Sunday, June 25, 2017

Much Ado

I found just "about nothing" of interest to science fiction and alien romance authors on the copyright blogs this week, so my post title is Orwellian.

The fuss over adaptations of one of Shakespeare's historical plays has been all over the news and television. Now, the Authors Guild has chimed in with an interesting perspective on interpreting on stage assassinations.

Talking of well planned death, an Australian legal blog by Theresa Catanzariti of 13 Wentworth Selborne Chambers discusses what happens to an Australian author's copyrights and other rights when she passes away.

All authors should include written consideration of their copyrights and other rights in their estate planning.
All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Updating Older Books

When a book published years or decades ago and set in the "present" gets reprinted in a new edition, should the technology and cultural references in the text be updated so that the story will still feel as if it's set in the present?

My vampire romance CRIMSON DREAMS has just been re-released by my new publisher:

Crimson Dreams

At the editor's request, I revised scenes that included computers (and inserted mention of cell phones into places where they'd be expected) to avoid having readers distracted by outdated references. The story was contemporary when first published, and there was no reason it shouldn't feel contemporary now.

Diane Duane's Young Wizards series has been around for decades, beginning with SO YOU WANT TO BE A WIZARD (1983). She has self-published new editions of the earlier novels in the series, collectively labeled Millennium Editions, explicitly set in the twenty-first century, with the technology updated. She believed that the obsolete references in the original editions were confusing to the contemporary YA audience because their time period isn't far enough in the past to feel like historical fiction, just enough to feel outdated. Also, the revisions eliminate the anomaly of having the characters age only a few years over a much longer real-time span:

Diane Duane's Ebooks Direct

Some authors tacitly modernize their worlds while the characters age slowly or not at all. The BLONDIE and BEETLE BAILEY comic strips, for instance. The creator of FOR BETTER OR WORSE took an interestingly different approach when she concluded the comic series a few years ago. She started over again from the beginning, reprinting the original strips with additions and revisions.

There are some works in my Vanishing Universe vampire series that I wouldn't update if I were re-publishing them, because I had a good reason for the original dating—specifically DARK CHANGELING, its immediate sequel (CHILD OF TWILIGHT), and a couple of novellas dependent on them. DARK CHANGELING had to be set in 1979 because the then forty-year-old, half-vampire protagonist had to be born in 1939 to make his backstory plausible. My quasi-Lovecraftian novel FROM THE DARK PLACES, due to be re-released by Writers Exchange E-Publishing eventually, presents a special problem. It's set in the 1970s, and its next-generation sequel (currently a work-in-progress) focuses on a twenty-one-year-old heroine who was born at the end of the previous book. How can I set the sequel in the present (to avoid confusing readers with an unnecessary 1990s setting) and have a heroine who's twenty-one when she should be middle-aged? I plan to revise FROM THE DARK PLACES to remove blatantly specific 1970s references but have it set in a sort of "indefinite past."

Do you think it's necessary or desirable to update re-released older novels with settings that were contemporary-present when first published? Does the answer vary on a case-by-case basis for you? Authors of historical or far-future fiction have it easy in the respect. (Writers of near-future SF have a slightly different problem; their settings soon become overtaken by events and transformed into alternate history. Think of Orwell's 1984.)

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Depiction Part 30 - Depicting Royalty

Part 30
Depicting Royalty 
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in the Depiction series can be found listed here:

Neuroscience and social science has been intensively studying human behavior for decades, but new tools are bringing to light many ways in which humans behave in the aggregate -- and as individuals.

Any rule you can verify by observation will have a percentage ( 5% to maybe 15%) of humans who just don't follow that rule -- or who maybe sometimes do follow the rule, but then other times not so much.

During a lifetime, we change.

We looked at a research article about how people are different as they become older -- fundamental personality and attitudes differ.  Character traits such as reliability can change drastically with age.

So as you grow and mature as a writer, so too your audience (and editors) grow and change.  What matters to you changes.

But how do you change?  From what to what?  In what direction?  And why is it that there's always an exception to every rule?

Here's another bit of research that may give you a clue to what makes the difference between "the masses" or "the peasants" and "royalty" or "the rulers."

This article says only a small percentage of people alter their "first impressions" according to new hard-fact data, while most humans form opinions to "blend in" with their friends, associates or Group identity.

We seek "validation" from others (social interactions) above truth.  Being socially acceptable is a better survival trait than being correct, or so many humans seem to assume.  That assumption seems to be a survival trait.

So, because people care more about what opinion others have than about what is real, it is easy to "control" what some call "the masses."

That small percentage of people who incorporate new facts and change their attitudes to match reality may be the natural rulers of humankind -- or perhaps the mavericks who will explore and settle the stars?

The natural "royalty" -- the Kings, Dukes and Princes of so many Romance novels, -- will be drawn from the few who revise their understanding of reality based on new facts, not based on their first impressions.

It is said you get only one chance to make a first impression.

Maybe that's not true with Royalty - with natural rulers.  The kind of human (rare though that kind is) that reassesses everything they think they know, and their whole inventory of assumptions based on new facts ought to be the ones to watch.

As a novel Character, such a person would be the Hero, or the Main Character -- the most admired by some, but dreaded by others.

These rare individuals are the disruptors, the explorers, the innovators, and the agents of change.  They don't go along to get along.

In many ways, such Royalty might well be regarded as asocial, or even sociopathic because they form opinions independently.  They don't accept an opinion formed by another person and make it their own.  They question and investigate upon what this other person bases that opinion -- then they try to reproduce the data the other used to form the opinion.

In other words, they not only accept new facts -- they seek them out.

The experiments cited in the article
are based on a trick played on the experimental subject.

As usual in these experiments, the big hole in the scientific procedures is that the subjects are all drawn from college students who are volunteers.  That does not represent any kind of random cross section of humanity.

And lying to those volunteer students is also common in psychological experiments.

In this experiment, as described in that article, the point was to get the subjects to believe the lie -- then tell them it was a lie and see if they changed their minds about what was really going on.  Only a very few changed their minds based on the fact that they had been lied to.

The article ends off pointing out how the current political news relates to this ignoring of facts in favor of one's first impression.  That leap may be faulty, but a good Romance writer can make you believe it.  A good science fiction writer can plot a story that will destroy the experimenter's credibility.  Put the two together -- and see if Love Conquers All.

Are the individuals who change their minds based on facts actually Royalty, actually better "rulers" or better decision makers in terms of the survival of the society?  Or are these stubborn radicals the sand in the gears of society that reduces the changes the society will survive?

What would it take to "change" (as with age) one of those who accept the opinions of others as their own into someone who thinks for himself?  That is a science fiction premise -- how can you depict such a massive shift in the basic nature of a Character in such a way that readers will believe it?

What if a Character who does not think for himself is kidnapped by a UFO, and returns as someone who thinks for himself?  What would that do to the marriage he was in before being kidnapped?  Would the wife think that the man who returned was not actually her husband but an impostor?

In science fiction, traditionally, the lead character, the Hero, thinks for himself and never just goes along with the crowd.  In Romance, it isn't always that way -- but very often to embrace the Happily Ever After a couple must depart from tradition.

How can you make your reader believe such a drastic personality change?  How can you get a reader to root for the marriage that was so fundamentally disrupted by a UFO kidnapping?  Was it really a UFO kidnapping?  Or was it something else?  Mystery genre will give you some clues as to how to handle depicting massive personality change.

These two genres, science fiction and romance, belong together, and when you add Mystery -- you get Classics.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 18, 2017


It may be cheaper to buy a new computer than to give your crook one to the Geek Squad!

EFF would like to hear from anyone who had their computer serviced by Best Buy in Brooks, Kentucky, and who was subsequently prosecuted because of private information discovered by the Geek Squad on the computer and provided to the FBI.

From a sci-fi writing perspective, it would make sense for a rogue government to deliberately put out some kind of malware that would cause computer-users to have to take their devices to a repair shop such as Geek Squad.

This would result in warrentless searches of unlocked computers. It would be a brilliant solution to device-makers' refusals to create "backdoors".

There would have to be collateral damage to innocent internet users, so that the true targets would not be suspicious.  On the same principle, grannies and toddlers have to be patted down by the TSA, so that there is no appearance of improper "profiling" of persons (more) likely (than grannies) to cause problems on planes.

The government might prosecute persons found with certain kinds of porn on their pcs, but persons with seditious stuff might simply disappear.  Or, if the government had really clever malware, perhaps the malware would plant porn on infected computers, just like bad and inaccurate Hollywood movies show crooked crime scene investigators planting marijuana in places that they did not have probable cause to investigate.

Read the EFF article. by Stephanie Lacambra and Aaron Mackey. You may be inspired.

For stock tips, if such a thing were going on, it would be very good for the hardware sellers, and perhaps for landlines and broadband cable.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Writing and Storytelling

Kameron Hurley's column in the current LOCUS discusses the difference between stringing together a succession of events and actually telling a story:

Story Isn't Just "Stuff Happens"

The principles she highlights apply not only to books but to films, comics, games, all sorts of media. She asks, "Why do we teach people how to write instead of how to tell stories?" Do we think storytelling comes naturally? On the contrary, doing it well is a skill that must be learned. In mundane conversation, we've all suffered through rambling anecdotes riddled with backtracking, digressions, and gaps. Hurley reminds us "there are always two stories that make up a good piece of fiction. There is the external story, the thing we would call ‘plot.’ These are the explosions and sex scenes and betrayals. Then there is the internal emotional story, the ‘so what?’" Like Tolkien, she maintains that stories are far from merely devices for escape (although Tolkien also argued in favor of the right kind of escape). "We seek out stories because they help us make sense of the world and societies we live in today, which is the real reason we grasp for them most during dark times. We seek out stories to learn how to be better humans."

Hurley urges us to remember that "readers are far more interested in exploring what it means to be human than how gram­matically correct our sentences are. Pretty writing does not equal explosive story." Her argument reminds me of Marion Zimmer Bradley's famous caveat, "Editors do not buy stories because they are well written." They publish stories that offer the kind of Satisfying Reading Experience their particular audience wants. Here's the classic essay in which Bradley explains why editors DO buy stories (or reject them):

Why Did My Story Get Rejected?

Bradley, of course, is quick to add that nobody OBJECTS to good writing. Good storytelling, however, has priority. I do have reservations about taking this advice too much to heart, though. Aspiring authors shouldn't skim over the part about "good writing" and assume style, grammar, syntax, word choice, etc., don't matter.

To draw an analogy, I'm not at all musical. While I enjoy lots of music, I listen to songs mainly for the lyrics. Where the tune is concerned, I react to it on the basis of whether it seems to me to fit the words. On any more technical points, I'm at the "I don't understand it, but I know what I like" level. I might have a vague perception that a certain tune sounds "folky." A real musician could point out exactly what features of its mode, tempo, chords, or whatever make that tune sound like a folk song. Similarly, most non-writers probably couldn't explain in technical terms why a piece of writing doesn't "work." They might say vaguely, "it's boring" or "it's confusing." A professional writer or editor can analyze the story with remarks such as, "There's too much exposition" or "We aren't given a reason to care about the protagonist" or "The point of view jumps around too much" or "Many sentences contain dangling participles." Likewise, a reader not familiar with all the rules of grammar, usage, and spelling may not be able to pick out the specific errors in a work, but if there are too many of them, it will probably still feel "wrong" to that reader.

Fortunately, it's possible to learn at least the basics of "good writing," what Bradley summarizes as how to write "a literate English sentence." Techniques of pacing, plotting, point of view, etc., can also be taught. Storytelling, however, is to some extent a gift, which may or may not appear in tandem with a talent for "good writing." For instance, nobody would describe Edgar Rice Burroughs as a master of literary style. Yet Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Barsoom are immortal.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World Part 26 -Must You Compromise Your Art To Sell Big?

Marketing Fiction In A Changing World

 Part  26

Must You Compromise Your Art To Sell Big? 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts of this series can be found here:

Here is one dismaying idea that arises among beginning writers when established professionals explain the field of fiction publishing.

"If I do what you say, I would be compromising my Art."

That idea, that your personal Art, something that defines who you are to yourself and what you were born to say to the world, must be tossed aside, ignored, tramped on, or lied about in order to sell fiction to a large, commercial (mass market) Market, arouses a "fight for life itself" response.

In fighting for your life, you may well regard the entire problem as "the end justifies the means" -- and be willing to do anything at all to survive.

We see that today in the resistance to Donald Trump -- half the country is morally convinced he is a threat to our very lives, and to all we've sacrificed so much to build for future generations.

The response to such a threat is utterly primal, and once triggered that response prevents any other nuanced message from dampening that response.

The response a writer feels to the mere whiff of the idea that they must compromise their Art in order to reach their intended audience, is that same "fight for your life" visceral response.

The heroic type person will fight to the death to protect their Art (or their politics).  The wimpish type won't make waves.  The majority fall between these two types.

But what if the response itself, a purely animal-flesh based response to a threat to life (or lives of our children), is inappropriate?  What if the problem of a Wild Politician or a Savage Publishing Industry is not a threat to life and limb, to children and posterity?

What if it is an entirely different sort of problem?

What if Compromise is not at all anything like a solution to the real problem?

We excoriate politicians for refusing to "compromise"  -- then turn around and refuse to "compromise our Art" -- maybe we have to reframe the problem of "How can I sell my novel (mine, my Art) to Mass Market Paperback publishers?"

Framing the issue changes the debate.  In fact, it changes the very issue itself.

To teach yourself to write good dialogue, read up on the psychology of "framing" and public argument and debate.  Some people grow up into a full, unconscious ability to use "framing" to direct the thinking of others while other people have to learn it in adulthood.

Here are some links where to start (it is a huge study).

Frameworks Institute is a Washington based Think Tank hired by governments and other enterprises to "re-frame" a message to get the public to do what the hiring firm wants the public to do (rather than what the public actually prefers to do.)  They are aggressive manipulators -- proving how plastic public opinion can be.  (the ethics of doing this make fabulous Theme material).  They make a lot of money tricking the public.

Here is wikipedia's entry - worth contemplating.

If "they" can do this frame thing TO YOU to put you at a disadvantage -- then surely you can do it to yourself to give yourself an advantage?

Problems are as plastic as public opinion -- you can reshape your problem, thus re-populate your list of possible solutions.  (and in the process of working on your own mind, you can take notes for the plot of your next novel).

When a think-tank "frames" a problem to sway public opinion, they are acting, and actions are Plot Events.

When a Character (or a person) explores their own mind looking for old, rotten, and inappropriate 'frames' left over from immature thinking, they are growing, arcing, changing -- and thus telling their own Story.

The exact same thing, FRAME, is both story and plot -- so therefore, it is a Theme.

It turns out, a scientific study supports the observation that humans do CHANGE with age and experience -- real personality change.

If your patterns of thought, emotions, and behavior so drastically alter over the decades, can you truly be considered the same person in old age as you were as a teenager? This question ties in with broader theories about the nature of the self. For example, there is growing neuroscience research that supports the ancient Buddhist belief that our notion of a stable “self” is nothing more than an illusion.
---------end quote----

Maturity is not just getting older, but refining and reshaping the very plastic material of which your Character is made.

That does not mean being a victim of Think-Tanks that hammer you into a new "frame of mind" to march lockstep with the rest of the mob -- you can do it to yourself, and maybe get better results.  You can be the artist who reshapes yourself, just by reframing the problems in your life.

The classic language shift that has been urged on those seeking success is to think of problems as opportunities.

That is a re-framing.  It might help you -- might not.

Some people never learn framing, and thus can be manipulated by the unscrupulous with little effort.  Characters who use "framing" in their dialogue to get other Characters to change their behavior will seem realistic, like real people, to the reader.

But with TIME - we change in very fundamental ways.  And as we, ourselves, change, our very Art changes.

Is that compromising your Art - to mature and change yourself?

Your "self" is just one variable in this business of selling to Mass Market.

The Market itself is another very complex variable.  As the generations rotate through a particular genre or style of story, forming a Market for that story -- and then moving on, leaving that Market to be picked up by a younger generation, the publishers, too, change.

Editors are usually fairly young people, early in their own story-arc of character maturation.  And then they move on to other genres or niches in publishing.

So with Time, you change, the Market's audience members change, and the publishers and editors change.

Today, the changing market calculations have to take into account the ebook and audiobook -- and who knows what next.

Your Art changes, too.

The trick to "not compromising" your Art is very simple.  Create the piece, study what you have created, then watch the ever-changing Market for it to rotate through being just the right vehicle for that piece of Art.

Meanwhile, create more Art pieces.

Art critics have all noted how a given Artist (in any medium) will have "periods" -- sets of years when all the pieces produced relate to a given theme, subject, setting.  You, too, will have "periods" during which you explore specific themes.

With novelists, it is not always possible to discern when a given novel was written -- because an item may not be sell-able now, but will sell 10 years hence as the Market shifts.

So the answer to that age-old question is, no!  You never have to compromise your Art.  You just have to watch the Changing World change your Market into a home for that particular piece.

I know of best sellers that waited 20 years and more for the Market to cycle around.

Today, of course, we have the option of placing any piece directly into the publishing stream via self-publishing.  Sometimes that is the best way to go with a given book.  Figuring out which pieces you produce should go Indie, which self-publishing, and which Mass Market, is the business of writing.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Red Flags For Regular People

This is not about bulls (bullies, perhaps), and it is not about persons who do not need laxatives. It's about Trojan Horses. (Not Trojans.)

Beware if you see this phrase, or anything resembling it, "We may collect, use, transfer, sell and disclose non-personal information for any purpose."

The "any purpose" will usually mean "for our profit" but it might also mean "because some businesses would like to know about the business you do with their competitors."

Have you seen the fascinating article in The Washington Post about how "Unroll me" (which purports to be a useful free service to remove unwanted marketing emails from subscribers inboxes) made its money by scraping information from emailed wanted sales receipts?

I followed a link from one of my favorite law bloggers to that article. Mark Sableman of the law firm
Thompson Coburn LLP gives a legal analysis of the problems of privacy policies which no one (except class action plaintiffs' lawyers) ever reads. 

If you want to use a free service, remember that nothing is every free.  Read the TOS and privacy policy. Know that if they don't want your money, they want your data.

What beats me, is why respectable companies that sell physical products apparently believe that it is good business to advertise on free sites to people (often) who are only interested in free stuff...

... which brings me to an excellent article by a lady musician --Tessa Lena-- who rants most entertainingly and in the strongest terms about these Silicon Valley middlemen and intermediaries who would have musicians, songwriters and authors believe that there is something glorious, ingenious and romantic about having to beg for a living.

We have a culture of digital theft. Where did that come from? The coolest "kids" bully and steal, and the government doesn't just turn a blind eye, the administration, the legislature, and the judiciary actively praises and protects the thieving bullies.

One of the methods used by billionaire bullies and thieves is "lawfare" (like warfare, but using the size of one's bank account to exhaust one's little victim into submission and despair.)

The Trichordist has some choice words for American Librarians, who ought to be grateful to American authors for allowing American libraries to lend out physical books without having to pay the authors for every "lend", but who aren't, and who are joining in with the bullies who want to eliminate more and more copyright protections for individuals.

Authors in Europe are paid for every "lend".  

However, to end on a positive note, not every copyright infringement case goes the same way, and not every powerful plaintiff (or powerful dependant), destroys their opponent with legal fees.

Mark Sableman tells the tale of two copyright infringement cases that worked out very differently in terms of cost for the losing party.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Diversity Awareness in Writing

How should writers from a middle-class, white background (like me) handle creating characters of different ethnic and cultural origins? How can we free ourselves from the "white as default" mindset? One of the lists I subscribe to recently discussed the problems of writing about characters of different races, especially with regard to color descriptions. What methods can we use to indicate the race of a character without resorting to food and drink analogies (e.g., cafe-au-lait skin), which have become cliches and are objectionable to many people? Here's a very informative website that was mentioned on the list:

Writing with Color

I admit I've used the "cafe-au-lait" terminology myself. Right away, a page on this site saved me from the embarrassment of asking why that's bad when it's also common to attribute "peaches and cream complexion" or "cherry lips" to a Caucasian heroine.

"Writing with Color" covers, among many other issues, how to handle races in imaginary societies, as in fantasy realms or alien worlds. How can we make it clear that the characters don't all look like northern Europeans, without slipping into "white as default" territory?

A fascinating fantasy novel I recently read, THE FIFTH SEASON by N. K. Jemisin, does a wonderful job of portraying a multi-ethnic world by gracefully working the details of the society into the narrative. Here's part of the mini-review I included in my June newsletter:

"This novel takes place on a world racked by violent seismic events and climate catastrophes. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and their aftereffects such as epidemics and fungal blooms plague the inhabited continent, ironically named Stillness. Fifth Seasons, which happen at irregular intervals, are worldwide climatic disasters that can last months, years, or even decades. We get this information from an omniscient voice in the prologue. At the end of the book, a pair of glossaries in an appendix offers help for readers who have trouble keeping everything straight. The story proper is narrated from the viewpoints of three female characters in completely separate time periods and storylines....Orogenes, people with innate talent for control of earthshaking events, provide the only hope of a community’s coming through such an event relatively unscathed. All people have an extra sense that enables them to 'sess' the movements of the planet, but only orogenes can manipulate those energies. Thus, they are recognized as essential. Yet orogenes are also feared and loathed, because their powers, if not properly channeled, can wreak devastation. Those not trained by and under the direction of the Fulcrum, their headquarters in the capital city, are subject to shunning and even lynching. In this world, disciplines such as geology are highly valued, while astronomy (for instance) is disdained as a pseudoscience. Besides the human inhabitants, Stillness harbors a nearly legendary species called stone eaters, essentially made of animated rock. The three protagonists are: Essun, an orogene who keeps her true nature secret while living in a small village, until her husband discovers the truth, kills their son, and disappears with their daughter; in the midst of a disaster that may herald a coming Fifth Season, she journeys in search of her missing child. Damaya, a prepubescent girl whose family sells her to a Guardian—a member of the caste charged with keeping orogenes under control—to be taken to Fulcrum for training. Syenite, a fairly advanced orogene sent on a mission with an irascible fellow-orogene of superior rank whom she can hardly stand but with whom she’s expected to produce a child."

THE FIFTH SEASON is well worth reading even though it's a little difficult to follow because of the three different viewpoints and the fact that the chapters don't follow each other in a straightforward chronology. The author deals with gender and sexual orientation differences as matter-of-factly as with racial differences.

Another excellent example is AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER (the animated series, not the travesty of a live-action film derived from it). The four dominant ethnic groups in this world are based on different Earth cultures, none of which is European. Fans objected to the shortage of Asian actors in the live-action movie, just as Ursula Le Guin and many of her readers expressed outrage at the whitewashing of characters in the TV adaptation of her Earthsea trilogy.

Years ago, a member of an online critique group I belonged to submitted a long, complex piece of work set in the deep South. The reaction I remember having was, "Where are all the black people?" Nary a sign of any in the story. Having grown up in Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s, I knew that even in the era of segregation, "colored people" (the polite term in that period) were highly visible. I'm trying to make a conscious effort not to make all the characters in my fiction look like me. Personally, I don't feel qualified to write individuals of other races as protagonists, but when including them as secondary characters, naturally I want to do it right.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Romance Futurology Part 1 - How Will Security Work in the Future

Romance Futurology
Part 1
How Will Security Work in the Future? 

There is a genre of Romance called simply Futuristic.  For the most part, formerly, setting a story in "the" future qualified that story as science fiction. Today, the futuristic romance is a growing genre.

We've been discussing genre at length and depth, and have noted how, over generations, "genre" of all types has very fluid definitions.

My take on "genre" definitions is that the genre identification is more about what is left out than about what is included.

Readers look for another novel to give them the same "feeling" that a previous one did -- and often look for the same setting or time period as a signal that this novel is like that one.

"The" future is another such setting clue often used by readers to choose which book to spend money on.  If you are "in the future" then you are not in Regency England or Imperial Rome.  Thing is, with futuristic worldbuilding, a writer can indeed include time travel visits to ancient times, and modern interstellar versions of government by aristocracy.  So "futuristic" may be as difficult to identify as all science fiction has been.

In science fiction, we worldbuild "a" future for a story by extrapolating trends, either straight line "if this goes on" or in a curve "if only" or "what if?"

But we can't expect to write about "the" future -- only "a" future.  The future we choose to create either generates a story, or is generated by a story you want to tell.

Last week, we looked at trends in publishing, and how they swing back and forth regularly.  Your story, the story you were born to tell, will fit into a trend somewhere -- your problem as a commercial writer is to identify the current trends and watch carefully, preparing a manuscript to present right when the trend that supports it begins to gather force.

Some trends are so big that we can't see them while sitting inside them.

The Internet and email were such a trend.  Everything changed when the concept "browser" was deployed by envisioning the World Wide Web.  Before that, Universities were pouring thousands of hours into creating electronic records, books, facts, images, accessible by special and very idiosyncratic decoding software.  They even gave such software a woman's name, as Librarians were mainly female.

Then came the idea of standardizing all that coding and accessing it with a piece of software that could read "the" markup language we know today as html (hypertext markup language).

To look behind a web page, right-click your mouse on a blank spot on a web page and choose "view page source" -- the "page source" now includes little program call-outs that tell the server on the machine where the page resides to run a little program to deliver "interactivity" -- so much of the "page source" you can access is just instructions to do things, and you can't see what those things are.

Where will this be in 20 years from now -- a hundred years?

We're already doing a lot of this by voice command.  Artificial Intelligence is now considered the next big disruptor and it is ready to rock-n-roll big time.

This year, UPS is testing using drones parked on top of their delivery vans to distribute packages in a neighborhood.  The FAA thinks this is a fine idea.  Those drones couldn't work without A.I. and other advanced tools that will soon bring you autonomous driving cars.

For maybe 80 years, we've had science fiction stories about A.I. Characters that humans fall in love with.  It is starting to seem less grotesque, less of something to resist.

But a lot of folks working on the bleeding edge of A.I. are sounding notes of alarm.  A.I. can now be projected to take over most of the jobs work-a-day people make a living at.  The only jobs left will require genius level intelligence, and creativity -- and even those are within reach of Artificial Intelligence that can learn and keep learning.

Recently, there was an article about Artificial Intelligence learning to become aggressive, initiating attacks not just responding.

So far, nobody has identified something artificial intelligence can't do that humans can.  Every time some human function is defined as uniquely human, some human genius teaches A.I. to do that (or even do it better.)

That is a trend!

We love A.I., we adore artificial intelligence, -- we create artificial intelligence and nurture and adore it as we do our children.

What is really going on here?

How will the human/A.I. interface develop?  Will artificial intelligence become a legal person (Heinlein explored that at length, and Star Trek's Character Data gives us many new facets to consider)?

What about Artificial Intelligence Refugees washing ashore, fleeing some sort of cyberwar?

A.I. is being discussed as the solution to cyber-security, being able to sift vast Big Data pools and sort out the one or two major trouble spots (terrorists).

Right now, the entire security industry may be taking itself too seriously (Romantic Comedy is a fabulous genre for tackling this).  The I.T. folks at work keep making you change passwords, and berate people for opening emails or plugging in a thumb drive.

Mobile Devices and services now require two-step authentication -- you have to have a smartphone to read your news feed on Yahoo. (well, there is a work-around right now, but that won't last).

The attitude behind the policies of cyber-security gurus is that if you get hacked, it is YOUR FAULT (not the fault of the attacker. Only the victim is to blame in cyber-warfare).  You did something wrong.  You breached protocol. You opened an email.  You visited a website.  You put in your personal data (but of course I.T. forces you to identify yourself!)

We are all tangled up in a ball of twine and quite ludicrous about it because we have (in a cultural panic) set aside several time-tested principles of life.

We have done this because the benefits of online communications are bigger than the threats and costs (so far).

Since we can't stop people in other countries attacking us for profit, our "security" folks attack US.  They blame the victim of the sucker-punch rather than the immorality of the sucker-puncher, and our own defense (our immune system!) attacks us, forcing us to change our way of doing things because of something someone we don't know did to us.

"Security" works differently if your Identity is known to the Security Officer.

Ask yourself:  When was the last time Donald Trump was strip searched for the egregious crime of attempting to enter the White House?

Does Presidential Security torture, torment and beat up on the President?

Then why do the cyber-security I.T. department folks beat up on YOU when you try to access your Cloud account with this or that company?  Stop what you're doing (you can't enter the white house)! Identify Yourself!  (like they don't know what they are responsible for knowing?)  Papers Please! ACCESS DENIED!  You have to wait three days to try again.

Where did this come from?  What is really going on here? What trends produced this deplorable state of business?

The principles we have abandoned are "don't blame the victim" and "innocent until proven guilty" and "I am who I say I am; if I lie, I will be removed from society, maybe forever."

You shouldn't blame a victim because next thing you know, you will be a victim.

Quality of life is severely infringed on, productivity sliced in half, and happiness beyond reach if you live an entirely DEFENSIVE life in a defensive (curled inward) posture.  The H.E.A. ending as we currently envision it can not happen inside a "secure" defense perimeter that punishes you for the deeds of those outside your defense perimeter who are guilty of life destroying behavior.

Logic and reality have long established you can not prove innocence, but you can prove guilt.  So we must presume people innocent until we can prove guilt.

Identity is sovereignty -- personal sovereignty is the bedrock of Western Civilization.  This dates back to the Magna Carta, probably farther.  There's a Biblical quote: "how goodly are your tents, O Jacob."  This refers to the camping habit while wandering in the desert where tents were set up so that the entry ways did not face into each other -- giving PRIVACY to the neighbors.

Privacy is the bedrock of personal sovereignty.

You can't DEFEND privacy or security or innocence or Identity, and thus the net result of all these elements, FREEDOM.

Once you surround these elements with "defense" walls, they no longer exist!  The very act of DEFENDING obliterates what is to be preserved.

So our entire cyber-security industry is set up backwards.

The ancient Chinese knew this. The best defense is a good offense.

You don't punish your employer (the voters are the employer) for having been attacked by an outsider (non-citizen).

The trend for Romance Futurologists to follow and extrapolate is, "How can we use A.I. to rectify our errors in cyber-security and every other sort of security, national and personal?"  How can we use A.I. to reverse the entire I.T. Industry's take on how to "secure" us, given A.I. has now learned to be aggressive.  (OK, we "shouldn't" -- but will we? And what if we did?)

What will we try first?  What will we try last that actually works?  (and who will fall in love with their A.I. protector?  What fruit would such a union produce?)

Do we love to do the protecting -- or to be protected?

What's sexy about protection?

"Security" seems to be a word that refers to an absence of risk.  Futurologists have to ask whether risk is, itself, sexy?

How much "security" do we need and when do we need it?  At what price in productivity?  If all human jobs will be un-invented by A.I. servants, do humans have to be "productive" any more?

Will life be one long orgy?  Or will we all pick up and move to the stars, letting A.I. have Earth?

What price Freedom?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Need To Know Info On Copyright

Perhaps you know everything you need to know about copyright. Perhaps you don't.

The law offices of Fenwick & West LLP has put together a video "refresher" or "primer" that promised to tell you "just enough."

Highly recommended.  It's twenty minutes very well spent. Imagine what it would cost if you had to pay an intellectual property lawyer to explain things to you!

In the same vein (and you might like the etymology of that phrase) the law offices of Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice LLP published a very nice guide to Best Practices for using and linking to other people's stuff. (It is company/business-related, but applicable for any author.)

Their advice is in bullet points. Some of it, you need to know, but it will be a hassle to follow. Who reads the TOS of websites? But, if you want to snag content from a website, you really should read that site's TOS.

Two of their bullet points are similar to prose advice that I've often repeated or generated. (And, I'd like to make it very clear that the comment below is my own and not a misrepresentation of their bullet points... because their TOS say that one may share or quote their stuff, as long as one does not misrepresent what they said!)

My version is: "Don't believe someone who claims that the ebooks he is selling on an auction site or giving away online is "his personal library" or is "free to use" or is "in the public domain".  He may not know better. Ask yourself if it is to his advantage to know."

All the best!
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, June 01, 2017


Suppose you could wave a magic wand and make changes in the design of the human body? What would you fix? Some items on my wish list:

Alter the muscle connections in the torso to accommodate our bipedal posture, thereby alleviating or preventing backaches, organ prolapses, and hernias. (This one isn't original with