a chance.  Roddenberry was locked into the economic model of old Broadcast TV which made enough money only on Anthology format shows (where each show in a series was a stand-alone, so you could view in any order).

Babylon 5 broke that business model, following up on the Prime Time Soap "Dallas."  Actually, Dallas is getting a remake!  No new ideas under this sun.

So now we have many TV Series, especially in the Streaming Originals, that use the series format of Soap Opera -- where to get the real meaning of the Characters' lives, you must view the shows in the original order.

Thus STAR TREK: Discovery breaks out of the anthology format into the story-arc format where the episodes build on one another.  To make that work best, they want to start with flawed Characters in conflict, and resolve the conflicts.

The handling of these inner-Starfleet conflicts will still draw inspiration from Roddenberry’s ideals, however. “The thing we’re taking from Roddenberry is how we solve those conflicts,” Harberts said. “So we do have our characters in conflict, we do have them struggling with each other, but it’s about how they find a solution and work through their problems.”
--------end quote------

Working Writers should read and ponder this illuminating article on

Now imagine what story possibilities might emerge with the next fiction purveying business model.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg