Thursday, March 22, 2018

ICFA Report

The weather for the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (see for details about the organization and the conference) was sunny all weekend. The temperatures on Wednesday, Thursday, and part of Friday, though, were almost chilly for Florida in March. Much nicer than home (Maryland), anyway! We got lovely days in the 70s and 80s from Friday afternoon on. With the theme of the bicentennial of FRANKENSTEIN, the main guest of honor was John Kessel, author of PRIDE AND PROMETHEUS, in which Mary, the bookish younger sister in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, meets Victor Frankenstein and his creature. I love a good crossover story, so this was one of my favorite recently published novels. Author guest of honor was Nike Sulway, whose luncheon talk on Thursday included her personal experience of first reading FRANKENSTEIN as a teenager in a shelter; her award-winning story "The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club" can be read on the LIGHTSPEED magazine website. The guest scholar was Gothic specialist Fred Botting.

Author Andy Duncan introduced John Kessel's Thursday night speech. Duncan offered the most entertaining and accurate capsule description of this con I've heard: "A science fiction convention with better food, and MLA for happy people." John Kessel spoke about the ethics and aesthetics of adapting preexisting stories and characters in one's own fiction. On one level, this activity is the essence of fanfic. On the literary side, this kind of adaptation has been termed "critical fiction," implying the re-use of elements from earlier works to expand on, interrogate, and critique them. Kessel quoted some critics who condemn this practice as, among other derogatory labels, "laziness." (Really? Shakespeare, almost all of whose plays were derived from earlier works, was simply "lazy"?) Kessel drew the sound conclusion that all writers inevitably build upon the works of their predecessors. Furthermore, the high value the modern era places on "originality" (in the sense of inventing one's own content) is a very recent notion, unknown to antiquity, the Middle Ages, or the Renaissance.

The Lord Ruthven Assembly, our vampire and revenant division, had its usual Friday night meeting. After the business portion, we screened ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, with popcorn. I'd seen it only once before and didn't remember much about it, so I had lots of fun watching it again. The movie drew pretty good attendance despite playing opposite the guest of honor readings. This mash-up of Dracula (Bela Lugosi himself), the Wolfman, and Frankenstein's monster contains some surprisingly clever humor as well as the slapstick. If you've never seen it, check it out.

Some sessions I especially enjoyed: The current state of weird fiction. The brave new world of publishing, with discussion of alternative publishing routes and tips on promotion. A "round table" with Theodora Goss on her THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST'S DAUGHTER, another of my favorite recent novels; this crossover brings together daughters (biological or created) of famous nineteenth-century mad scientists—Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, Hawthorne's Rappaccini, Dr. Moreau—and a mystery for Sherlock Holmes. I was delighted to learn that there will be not only a sequel this July, set mainly in eastern Europe and introducing the daughter of Van Helsing, but a third book next year to conclude the series. Scientist Geoffrey A. Landis presented a slide show titled "To See the Universe Unseen," with enthralling images of the microcosm and macrocosm as viewed through microscopes and telescopes, phenomena invisible to the unaided human eye. He intriguingly declared, "The history of science is the history of instruments."

The weekend always concludes with the Saturday night awards banquet. The Lord Ruthven Assembly awards recognized THE COMPLETE SOOKIE STACKHOUSE STORIES by Charlaine Harris (fiction), VAMPIRE FILMS OF THE 1970s by Gary A. Smith (nonfiction), and MIDNIGHT, TEXAS, Season One (other media), with a special award for POWERS OF DARKNESS: THE LOST VERSION OF DRACULA, a translation of the early-20th-century Icelandic version (very different from Stoker's original) into English with critical essays and footnotes. I came home with the customary free books (given away at the luncheons and banquet) and inspiring thoughts about the realm of speculative fiction.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Business Model of Writers In A Changing World Part 3 - Choosing A Computer for Novel Writing

Business Model of Writers In A Changing World
Part 3
Choosing A Computer for Novel Writing
Jacqueline Lichtenberg 

Previous Parts to the Business Model of Writers series are:

Most computer salesmen will give bad advice about which computer, and which configuration you need for writing novels.

Most computer salesmen have never written a novel, and those who have did not sell their novel to a major publisher, have it go from hardcover to paperback, to re-issue to audiobook, to self-published version, and back to sales by a reputable publisher, and on to a videogame.

Most computer salesmen (and women, you know) have no clue at all what is involved in a career in "the arts." 

Most computer salespersons are convinced they work long hours for little reward.  Which is, in fact, true, but reveals a clueless state.

Even middle-good selling books do not make more than minimum wage for the writer.  In today's changing world where minimum wage is increasing, the purchasing power of the dollar (or whatever currency you get paid in) is decreasing faster than minimum wage is increasing, the writer's initial compensation (advance against royalties) is not increasing.

However, the demands in writer's working time and price of acceptable equipment to output text to a publisher, is increasing.

Although computers make rewriting take far less than a third of the time it took when you had to re-type every page over and over (often 5 drafts), it still takes time to create and polish the words that tell your story.

The price of paperback books has increased while the percent of cover price paid to the writer has stayed pretty much stationary.  So yes, writers get a little more per book sold.  And writers get a larger percent per e-book sold.  However, the number of titles published per year (in all forms) has increased.  Nobody reads everything in a given field anymore (least of all in Romance, or Science Fiction Romance).

Books compete with Netflix and other streaming sources for the entertainment-hour (and buck) -- there are more readers but they are more selective, and tend to prioritize FREE e-books (Kindle etc.) or the 99C deals offered by writers, direct.

So the number of readers per title decreases as the number of books sold per year increases.  That means writer's compensation decreases -- you have to work harder, be more productive, and market agressively just to stay even.

Yes, the price of computing power has decreased, but a computer that can handle a writer doing a Series still costs a lot more than a manual typewriter cost in the 1950's in hours-worked. 

Inflation changes the number of dollars involved, but not the number of beads of sweat.

So how does a writer choose a computer to do "only word processing" in order to write books?

Most clerks understand "word processing" does not require much computer capacity, heft or memory.  They will sell you a student's laptop.

Yes, you can survive that career stage where all you can afford is a student version laptop, maybe a "refurbished" one.  Most successful writers today started on the equivalent of that. 

If you are forced to buy a minimal computer, you will have to pay extra for a cloud subscription such as Carbonite or Dropbox (I use both) or Apple's iCloud or Microsoft's.

We have learned not to trust the hardware on our desks as we trusted the stacks of paper boxes in our garages.  Yes, many writers have lost "everything" to a garage fire or flood. But it was rare.  If the books had been printed, there was a way to get fans to hunt for used copies, then copy-type the whole thing onto paper again (which has been done!).

Today, a paper copy is scanned and OCR'd, and you are good to go electronically, again.  All my older titles were made electronic that way -- by the unstinting efforts of a fan.

Those starting out today have to think long-term.  Don't think "write this novel" -- but "When the 14th Book in this series is published, how will I supply the previous ones to the new market which uses totally different software?" 

Paper was paper, and typewriter fonts were just typewriter fonts (Courier, that's it.)  But today writers work in a "changing world" as this series title suggests.

That is not a "changed world" but a "changing world." 

Plan on format inaccessibility, the need to spend time reformatting, finding software that can read the old stuff and create something the new stuff can read, then more time correcting typos and resisting the urge to rewrite.

In other words, a writer's career is punctuated with doing over again what has been completed and left behind forever.

There is no such thing as "finishing" a novel.

Once that idea has taken root in your vision of the future of your career, you are equiped to choose a computer to write your next novel with.

The choice has to arise from these considerations:

1) store clerks don't understand that novels must be rewritten and previous versions (5-10) kept, character and place notes kept, versions from various publishers reissuing kept, -- when you say "word processing" they think "term paper writing" at the most.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

2) you can't afford what you really need -- and very likely they don't make it yet.

3) In the commercial marketplace, there is a difference between equipment (from chainsaws and snowblowers to computers) made for "home use" and what is manufactured and sold to businesses.  Business machines cost a lot (more than a lot) more than stuff made for hobbyists, students, and grandma.  But they last longer -- long enough to make up for the price difference, and more.

4) there is no way to estimate what you will need during the useful life of a computer.  If your career takes off, you will wear your computer out long before its time, but be able to buy another.  That's fine if you've been paying for bakup in various "cloud" spaces.

5) if your career does not take off immediately, you must keep the ever-more-obsolete computer running because you can't invest more in equipment

6) the new tax law (for 2018) is supposed to let you deduct the cost of new equipment in the year you buy it -- problem is you can deduct it against what you earn that year, and publishers do not pay on time (they just don't - it is part of their business model.) 

7) the computer will die, just quit, eventually.  Home office equipment usually lasts 3-4 years (by design), and today the software field makes 4 year old programs too obsolete to use. 

So how do you make this decision of what to buy?

You want to avoid buying more than you need. 

You want to avoid buying less than you need (a career catastrophe caused by yourself). 

You can't afford what you need.

You have no clue what you need.

Nobody has a clue what you really need, least of all the experts in computers.

In other words, it's pretty much like buying a car or a house -- mission-critical but sans knowledge of what the mission is.

So what do you do? 

The truth is that you can't afford what you need because the profit margin your business model produces is not sufficient to cover the cost of producing the product.  This is true for all but the tiny percentage of writers who go to the top of the charts -- and even then, it usually doesn't last a lifetime.  Monetizing your hard work over decades takes preserving that hard work in a form that can be re-sold and re-issued.  This is not a problem specific to writing.  You find exactly the same business model problem in all "The Arts." 

I've been writing novels on computers since before there was such a thing as Microsoft Windows, or its predecessor "Presentation Manager."  And I've struggled (with massive help from fans) with re-issue issues on every title.

I learned my solution to this impenetrable conundrum of a problem from my first typewriter repairman.

I was just starting to try to sell short stories.  I went to a used typewriter store, asked for a machine to write books on, and bought a nice one.  I wore it out.  I went back and bought another, which I had to take back for repairs several times a year. Became buddies with the repairman in the back of the store.

A couple years into this routine, the guy hands me back my machine and asks, "What in the world are you DOING to these typewriters?" 

Blink.  Blink,blink. "But I told you, writing books."

6-8 hours a day, typing 80-100 words per minute, when copying text. 

THAT is what secretaries in big offices do, not what salesmen envision writers do. 

So he says, "What you really need is an IBM." And he pointed me to a monsterous gray hulk he had refurbished.  I bought it.  Wore it out a few times, had it repaired, bought another.  Eventually, I was able to afford the new IBM and an on-site service contract, but I wore that out, too.

Many years later, I saw a fellow -- a big hearted guy -- who had a chain saw in his garage. Came a big storm that downed trees on his street, so he went to help the neighborhood guys and electric company linemen chop trees and clear the roads.  His chain saw broke.  It was almost new, but it wore out.  He asked the linemen.  They said it looked the same as theirs on the outside but was made chintzy inside. 

So this marketing ploy is still in play.

What they sell mass-market to homeowners and students LOOKS the same on the outside, but inside it is different from what they sell to professionals.  This holds in every type of product line where I've tested it, including now, computers.

In this new, still changing, world, though, box-makers of computers expect businesses to have cloud backup, etc etc, and consider desktop equipment a "consumer staple" not an investment in infrastructure. 

Computers, even desktops, are like phones now -- 3-years and it breaks.  The limit is designed in. 

This year, I had a Dell business grade desktop break down, and it didn't quite make 10 years as the previous Dell Desktop I had went.  In fact, I gave away the old Dell Desktop still in working order after 10 years.  This one, an even higher top-of-the-line went after 8 years, or so.

So I am not recommending Dell business computers anymore.

Each time you have to buy a computer, look around for the business that puts the most wear and tear on the hardware in the least amount of time, and uses the most capacity.

Store clerks hear "word processing" and sell you the LEAST rugged, lowest capacity hardware they have in stock. 

But the truth is, writing FOR A LIVING is not the same as writing letters to family and an occasional student paper.

The "change" in the world that has forced a change in the writer's business model is the shift from typewriter (a 20 year investment) to computer (a 3 year consumable tool). 

What you need to find each time you must shop for office equipment is the MOST rugged, highest capacity, fastest, smartest, top of the line business office tool you can possibly get.

Once you've found what the "real" high-productivity, mission-critical businesses use, then be sure to get the version that has the biggest harddrive, the most memory, and the fastest processors.  Even if you must start your career with "refurbished" computers, pick the ones used in high-volume offices (not your Doctor's front desk).

What you are doing, as a novel writer, is more demanding of your equipment than what the worker-bees in office cubicles do.  It more closely resembles what Gamers do, or perhaps what Videogame Producers and animators do.

Look at the equipment used by Hollywood post-production companies -- that is the equipment that can stand up under the pounding it takes to produce a novel.

But even so, you still need cloud subscription backup as well as your own external harddrive backup device.  Either of those could just POOF disappear with all your data without notice.  Lawsuits and apologies, even cash remuneration won't replace novel manuscripts. 

You can't afford what you really need, so create a "make-do" situation with a solid, well thought through, plan for the upgrade your first Advance Payment will finance.

For years to come, most of what you make will go to equipment upgrades, publicity trips, and many expenses that are not deductible. 

You need to order computers online, from the manufacturer, on the website page reserved for businesses not home-users.

Watch the world as it evolves for where the heaviest usage of computing power moves after it leaves Hollywood post-production studios.  That is where you will find the equipment it takes to create novels, and keep on creating without losing and doing over. 

Only a writer understands what novel writing entails relative to what is involved in, say, Term Papers. 

You can "get away with" using bottom-of-the-line equipment for years, but when you run the figures for your business, you will find the amount of time and energy you spend keeping your equipment functioning grows over time.  If you somehow swing top-of-the-line new equipment, you suddenly find the amount of time you can devote to word-creation triples or better.

This is your profit margin.  Calculate it.  Then decide if you want to "be a writer." 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dead Authors And Defunct Publishers Are Not Fair Game

Copyright lasts for the life of the author plus up to seventy years. Most English-speaking nations, and many non-English-speaking nations have agreed to this.  (Berne Convention, WIPO etc.)

A book may be out of print, but that does not mean that it is out of copyright. A book may be available to read online on a pirate site, but that does not mean that the book is "in the public domain" and free for everyone to exploit and share.

An ebook may be in a "private collection" sold as a CD on EBay, but that does not mean that the EBay seller is conducting lawful business, or that (whatever he or she alleges in the listing) he or she owns the copyright to the ebooks in the private collection.

One of many fascinating sources of good information on popular misconceptions about copyright is Angela Hoy.

Her recent article "When Authors Don't Understand Copyright Law" is excellent.

Of course, the same applies to music, and song-writers.

Here's a prompt for a little navel gazing.

The law blog article "Bloggers Beware...." by John Crittenden,  Lori Levine  and Peter Willsey of the law firm  Cooley LLP  raises the alarm that linking to content --that may infringe someone else's copyright-- may also be copyright infringement.

This may be an important alert to all bloggers and retweeters from Cooley LLP.  Please follow the link to find out what they have to say about the potential dangers of "embedding" other people's copyrighted images, and the possible consequences if the Goldman vs Breitbart ruling survives.

It would be improper to wonder whether the New York federal district judge departed from the powerful precedent set by the Californian Ninth Circuit judges because the (losing) defendant in New York was Breitbart, and the (winning) defendant in California was Amazon... but perhaps "improper wonderings" are grist to the author mill.

Meanwhile, for those who monetize their writing online, beware of snagging illustrations or sidebars from Facebook or Twitter, instead of paying the creator and copyright owner for a non-exclusive license to use the illustration or anecdote.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, March 15, 2018


This week the annual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts meets in Orlando, Florida, and I'm there as usual. This year's theme is the bicentennial of the publication of Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN. The weather forecast looks wonderful. I'll report on the con next Thursday.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration Part 10 - How To Marry An Alien Billionaire

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration 
Part 10
How To Marry An Alien Billionaire
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous Parts in this 4-way integration of skills series are indexed here:

Applying 4 (really hard, abstract, mysterious and spiritual) skills at the same time is a job for the well oiled subconscious.  These blogs apply that oil.   

For the most part, when a writer "has an idea" -- all this "integration" work has already been done by the subconscious. Learning to write novels is the process of training the subconscious to "integrate" all these elements before telling you to write the story. 

Once the subconscious has done the integration, it believes it has done it all wonderfully well, regardless of how inappropriate the result may be.  That is why writers who first begin submitting to large commercial publishers get back arcane, incomprehensible, and just plain utterly WRONG, demands for changes.  The subconscious has finished, knows it is correct, believes in its work, and refuses to make such wrong changes.

The subconscious knows the editor does not love it, and very likely its owner (the writer) does not really love it either.  Subconscious, which does all the work for the writer, can be sullen and stubborn if rebuked by an editor demanding changes.

Most beginning writers are bewildered by such demands because they feel like rejections.  Even an outright rejection letter tagged with an encouraging P.S. on the boiler plate note of rejection does not convince subconscious it has been understood and loved.

To hit the large commercial fiction market, a work has to conform to a number of parameters -- all moving parts of an artistic composition -- that make it "marketable."

Science Fiction, which is the genre we are blending with Romance here, arose from a group of writers who -- just like the "self-publishing" writers of today -- walked to the beat of a different drummer.

For many decades, Science Fiction was boring or ridiculous to the bigger readerships Manhattan publishers had to reach. 

Very few editors or readers had the education to understand the science -- which was inserted as expository lumps -- never mind the made-up science explained in those expository lumps.  The real key to the Science Fiction readership was simply to understand that the story (plot and all) arose from a questioning of "real" science.

All the readers were assumed to know the real-world-science being used, and being challenged with a "What if...?"

What if you could go faster than the speed of light?  What premise of current science has to be proven wrong in order to accomplish that?

Well, at that time (the 1930's) every science educated person knew a set of facts taught in High School.  Research the history of science today, and you will find (if you know current science) that almost everything taught in High School at that time has been proven wrong.

Electrons do not circle nuclei in orbits.

The atom is not the smallest indivisible component of matter.

Our solar system is nowhere near unique.

Quarks, Black Holes, Quasars, and the Higgs Boson were not mentioned because the math didn't include them.

Yes, in the development of science, usually math comes first -- math is the language of science, and to write science fiction romance, you really have to know your math.

Science fiction depicted many ways to go faster than light, get to other stars, explore other planets -- each presented different premises that defied the known science of their day.  Some of the science fiction writers of 1930-1970 have now been proven correct.  Some have simply been proven to have spotted the premise that was not true -- but not extrapolated what is actually true (by today's understanding of the universe, tomorrow is another matter entirely.)

In the 1960's to 1990's another breed of science fiction writer arose -- the Sociological Science Fiction genre inventors.

These writers questioned the premises then taught in universities as "the truth" of "settled science" and built fantasy worlds based on ideas about how our understanding of "what is human" and "what government works for humans" was flat out wrong.

Harry Harrison and Poul Anderson are two leading names.

Ursula LeGuinn added many unseen dimensions to exploring social constructs -- revealing what Poul Anderson taught his writing students -- all society is rooted in and driven by the power of gender.

Poul Anderson created his aliens from animal species found on Earth, extrapolating what such a type of reproductive drive would produce for a society of a star-spanning civilization.

Also from the 1960's on, we had writers like Katherine Kurtz -- even Tolkien -- founding the new genre of Adult Fantasy.

By "Adult" here is not meant the current must-have-monkey-sex scenes, but rather Adult in the sense of taking up the life-issues of grown up people rather than the "talking animal" issues of children's fantasy.

So Adult Fantasy became about worlds where Magic is real, where threats are invasions from another dimension, Heros defend a way of life from such supernatural invaders.

Adult Fantasy of Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series were sociological-religious-Fantasy -- where a breed of human, the Deryni, had both ESP and real-magical-powers.  The Deryni were rejected for their abilities by the dominant religion, and created their own religion based on that dominant religion -- the novels talk around the concept of "The Church" of the Middle Ages, but it is very similar.

So religion and ESP were tackled head-on as social constructs.

The Deryni novels are all about who will be King.  The economic structure is based on typical Fantasy ideas of an entire government and economy modeled after the real-world year 1000 - plus or minus a couple centuries.

What would today be like if the Deryni Kings had held sway through the Dark Ages, and piloted human society into the Enlightenment?

Those modern day novels in the Deryni series have not, as far as I know, been written.

But many writers today are exploring the Unseen Worlds, Magic Is Real, or Defend From Intruding Demons, worlds that are so fascinating and scary.

Some such fantasy is pure horror - at least from some people's point of view.

Some seems to appeal on the level of, "I'd go live there if I could."

One version of the attractive Fantasy World arose in the Vampire Romance -- where a human woman would fall in love with a Vampire, and he with her, and they would attempt to solve his problem of killing humans for their blood.

All these worlds, and variations on them, have been explored at great length.  Much imaginary science has been invented to support the sociological discussion about human nature -- most of that imaginary science is not based on real-world science being systematically (scientifically) challenged, the way early science fiction writers challenged the unquestioned beliefs of science textbooks of that day.

Many writers with ideas about how Relationships might work out to a Happily Ever After ending just plunge into writing their stories based on an impression they have derived from reading many Fantasy Novels.

There's nothing wrong with this commercially!  What your intended readership wants, loves, responds to, (or ignores and doesn't care about) is relevant to what story you are telling about what Characters.

Copying what academics call the trope that has become popular is a way to sell a lot of books - and that is the goal.

But there are vast areas of human society that have remained untouched, and could make grand new ingredients in those worn out tropes.

Science Fiction started with modifying scientific "laws" to allow for Faster than Light travel to explore Alien Planets.

Then Fantasy writers challenged "science" -- with the idea that there are other dimensions to reality that science does not (can not) describe.

Ghosts are real.  Zombies can happen,  Vampires have to be dealt with. Telepaths exist.  Psychokinesis works.  The Russians were reported to be spending money on research into Clairvoyance - Far Viewing to spy on American defense plans, was that Fantasy or Science Fiction?

And of course, UFO nuts still promulgate conspiracy theories -- guess what, 2017 revealed the USA was spending millions investigating UFO's.

So where is a Fantasy writer to go to find an accepted idea, premise, or theory that can be refuted?  What difference do you base your Worldbuilding upon that will, in 50 years, be proven correct?

Look at the world of 2018 -- all around the globe -- and cut away the noise and chatter, the politics and nonsense.  You see a world in the grip of a number of very hot Religious Wars.  And even war to extinguish all Religion as superstition, hypocrisy or outright lies told to gain control of "the masses."

Now look at the world from another direction, and you see a world where the entire concept of "the masses" is being systematically dissolved away.

Google, Microsoft, Apple, -- Artificial Intelligence, Social Networking -- all of the emergent technologies are groping for control of "Big Data."  People are handled as individuals, each unique, but composed of standardized units of information (name, address, date of birth, facial recognition, fingerprint, credit rating).  Fill in each field in the form with standardized information blocks, and the resulting form is a unique composite -- an Identity.

Identity Theft has run rampant when the sociological assumption behind all the governments of the world (including the U.N.) is that government exists to control "the masses."  The assumption is that there is no such thing as "an individual" or an "Identity."  People move in masses, and all the ones with the same "label" are identical to one another (interchangeable) -- Black, White, Muslim, North Korean, Chinese -- we are our labels, not ourselves.

So we are a civilization that has been founded on governing masses by whatever force necessary, now in transition to a civilization founded on independent movement of unique individuals.  Will that transition continue to completion, or reverse itself?  How many Billionaires can this planet hold?

Yeah, that sounds  ridiculous, but look with your writer's glasses on.  Look at China and the culture that embraced Communism because they even name their children putting family name first, then personal name.

The Group is your Identity - not your personal or individual name.

That tension between Group and Individual is built into humanity.

Astrologically, it is First House opposite Seventh House -- the individuality of First House is inside you, but the Spouse/Public/Partner is ALSO inside you.  That is the portrait of the Natal Chart we all share - every one of us has a First House and a Seventh House, and we all have them in opposition-tension.

Individually, few of us could survive, never mind thrive.  In fact, most all "apes" (the animal family we sort of belong with) live in "tribes" and develop a Group survival strategy.

So, as humans, food, clothing, shelter, reproduction, raising the young, etc. all the basics of life depend on our Group affiliation.

But Groups have Structures, and even Great Ape communities have bosses, dominants, go-along-to-get-along, and humans periodically look around and declare, "We have to get organized!"  Groups don't function to survive without being organized.

So for thousands of years, some humans have spent their lives studying Organizations -- how to organize humans, how to make an organization work, which organization structure is superior to the neighbor's organization (Communism, vs. Socialism, vs. Capitalism).

Humans study animals, and that seems to work -- we seem to be able to make sense of animals and predict their behavior.  From the first spear-carrying human, we have relied on understanding animals to hunt them for food.  We can predict animal behavior.

But humans studying humans has not been all that successful, up until Public Relations became a science by applying math to human behavior.

Public Relations dubs "the masses" as "the public."  These are all the people you don't know personally, but have to deal with as if they are all identical (e.g. the masses.)

There are many applications of these predictive assumptions, many of which have gone unquestioned for decades (longer than most practitioners of public relations have been alive).  Advertising is one such application.

The predictive assumptions have gone unquestioned because they have worked -- they have worked, gangbusters!

Most of Economics as taught in universities and applied using government, regulation and law, is obviously wrong.

Much math is being applied and much psychology -- all of it targeted at predicting and thus controlling human behavior on the survival level.

Ultimately, economics is about getting enough food, clothing, shelter, sex, and satisfaction, in spite of all the forces arrayed against you.

The phrase, "Dog eat dog world" -- applies today.  It is how basic humans behave.

"Standard Economic Theory" assumes people act rationally.

What if your Aliens actually acted Rationally?

Could your human Character fall in love with someone who was totally rational?

Well, look at the success Gene Roddenberry had selling the American woman on how sexy Spock is - even Sarek!  Of course, in his heart, Roddenberry did not think of Spock as really (actually, provably) rational.  Logic is not the same as rationality, is it?

Logic requires a Helenistic view of the Universe, which is based on an "either/or" or zero-sum-game choice.  Public Relations is the root of "Game Theory" -- which pits one side against the other, to produce a winner.

All through human history, survival has been a winner-take-all, either/or issue.

Maybe Artificial Intelligence, or some new application of the communications facility of the Internet will change what it takes to survive, and thus change all economic theory of humanity.

One of my hobbyhorses here has been solving the Energy problem.  Fossil fuels work, obviously - and kill us, obviously.  Energy is necessary for individual and group survival, but getting it and using it kills us all.

Allan Cole, in his Sten Series,

postulated an anti-matter driven galactic civilization.

Isaac Asimov predicted getting our energy from an adjacent universe (but they fought back against the theft).  Star Trek postulated an anti-matter drive.  So far, we haven't got that -- but Nuclear Fusion (far cleaner than Nuclear Fission) might be within reach.  An abundant energy source that doesn't kill us (even the smoke from caveman fires killed), would change the entire definition of "economics."

Earlier this month, the director-general of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) announced that construction of the project had reached the halfway point. It’s an important milestone for the multi-billion-dollar facility being constructed in southern France. The goal is to begin generating plasma, an essential component of nuclear fusion reactors, by 2025.

ITER (Latin for “Way”) is a partnership of 35 countries, all hoping to share in the scientific rewards. “This gives us confidence as we face the remaining 50 percent,” Dr. Bernard Bigot of ITER told the journal Live Science.

Note the size of the financing, location and staffing.  Note the source of funding.  Also note, they do not yet have a way of producing as much energy as it costs to run such a fusion plant, so it isn't an abundant-clean source of energy to run the planet (yet).

But what if Aliens arrived who knew how to do this fusion trick?  Would we reject them because it puts the lie to our beliefs about the structure of reality?  Embarrasses academics or politicians?  After all, humans were in charge of the Roman government that thought it was a good idea to crucify the guy they thought was the Jewish Messiah (mostly because he was gaining political klout).

THEME: Is there anything humans wouldn't do to defend beliefs?

Maybe it will take a first encounter with Aliens (and yes, a love affair) to change how human society organizes around economics.

THEME: If you want to know what's really going on, follow the money.

Right now, the field of Economics is split (just like the current global religious wars) around two belief systems derived from two Nobel Prize Winners in Economics, each of which did an amazing job of following the money.

Milton Friedman was an American economist and statistician best known for his strong belief in free-market capitalism. During his time as professor at the University of Chicago, Friedman developed numerous free-market theories that opposed the views of traditional Keynesian economists.
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Keynesian economics was developed by the British economist John Maynard Keynes during the 1930s in an attempt to understand the Great Depression. Keynes advocated increased government expenditures and lower taxes to stimulate demand and pull the global economy out of the depression.

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Both concepts are being hybridized, just as Science hybridized with fiction to produce science fiction and romance hybridized with science fiction to produce science fiction romance.

But maybe these economists adding modern data-science and psychology and brain/nervous system studies and so on to these two theories are missing something?

Maybe some predictive-fantasy writer might nail that something by worldbuilding an Alien Interstellar Civilization around a THEME that encompasses human behavior (seeking survival) and yet points out where the belief systems of Award Winning Genius Scientists (which both Friedman and Keynes were) are actually flat out wrong?

That's how science fiction themes form the foundation of worldbuilding.  "What do we know for a fact is true, that we base all our very successful actions on, but is actually not true?"

Science fiction plots are built on 3 question:

"What If ...?"
"If only ...?"
"If this goes on ..."

Science Fiction Characters are built on, "What does he know that I don't know?"

Aliens know things they believe are true, that belie what humans know and believe.

Characters build worlds.

Worldbuilding is not done by the writer -- but by the writer's Characters.

Your human finds a crashed space ship with a barely living Alien crawing out of the wreckage.

Which one's "beliefs" will be proven wrong?  Maybe both?

Are they "rational" -- within the contexts of their own worlds?

Does "logic" transcend their social worlds, as a "hard science" - a "cold equations" situation?

In the 1940's science fiction tropes, the alien in the crashed space ship is an explorer or military scout (The Day The Earth Stood Still, Starman).

What if, in today's sociological/fantasy trope the Alien is a Billionaire in his own civilization -- the top of the top of the economic ladder in his world?

Maybe in his world there is no ladder and everyone wields enough wealth to be an autonomous Power in their own right?

Would complete economic independence from all others of your species make you asocial -- a loner, a maverick, not a member of the tribe?

Would such a loner, totally independent of others of his species for sustenance and success, not supervised by "government regulations" and not "ruled" by an aristocracy, not taxed, not bound by family honor, just an independent individual be a Romantic Interest?

Is Independence sexy?

How many good Romance novels have you read about marrying "up" -- to higher status, money, social prominence -- to gain happiness?

From Pygmalion to Meghan Markle's Royal Wedding -- is it money, status, power, that causes happily ever after?  Or is it changing your mind about something you don't even know you believe?  Does it rain in Spain's mountains?

The theme generates the Character, the world they come from and the world they go to during the Plot -- and the theme generates the plot, too.

Theme is the basis of all fiction.  Theme is what the story says about "life, the universe and everything."

If your theme says, "Something you (the reader) are absolutely certain about is in fact wrong," then you very likely have a science fiction story to tell.

The art behind this type of fiction, the challenge to common beliefs, is a work painted from shades of cognitive dissonance.

For example, if your Main Character is absolutely certain there can be no other kinds of people than humans, then your opening scene is the moment that Main Character meets a person who is not human.

If your Main Character believes there is no way in all creation for a space ship to go faster than light or travel back in Time -- well, he's the Air Force pilot who sees the Enterprise dipping into Earth's atmosphere, has his plane break apart, and gets beamed aboard.

The opening moment of How To Marry An Alien Billionaire has to redefine "Billionaire" using something that disproves both Friedman's theory of economics and Keynes's theory. 

To find that opening event (something dramatic, symbolic, visual, like the 1929 Market Crash featuring Stock Traders jumping out of skyscraper windows) -- read this article.

Keen and those supporting him (full disclosure: I was one of them) were making a simple point as he used Blu Tack to stick their 33 theses to one of the world’s leading universities: economics needs its own Reformation just as the Catholic church did 500 years ago. Like the medieval church, orthodox economics thinks it has all the answers. Complex mathematics is used to mystify economics, just as congregations in Luther’s time were deliberately left in the dark by services conducted in Latin. Neoclassical economics has become an unquestioned belief system and treats anybody who challenges the creed of self-righting markets and rational consumers as dangerous heretics.

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Note the use of language like "reformation" "orthodox thinking" and "heretic" -- these word choices are not accidental.  This article pointing out the failure of previously revered economics is explaining how authority promulgates belief systems until they become not only self-perpetuating but permeated with self-fulfilling prophecies.

Things are happening on Earth, among human societies today that belie the most cherished, heart-felt beliefs -- religious beliefs, and everything we put in place of religion and every mis-use of religion.

Faith itself, as a human cognitive function, is being challenged.  Note: Fake News.

When has "News" ever not been "Fake?"  The Bards sang songs of Grand Battles -- hardly a word being true, except there was a fight and lots of people died, this side won and that side lost -- (and even THAT might not be really true).

But we believe.

We take on faith.

We govern ourselves by rumor.

We discount "official sources."  We believe our neighbors when they relate rumors because we know someone who knows someone it happened to.

We, as humans, believe what we experience is true.

Do your Aliens share that propensity?

To create an Alien Romance, you need to identify what the couple has in common with each other, and use that as the affinity that "Conquers All."

Then you must identify the obstacle to their founding an HEA together.

Then you must show-don't-tell how Love itself, a universal force that is a property of reality throughout all creation, conquers "all."

Whatever the obstacle, however long and complex the path from initial cognitive dissonance moment to the HEA, show how Love provides the energy.

Take today's worldwide religious war -- how does Love conquer that?

Ordinarily, people fight and kill each other until someone wins and someone gives up (and/or dies).  The winner is proclaimed "right" and the loser or dead side is "wrong."  The fight is about WHO IS RIGHT, and never a word or issue about WHAT IS RIGHT.

Any dispute among humans can be settled by killing the opposition -- even if only metaphorically, overpowering by brute twitter-storm.

But what if Aliens didn't settle disputes that way?

What if the academic dichotomy now applied to our political world of Friedman vs Keynes was viewed by the Aliens as silly because neither is correct.  How would an Alien mediate such a dispute between two Economists, and persuade both of them to give up the panoply of beliefs each holds so dear they don't even know they are beliefs, not facts?

Would a human, watching that Alien argue, fall in love?  What would the human do?

Or take another dispute that's boiling over in our world -- take Israel vs. The Palestinians.  Or take North Korea vs. the USA.  Or Britain vs. The E.U.

It is human to rely -- to the death -- on a belief.

How do you persuade a human to doubt those beliefs?


I'm not the only one who sees and understands the world through Love Conquers All.  It is a favorite hobbyhorse topic on, and I subscribe to a Whatsapp daily bit of wisdom they send out.

One tiny capsule of wisdom that came in 2017 was a summation of a process I have seen work on humans over and over again in a wide variety of contexts.

I think it might seem plausible if you wrote an Alien it worked on, or who worked it on your human Main Character.

It is in that graphic at the top of this post.  No one listens to rebuke unless they believe that you love them.

I saw it used in a Hawaii 5-O episode where a terrorist captive was being questioned to little avail, but Steve McGarrett reversed the strategy and treated the terrorist as a human being -- water, food, time to pray, clean clothes.  He was rebuked by authority for this tactic, but did not accept what authority decreed (torture works).

Authority has never loved Steve McGarrett -- so he never accepts such decrees unless he's woefully out-gunned.  Then he beats a strategic retreat and lives to fight another day.

Rebuke is a tool of love.  In any other hands, rebuke is counter-productive.

Here's the Quote from  Whatsapp.

It's #ThoughtfulThursday!

Here is something to think about all day long:


No one listens to rebuke unless they believe that you love them.

By the time Moses returned to the scene, his people had hit an all-time low. They worshipped idols, spoke slanderously of each other, and had wandered very far from the path of their forefathers. Perhaps he should have told them off, saying, “Repent, sinners, lest you perish altogether!”

But he didn’t. Instead, he told them how G‑d cared for them and felt their suffering, how He would bring about miracles, freedom and a wondrous future out of His love for them.

As for rebuke, Moses saved that for G‑d. “Why have You mistreated Your people?!” he demanded.

If you don’t like the other guy’s lifestyle, do him a favor, lend him a hand. Once you’ve brought a few miracles into his life, then you can urge him to chuck his bad habits.

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Think about that quote.  How easy to turn an idealistic thesis into a tactic for controlling people - into a Power Grab.  Do something for a person, give them something they want or think they want, THEN contradict (rebuke) their most cherished belief and they will accept what you say.  E.G. bribery works.

Think about Keynesian theory -- the government takes wealth that someone makes, and gives it (as if it belonged to the government because the government made it and is generous) to someone (of the masses) who wants it.  Then the government tells the recipient anything the government wants the recipient to believe.

In other words, "the government" is the origin of the only forces in the world that allow humans to survive.

Now think using Friedman's idea -- there exists a force circulating among individuals that causes wealth to be created.  That force (the free market) can overturn governments, reward and punish individuals, -- a force of Nature like the ocean, to be reconned with but not stopped.

Government can build sea-walls, and maybe submarines with torpedos, but government can not stop the market.  The market will be free even if it kills all humans.

There is an old adage (you do know how much I love adages, the more cliche the better): If you've got a tiger by the tail, there is only one thing to do: swarm aboard and ride it.

That tiger is the Free Market that Keynes had seen destroy (1929) his world.  We saw it again in 2007 with the Housing Crash, mortgage fraud, international monetary fraud, and the collapse of the international banking system (because by then computers, the internet, and global markets were emerging as Artificial Intelligence is today.)

Periodically, the Free Market self-destructs, and maybe next time will take us all with it.

THEME: Given the size and nature of the Market "Ocean" with currents, monster storms, unfathomable depths, we must either build a true Titanic Economic Vessel, or stop the ocean currents and storms from circulating (using government or magic).

THEME: There does not exist any such thing as a "Market" -- it is a figment of human imagination.

THEME: humans can be "happily ever after" only if they keep shedding out-worn beliefs (such as "The Market" is "Free.")

THEME: No human can be sovereign, an individual, independent and rational.

THEME: Identity can not be stolen.

THEME: There is no such thing as "the masses."

THEME: Humans don't need to "be governed."

THEME: Humans need to govern others to be happy.

THEME: No human can survive long without a government (support group, tribe, family).

THEME: Money is not the root of all Evil; Envy is.

THEME: There is no such thing as "The Market."

How do you marry an Alien Billionaire?  As in the recipe for rabbit stew, "First Catch Your Alien."   
Would you recognize your Alien Billionaire?

How can you tell, by looking at someone, or even listening to their voice, that they are ultra-wealthy?  Are all wealthy people independent individuals?  By "marry" do you mean make the Billionaire dependent on you for emotional satisfaction?

What is wealth?  Is it the same as money?  How do humans acquire wealth?

Do all human societies need an Aristocracy of Power supported by wealth sucked from the hands of peasants (the masses).

Modern Fantasy Romance often uses a Setting of Kings, Dukes, arranged marriage, and revolution by warfare, Court Magicians and decorative Characters.  Theme generates Setting -- the presence of an aristocracy in a setting limits the range of themes possible.

If you must write in an Aristocratic Setting, you will have to create "masses" (peasants -- people who out-number the Aristocrats) to support them.  Just establishing the existence of an Aristocracy sets up your Economic System.

Human history worked through that stage of Kings and Kingdoms.  Did your Aliens also evolve through thousands of years of Aristocracy?

Have your Aliens, now an Interstellar Civilization, evolved a different kind of Economy because of their reproductive methods?  Humans are all about dominance, winning, and the Alpha Male.  What are your Aliens all about?  How could a human Alpha Female find such a male attractive?

The Billionaire image is a symbol of an individual whose will gets done.  That is, the Billiionaire has the magnitude of wealth that is sheer, unadulterated Power -- like the Market-Ocean, Power, Force, irresistible.

Is that sexy, in and of itself?  Or is it sexy only when contrasted (artistic composition) with "the masses" - who individually are powerless, but together can overcome a multi-trillionaire, in the improbable event they chose to do so.

Small wonder Kings fear The Masses.   Kings rule only by making sure that "they" (the masses) don't all know/believe the same thing at the same time and move as one.

And "the masses" (or "The Market Forces") will be much-much-much larger in an interstellar civilization.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Are Intelligent People Less Moral? sponsored a Neilsen study of book pirates, and offers a link to download the study.

It is a useful study.

Here's a link to another study:

And another:

Perhaps it would not be so astonishing to learn that college graduates are more likely to feel that they have a right to circumvent the natural right of creators to earn a living from the creators' own work.

For one thing, college graduates are fresh out of education systems that enjoy limited copyright exemptions... and allegedly some institutions of higher learning encourage, facilitate and subsidize copyright infringement, including --according to an anecdote told on a news station-- by paying for wholesale photocopying of entire textbooks, so students did not have to purchase textbooks.

If my teacher does it, it must be okay. Right?

Most recent graduates, too, have grown up in an online world where piracy is the new normal. For instance, a certain venue for rampant pop-up music video piracy was founded on Valentines Day, 2005. Some musicians allege that the owner of this site makes them a take-it-or-leave-it offer of minimal income.

There are pop-up pirates on Google Sites, but to Google's credit, they make playing whack-a-mole quite easy.... but one has to play it almost daily.

Here's a pirate link that I have not yet bothered to report.  I do not recommend that you try to download it or subscribe to the site because no legal ebook or pdf or EPub copies of this work (Knight's Fork by Rowena Cherry) have EVER existed.

I made a conscious decision not to release this book in e-format, so I would know for sure that any site offering it for download is a pirate, likewise any ebay seller offering it on a CD is a copyright infringer.

What kind of a name is "alpizar mabins"?  Three or four whacks ago, the mole was "Landrey Lebario".

Here's a trick with Google Sites. If you go to the bottom of the Google Sites page, you can see "recent activity" which reveals when and in what quantity this particular pirate has uploaded links to hundreds of books.  He's probably Russian judging by the " .ga " (Georgia) part of the " " address you can see by hovering your cursor over the "Subscribe" link.

One would expect that the most intelligent people would ignore this sort of thing. Why subscribe, even if "subscribing" is free, when ebooks can be read free in myriad places?  Are those who infringe copyright absolutely confident in their virus protection software?

All the best,  (and in a rush tonight)

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Pro-Tech and Anti-Tech

Cory Doctorow's current LOCUS essay is titled "Let's Get Better at Demanding Better from Tech":

Demanding Better from Tech

Doctorow rejects the "anti-tech/pro-tech false dichotomy" in favor of a more nuanced analysis of the issues. As he puts it, there's no getting around the fact that "your future is going to have more technology in it, so the question isn’t, 'Should we use technology?' but rather, 'Which technology should we use?'” Is it possible to enjoy the advantages of high-tech and connectivity without losing our privacy? He urges us to embrace "the ability to separate a technology from its social and economic context," a process science fiction can help with. This article touches on surveillance, privacy, licensing agreements, advertising, the Internet age, market forces, and "neoliberal capitalism." He maintains that we can find ways to benefit from tech without surrendering our individual rights and resigning ourselves to the dominance of corporations that equate to "colony life-forms that use us like gut-flora, maneuvering us to help them thrive and reproduce, jettisoning us or crushing us if we cease to serve their needs."

The dilemma of convenience versus privacy also applies to the practice of tracking through fitness devices, which Rowena discusses in her latest blog, although Doctorow doesn't mention that issue. As for Alexa, I don't use her, but if I did, I would be quite disturbed at the idea of her betraying my trust by ratting on me to higher authority.

Doctorow suggests that "AI-apocalypses"—scenarios in which super-intelligent computers become our "overlords"—remain popular because they "resonate with our current corporate situation." Corporations, however, unlike actual gut-flora, comprise people who, we hope, can be reasoned with. So Doctorow ends with a upbeat message that all isn't necessarily lost, where personal rights and privacy are concerned, and there's hope.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Theme-Character Integration Part 12 - Creating A Kickass Heroine

Theme-Character Integration
Part 12
Creating A Kickass Heroine 

Previous Theme-Character Integration entries are indexed here:

Google Sexual Harassment and you get thousands of magazine and newspaper articles, maybe millions of online posts or tweets, on this topic of how many men, especially those who wield power in our society, will not take "no" for an answer.

This blog is about Alien-Human Relationships - even if the "alien" is a ghost, magic user, creature from another dimension -- we scrutinize human relationships, dissect the emotional dynamics and create fictional worlds from the resulting pieces.

One of the prime aspects of human relationships is sexuality, and in the 21st Century the entire definition of "gender" is shifting fast and hard to something never envisioned or advised about by our ancestors.  We might be viewed as the Aliens by our ancestors visiting up this timeline.

The blogs by Jacqueline Lichtenberg posted here on Tuesdays are about how someone who wants to write (and sell) a mixed-genre Romance novel can process the observations of the reality surrounding readers to target a readership that wants to explore this alien-human dimension in Relationship.

Everyone knows what a good Relationship can, should, and ought to be.

And everyone recognizes (from kindergarten age) what a bad Relationship is.  Little kids don't have to be taught to hit back.  They have to be taught ways of handling conflict without hitting.  Humans are primates.  Primates hit.

In the Romance genre premise, Humans are also something else.

On this writing craft blog we talk about that "something else" a lot -- because we are all about Romance, and the envelope theme: Love Conquers All.

We explore (with suitable skepticism) the path from the here and now to the Happily Ever After.

And the crucial element in achieving a Happily Ever After (HEA) position in life, is bonding to your Soul Mate.  So the premise is that Souls are real.  That is one huge lump for some readers to swallow.

That overall purpose of this blog -- the writing craft techniques that can be used to cast the magical image of a life with a Soul where Love Conquers Obstacles and the Couple Arrives At The Happily Ever After situation -- makes the eruption of the issues of Sexual Harassment - especially in the workplace - a topic Romance writers must think about.

That is think -- not feel.

Yes, Romance novels are all about feelings.  The shift and change of feelings the Characters have for each other are the story.

In reality, the truth is that feelings are actually more important than facts in determining Character Motivation.

Character Motivation is derived from and explains the novel's theme.

So while theme is, as we have discussed in several series of blog posts, a very abstract and theoretical "take" on reality, very intellectual, cold, and even remorseless truth behind Reality, nevertheless theme is also where you explain the Character's emotions to the Reader.

"Explain" is an intellectual exercise, and "Emotion" is very non-intellectual -- in fact emotion may be thematically regarded as anti-Intellectual.

We see this in the explosive popularity of the TV Series Character Spock.

Star Trek presents the intellect vs emotion theme -- one or the other, a choice, a decision.

But it is a TV Show, and because of the medium it was created for, had to strip the issue down to the very basic, over-simplified truth.

Novelists have an advantage because we can explore nuances, and complex models of reality by creating Characters who look at the world in various ways.

A TV Series must limit the number of Characters, and how much time they spend just talking to each other about abstract matters.  Novelists, likewise, must limit the number of Characters (and pages of conversation), but our limits are much wider, much greater.

So while a TV show has to portray sexual harassment in a few seconds of screaming conflict or teeth-gritted, iron-faced acceptance, a novelist can spend more time -- and employ more tools (symbolism, description, internal dialogue, etc. ) and even plan long series of novels to bring the miscreant to Poetic Justice.

Poetic Justice, done in TV Series Brevity always looks contrived, artificial, and way too quick to be real.

A 2017 TV Series episode is a good case in point.  HAWAII 5-O revival, Season 7, Episode 16 (available usually on Netflix) is about a guy perpetrating a fraud by purporting to teach men how to approach and "get" "women" (note plural, women, not a woman, not your soul mate).  One student in his course is described as having been dumped by a woman, and being utterly crushed, so he got a course to build confidence.  The fraud is that the course-giver hires prostitutes to accept the student's pick-up line.  Note: "women" is the signature of success.

There are a few salient scenes where this fraud is holding forth before his class, and the dialog describes exactly how to integrate theme and character, and understand the ambient mentality (the unquestioned assumptions) of today's male population.  The exceptions among today's males are starkly noticeable to any woman.

In this 5-O episode, our woman officer (who is now married to a former gangster) voices the Kickass Heroine attitude toward this fraud and the "women" assumptions behind his pick-up lines.

There is a fascinating sub-theme/sub-plot in this episode about lost sun glasses.  Danny thinks a kid stole his sunglasses and pursues the kid, finds the sun glasses the kid wore and discovers (honestly) that these are not Danny's own sunglasses.  Then he sits down, and by accident crushes his own sunglasses which he left on a chair.  The Fraud Perp gets his poetic justice, and Danny gets his.

The two themes are joined at the point of "Assumptions" -- the Fraud makes a fortune playing on the unexamined assumptions of men, and Danny loses on the unexamined assumptions of teen kids.

Overall, it is a very solid, well crafted script.  It reveals the profile of the audience it is aimed at, and is a cautionary tale about Assumptions and Poetic Justice. (it takes place on Valentine's Day)

TV shows do deal with these giant, abstract themes -- but the statements are bald, truncated, and ultimately either a joke, or laughable in some way.  Life just is not like that.

Here is a further discussion of Justice:

14 Fat novels can make Poetic Justice natural, inevitable, and a long time coming.  Women prefer "long time coming"  -- at least a bit longer than men, generally speaking.

Poetic Justice is a revelation about the nature of Reality.

The advent of the Kickass Heroine coincides with the rise of the Independent Woman -- who, being independent, has the freedom to choose to bind her future to a man.

We love the image of that kind of freedom, and we are still fighting for it.

We still have few men who really like a world where women are free to say "NO" -- and kickass enough to make "no" stick, regardless of the man's opinion.

But there is a curious dichotomy here.  And a double-standard that most people are not consciously aware of.  Therefore, there could arise a whole new genre of novels -- which would use thematic worldbuilding.  This would be a world where Men accused of Sexual Harassment (or even women, for that matter), would have a way to prove (in a court of law) they did not Harass.

That proof used to be called a Marriage License -- valid even in arranged or forced marriages in any Historical Romance set, say 100 years ago or more.  Men were licensed to rape or beat a particular woman (or woefully, women).

Once married, a female had no personal sovereignty at all.

In various societies through the millennia that situation shifted -- in Ancient Rome women could inherit their husband's property (wow, motive for murder!)

As far as property is concerned, the Jewish marriage of today is a signed contract (often posted on a couple's bedroom wall) which obligates the man to give all his property -- even the shirt off his back -- to his wife.  She owns him in so many ways -- written often in huge letters on the bedroom wall. (in Aramaic).  It is called a Ketubah -- look it up.  Marriage is the incorporation of a business entity.

So through the ages women have fought for, and won to various degrees, a defined amount of personal sovereignty.

It is very possible that today, women in some countries have won more personal sovereignty than ever before in human pre-history or history.

But society has not had time to adjust to this change.  That Hawaii 5-O episode is a case in point, a stark caricature of the reality of today's workplace, but caricatures reveal much that is hidden.

In the USA, the tool "society" is an abstract, intellectual concept for something that does not actually exist.  Society uses Law to impose change on the laggard elements posing as members of that "society".

So whenever neighbors seem to be misbehaving (or in this case, workplace bosses, co-workers, customers, self-help fraudsters), the first tool we reach for is Law.

Long ago, there was a cartoon titled, There Ought To Be A Law -- which presented the case for using Law to squash egregious misbehavior with laws that were against the law to make, and which now are in fact laws.

But how do you know when something is illegal, especially some behavior that was legal and lauded when you were a child growing up?  Think about the fraudster teaching pickup lines and postures.  He was teaching what every teenage boy learns today without being told.

So we have a generation (or two) of men who know in their gut that targeting "women" is correct, proper behavior because male value is about collecting many women, scoring, not bonding.  They see sexy clothing, and feel, and react, and attack -- and consider themselves laudable for it.

Should you act on how you feel, or on what you know?  If you guess wrong, did you do something illegal or just crass?  It has been shown scientifically that anti-sexual-harassment sensitivity training does not work.

There has been, from the dawn of time, the profound thematic issue of whether Emotion or Cognition should dominate behavior.  21st Century America is opting for Emotion, so sensitivity training based on cognition (learn this - behave this way) will not work.

THEME: It Matters Most How I Feel

If you make me feel uncomfortable, I can throw you in jail.  (Potiphar's Wife -- to "Off With Their Heads" -- to inconvenient people dropping dead in Communist Russia).

We have now enshrined in LAW -- the validity of EMOTION (over facts).

Harassment is governed by state laws, which vary by state, but is generally defined as a course of conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim and results in a hostile environment for the victim. Harassing behavior may include, but is not limited to, epithets, derogatory comments or slurs and lewd propositions, assault, impeding or blocking movement, offensive touching or any physical interference with normal work or movement, and visual insults, such as derogatory posters or cartoons.

THEME:  It Matters Most What The Facts Are

If you ignore the fact that 50 degree below zero F. winds can kill you, and walk out in summer shorts and a tank top, you die.  I don't have to do anything.  Facts prevail.

Long ago, there was a short story titled The Cold Equations about a stowaway on an orbital spacecraft whose weight would have caused re-entry to go awry killing everyone aboard -- so they spaced him.  This story was popular because the social argument at that time was roaring on about emotions being more important than facts.  It was argued that Christian morality requires one not to space the miscreant -- so what would "good" people do?  Science trumps Christianity.  Facts supplant morality.

It is the "lifeboat" dilemma that has generated many stories throughout time.

Marriage is another version of the "lifeboat dilemma."  When do you throw the bum out to save yourself and the children?  That 5-O episode depicted the violent rage of a twice-scorned man, and a prostitute's understanding of his Character.  When do you bail on a guy?

After WWII, women stayed in the workplace -- while many raised their children to school age, and returned to work.  Over decades, the trend accelerated as "labor saving devices" like clothes washing machines and dishwashers (and pizza delivery) built the current world we live in.

By gaining an income, women gained personal sovereignty -- and could bail on a guy.

Build your Alien's World with as much care.  Trends and the social changes to accommodate trends come about over generations.  How many generations has your Alien species been space traveling?  How many other species have they met up with?  How has their home world changed because of that?

Now look at how humans are handling "change" --- the emancipation of women?  The enfranchisement of the Independent Woman?  The Woman of Independent Means?  The Working Woman?  The Kickass Heroine.

Look at that legal definition of harassment.

How is a guy supposed to KNOW his behavior "offends" or "is unwelcome" or makes a person feel "threatened" or that his language is deemed "lewd" ??? 

If he didn't intend to do any of those emotional things, does that mean he didn't do them?  If he was sure he was welcomed then he was not unwelcome, right?  Scrutinize that 5-O episode!

How can a guy who is an Alpha Male, a winner, ever even consider that anything he does is not welcome?  By the very definition of Alpha Male, it is unthinkable to him.  That is what that fraudulent course was teaching right before our eyes, on TV.  A guy had to have his self-confidence restored, instead of learning his lesson about why he was rejected.  Who needs "a woman" when there are "women" to be had.  Plural.

To understand this mindset, if you are not an Alpha Male, you have to do your Character-Point-Of-View switch exercise.

We have discussed Point of View at considerable depth in various series of posts.

Getting inside the head of a Character so you can chart his/her moves through the plot starts with "people watching" at the mall, reading self-help books, and generally being someone who is not you.

Do that, and reconsider that legal paragraph.

Guys growing up in our world today are not given any chance to comprehend that they will be punished for winning.  

Sexually harassing a woman into compliance is winning.  How unfair is punishing winning? It is all in the point of view.

All sports is about winning -- winners get rewarded.

All academic test taking is about getting an A -- and teachers have been taught (most haven't discovered how false what they learned in school really is) that it is "right" (and therefore righteous) to grade on a curve.  After all, you can't fail the whole class and keep your job, even if the whole class fails.  So test taking is a competition, and winning is rewarded.  Somebody has to get the F, and it isn't going to be me.

All job-search endeavors are about winning -- competing against other applicants and winning.

Winning is about getting what you want by denying others what they want.

Want is an emotion.

Winning is about assuaging a desire for a particular emotion, generating endorphins.  Winning triggers a kind of pleasure response akin to orgasm. 

They still call it "The Battle of the Sexes" -- and battles must be won, no matter what.

We examined "The Battle of the Sexes" in this post:
By winning, by defeating the female, you get pleasure, the more so if you defeat the female in front of other males, elevating your position in the pack by winning.

We write a lot about how sexy the Alpha Male -- the dominant one, the winner in the pack -- is, and how attractive Alphas are to us. 

Men read Romance novels, too.  Men learn early in manhood that we want an Alpha -- that being dominated by an Alpha is our wet dream.

Boys are not raised to be gentlemen (defined as one who takes no for an answer and is rewarded for knuckling under when a woman frowns at them).  A 5 year old, maybe.  A 15 year old, never.

Why is that?  Why isn't the image of the Alpha Male, the winner of all battles, an image of the one who takes no for an answer?

There is a reason that thousands of years of history have let men create governments, run armies, create businesses, and do dangerous things, but not women.  As a species we can afford to lose a lot of males, but not females or the species dies.  One winner-male can marry many women, keep them pregnant, and make more winner-males.

The reason men govern and fight is not, as many academics hold, that men are 'better suited' to competition, to wielding power of the throne, the sword, or the almighty dollar, but rather that men have created the mechanisms of the world to suit male emotions.

The mechanism of the world does not have to be configured to pander to male emotional satisfaction, but neither does it have to be created only by women and thus pander only to women's emotions.

Think about that when you create your Aliens. Study our recent history to find things to change about your Aliens.

The generation of men born in the early 1900's were dead set against allowing women into the workplace -- not because women could not do the work, but because to those men "the workplace" was not a place of work, but rather a place of DOMINANCE.

"Work" to the men of that generation meant "winning" and in particular, it meant winning in the "dog eat dog" world they had built. Not dog eat bitch.  Dog eat dog.

Fighting your way up the ladder meant proving you are stronger, meaner, more dominant, and in fact Alpha.  And you know you're an Alpha Male because you WIN -- and you know you are a WINNER when you get rewarded.  The emotional payoff is that others in the workplace yield to you, bow down, stop fighting and take your orders.

In other words, boys who start out "winning" in school, and keep "winning" get used to "winning" -- which means as reward they get whatever they emotionally want.  Refused, they are justified in using force -- any force at their disposal -- to take what they want, which proves they are winners and thus have the pick of the "women" plural (consider the High School Captain of the Team.)

In the workplace, that force can be the threat of firing the uppity person who does not acknowledge their Alpha position, or otherwise derailing that uppity person's career.

To be successful, you beat out the competition and win.

Enter women: they expect to be promoted for completing their assigned tasks properly.  No man would have expected such a ridiculous thing.  Every man knew promotions go to the dominant winner, not the good worker.  Women are usually better at the job, and we can't have them promoted over us or we won't be winners, right?

Now reread the blog entry on how being defeated reduces a man's testosterone levels (and winning elevates it).  Having a wife and children lowers testosterone levels, and thus aggression. Fathers become just a tad more risk-averse, but more dangerous for it because they become harder to kill, smarter, more reliant on cognition than emotion.

Being bested by a woman destroys a man's testosterone level -- just wipes him out (do get that 5-O episode and see what I mean here).  Thus the derogatory term "hen-pecked" is mostly leveled at men by men.

Our society -- (but not the Law) -- admires a winner, rewards a winner, but not if the winner is female.

Would all Aliens have that problem?  Maybe they had it and resolved it?  How?

What would your Aliens make of humans who reward winners?   I played with the human adulation of winners and heroism in two Mass Market paperback novels, now in Kindle-only editions.

To figure out what your Aliens would see in human obsession with winning, look at how we have elevated "winners" to the top decision making positions, at how we make celebrities from box office winners regardless of their acting ability, at how we choose who wins and who loses.

What qualities of Character guarantee a "Happily Ever After" point, somewhere in mid-life?

How do you "win" happiness?

Is Happiness always Winning?

Is it possible your readers don't believe in the HEA simply because it can not be "Won" - like a prize?  What good is the HEA if you don't get to WIN?

For millennia, governments, international affairs, tribal war, and business has been shaped and crafted by "winners" - who assume that winning is good because it feels good (to them, not the losers).

And the rest of the people stand on the sidelines and cheer on the winners.  We root for the underdog to become a winner, not stay an underdog.

Winning is all about creating losers -- being "better" than someone else, not being the best you can be.  Just make sure the other guy fails more than you did.

Well, after WWII, men of that generation did not want to see their women attacked by testosterone driven males who had to WIN a competition against women who wanted their jobs. Men want their women (plural) to themselves (singular) - conquered possessions won fair and square away from other males.  So women should not be exposed to other males playing to win, hence women do not belong in the workplace.  Right?  The times they are a'changin'!

Those former soldiers knew men went off to work geared up to win -- testosterone flooding, aggression maximized.

They also knew many women would be better at the men's jobs, which would mean being conquered by a woman (a hormonal disaster) or conquering the woman to make sure she stayed an underbitch.

And that is exactly what has happened.  Today women can get into any university, learn and get A's, and take any profession by storm.  We now have allowed women into front line combat jobs -- on the way to becoming Pentagon Generals, Admirals etc.  And even President.

When Gene Roddenberry put Uhura on the Enterprise Bridge, all hell broke loose.  In fact, the network execs (winners all, remember, dominant males) would not let him have Number One be female, so they combined First Officer with Science Officer.

The execs told GR you can't show men taking orders from a woman.  Nobody would believe it.  GR outsmarted them.  He was a winner. And he behaved like one -- just check out the behavior of top Hollywood Names today.  He was cut from that mold.

Today, women are the bosses in a lot of workplaces where men are employed.

And even more (perhaps even smarter) women are climbing the ladder to those powerful positions.

Look again at the legal definition of Sexual Harassment.  Can you imagine a man feeling that way -- on the bridge of the Enterprise?

Think of the Hero in a novel you love so much you want to write one like it.

Would he lodge a complaint with HR about harassment from his female boss?

If he did lodge such a complaint, would it be part of a larger strategy?  Maybe he's trying to smoke out disloyal men in his work-group?

When his feelings are hurt, when someone does something he doesn't like, what does a guy do?

So what is the definition of a Kickass Heroine and why do we read those novels? (and love them!)

Is a Kickass Heroine a woman who behaves like a man?  Would a kickass heroine sexually harass men under her command just to WIN?

We admire the Kickass Heroine because she's a WINNER - whatever the situation and over whomever opposes her.  A Kickass Heroine is a STRONG CHARACTER (as defined by editorial standards in calls for submission.)

What does a WINNER, who is a STRONG CHARACTER (i.e. kickass) do when ...

...annoys, threatens, intimidates, alarms, or puts a person in fear of their safety. Harassment is unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim...

What does a Kickass Heroine do when "annoyed?"

One of the Character Traits of admirable people (not "winners" but truly Strong Characters) is that it is very hard to "annoy" them.  Strong Characters are slow to anger -- very slow -- and do not stop thinking strategically when angry (or when flooded with post-sex endorphins).

In other words, being annoyed, even all the way to being enraged, is an emotion, but in Strong Characters, Emotion does not oppose, conflict with, or impair, rational cognitive functions.

Weak Characters are characterized by volatile emotions, easily offended.

Our modern workplace environment has been crafted by thousands of years of men elevating to decision-making positions the other men who do not have volatile emotions (OK, we know of one exception, but we're speaking in general about crafting fictional aliens.)

A Strong Character can not be threatened.  Being secure in their "winner" personality, they ignore threats, deal directly with actions.  (Oh do watch that 5-O episode!)

A Strong Character can not be intimidated, because that's the definition of strong.  A strong character does the intimidating, in well-disciplined careful and deliberate, strategically sound measure.

A Strong Character may become alarmed, but the emotion barely moves the needle off dead center.

A Strong Character knows she can handle whatever is happening.  A Strong Character is secure in her preparedness but never overconfident enough to brag about it.  Weak Characters brag.

A Strong Character just does not fear, or contemplate failure.

A Strong Character has grown up as a winner, and thus projects a formidable aura.  Only a Stronger Character would dare challenge, especially using unwanted, unwelcomed and uninvited behavior that demeans, threatens or offends the victim.

In fact, a Strong Character is composed of such traits that it is not possible to demean, threaten or even offend them.  Anyone who tries is seen as laughable, or stupid, even pitiable.  But the true Gentlewoman does not let amusement show, because that might hurt or offend the Weak Character.

Here is a discussion of how the Hero, or Strong Character's inner dialogue might go.
Feeling offended is a sure sign of a Weak Character (a beta not an alpha).

Appearing to be, or actually feeling like, a Victim is a clear, unique sign of a Weak Character.

To climb the corporate ladder, one must be a Strong Character.

Those on the rungs above you will test you to see if you are worthy of promotion, and fire you if you do not have the right stuff to climb that ladder (which right stuff does not include competence at the tasks).  Handling sexual blackmail with efficiency and dispatch is a sign of a Strong Character worthy of promotion.  (do please watch that 5-O episode).

Tattle-tailing to Authority claiming you've been victimized is a sign of Weak Character.

Emotional stability -- not impunity, not imperviousness or coldness, but stability -- is the first necessary (but not sufficient) condition for being allowed into the fellowship of winners.

Now, this is not always the case.  There is such a thing as "being kicked upstairs" (getting a promotion that shoves you out of the way of winners swarming up the ladder behind you.)

Incompetence also rises to the top -- but all the winners know who the loser is.  And they use that knowledge strategically, to compete.

So if women are to climb that corporate ladder in any workplace environment, they must be Kickass Heroines - of Strong Character.

So what does a Kickass Heroine do when some testosterone driven bozo behaves lewdly in semi-public so everyone is watching her react, and judging her accordingly?

The Kickass Heroine knows that the person behaving lewdly is a Weak Character, and reacts accordingly.

Power (decision making, budgetary, hire/fire decision power) in the hands of a Weak Character is far more dangerous than in the hands of a Strong Character who is a declared enemy.

Strong Characters with power are predictable.

Weak Characters with power are like 3 year olds with a loaded gun.

Strong Character is built, not born.

Here is an article from last December on raising kids to have Strong Character -- this article focuses on risk taking.

Difficult situations help kids foster self-assurance. Flickr/Blondinrikard Fröberg

Anxiety has become a widespread mental illness in children and teens.

Researchers have found a link between anxiety and the over-protection of children.

Parents should allow kids some level of physical and risky play.

Physical play helps children have hands-on experience with difficult or frightening experiences, and  fosters self-assurance for later in life.

Anxiety has become an epidemic, now eclipsing depression as the most common health disorder, particularly among younger people.

While several hypotheses exist which try to point blame for the increasingly common condition, Norwegian researchers have found that the overprotection of children may have something to do with it.
----------end quote-----------

So, the Winners on the higher rungs of the ladder got there through a lifetime of building Strong Character (or fooling others into thinking so).  They are the gatekeepers who prevent weakness from dominating.

They test the up-and-coming youngsters in school or workplace by figuring out the up-and-comer's weakest spot and attacking that to see what sort of response they get.  Volatile emotional responses are a sign of Weak Character -- a sign of a loser who must be eliminated from the team.  Or, if the Character has other Strong Character areas, the weak spot may be seen as the Character Flaw to be remedied by repeated hits -- to toughen the Character up.

Sexual harassers see themselves as doing the woman a favor by torturing her.  If she passes the torture test, she can join the team of winners.  If not, good riddance.  All of this is sex based behavior -- if your Aliens have differently configured biology (think Spock) they will solidify teams of winners differently.

One of the Characteristics of a Winner is accurate Risk Calculation.

Wrecklessness is a sign of Weak Character.

Winning long-shot risks because of sheer-grit-and-determination or other Strong Character Traits, is the sign of a Strong Character.

So our Kickass Heroine in the workplace becoming the office's favorite target for sexual harassment will not respond emotionally, or quickly -- no emotional volatility allowed.  But 10 years later, all those bozos are gone, and she rules the roost.  Long-range planning is a sign of a Strong Character.

To the men who built the business world, the office is a battlefield.  There is a reason football imagery became so dominant in describing business transactions -- a gentrified warfare with strategy and tactics where emotional volatility loses.  If your feelings can be hurt, you lose, good riddance.

The losing football team never sees themselves as the VICTIM.

The losing football team plots their comeback play.

Likewise, in the office -- the person who will be tagged for promotion will be the one who does not see themselves as a victim or their attacker as a victimizer.

The attacker may in fact be a bully.  We, as a society, tend to elevate bullies to winner status, so there is a hefty proportion of bullies in the daily workplace.

Yet, we all know the best way to handle a Bully is to out-Bully them -- bust their chops, kick their ass, best them at their own game.

That may be why, for thousands of years, men have allowed bullies into their fellowship of winners.  Bullies are cowards, underdogs, and very weak -- so power in the hands of a bully is very dangerous.  But they can make good underlings to a qualified Alpha who controls their power-use.

A Kickass Character proves they belong in a fellowship by besting the local bully - while keeping the emotional environment on an even keel and the fellowship intact.  (think of the prison stories you've read.) There were a few White Collar episodes that describe this process of beating people up to find out what they are made of and where they belong in the pack.  Teach the underdog his place.

Here is a post on the Hero Vs. the Bully

And here is one on the Hero marries the Bully

To use your Theme to generate a Kickass Heroine and get the modern Romance Reader to believe the world you create contains a genuine HEA, study your readers.

QUESTION:  Why does a generation of women raised on Action Romances about the Kickass Heroine not kick ass in the workplace but see themselves as harassment victims?

Could it be that the "harassment" definition, enshrinement in law, and current usage as a weapon to bring down powerful men, is actually defined by winner-men, voted for by winner-men, judged in court by winner-men, reported in public scandal by winner-men -- as a strategy to bring down other powerful men?  Could those invisible winner-men be using women as weapons against the winner-men's opponents?

Or is the flood of harassment allegations actually the appropriate comeback to obviously egregious behavior.  Is the Harassment definition a tool for women to re-configure the nature of the business world, maybe warfare itself, and certainly sports?

Why do these real women, who are your readers, not manifest the courage, risk-management, and emotional stability of the Kickass Heroine (to yank the weapon from their attacker's hand and beat him over the head with it) when challenged by men who target their sensitivity to sexual harassment?

The "workplace" environment is a sex-based environment (still is, after thousands of years).  It is not a hostile environment when based on sexual jousting for dominance.  Jousting for dominance is fun!  Good, innocent, fun!!!  It's just winning, after all.

Work (bringing home the bacon) is about winning, and testosterone is the main ingredient in winning.

Beating down Beta Males and becoming the Dominant Alpha is not an act of hostility -- it is the primary act of the civilized male, the creation of a fellowship, alliance, and smooth functioning team, all for the purpose of feeding his children.

That's why "women don't belong in the workplace" -- because women just aren't aggressive enough.

Or if they are aggressive enough, they are worthy of derision not promotion.

The attempt to change "men" into gentlemen while on the hunt (which is what workplace environment is - a hunter's camp) may be doomed to failure.

Remember in the Victorian Romance novel, the gentlemanly behavior was adopted only in the Drawing Room -- not while off camping through India, fighting and subduing Natives.

He-men cleaned up nicely - but didn't respect the women who followed them on campaign.

The Workplace is their modern field of battle as well as hunting ground.

So instead of changing human nature, (which we can do these days with gene splicing etc) - we might consider changing the workplace.  How would your Aliens configure business?  Would only human women be able to win in the Alien workplace?

Or perhaps consider what changes will swamp out the workplace-battlefield when Artificial Intelligence (A.I. or robots, androids and other mechanicals) swamps out human labor.

The advent of A.I. in the workplace (already well in progress) is termed "The Singularity."  There will come a tipping point where A.I. is more crucial to human life than other humans are.

If we plan strategically, like any ordinary Kickass Heroine would, we can guide A.I. into workplace use, shifting the workplace from a battlefield where you win by dominance into an environment where we don't compete, but rather we complete good work.  In such a workplace, dominance behavior would be despised.

Is that the level of civilization your Aliens have reached?  Is their workplace environment devoid of sexual dominance?

Is that because they made laws about emotions, or because they evolved so that one gender is not dominant over another?

How would a sexual harasser human fare in that Alien workplace?

Remember, a Kickass Heroine is a Strong Character and would not be annoyed or the least bit disturbed by sexual harassment.

If the behavior is so far out of bounds (such as "service me or you're fired" ) that the job is not worth the trouble, the Kickass Heroine finds another job and quits.  Or quits and finds (or makes herself) another job.

A Strong Character can not be blackmailed.

The Kickass Heroine (human version) can not be intimidated by threatening her employment.

If she is intimidated (such as being threatened while she's being divorced while pregnant), she isn't a Kickass Heroine.

The Maternal Instincts, Cozy Mystery series by Diana Orgain is a great example of a Kickass Heroine whose livelihood is threatened -- though nobody tries to harass her sexually because she's truly Kickass.

So why have your readers not emulated the Kickass Heroine in the modern harassment-driven workplaces?

The answer to that question is your THEME.

What would be different for your Aliens?

Is your Alien Character Kickass material - or an ass to be kicked?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg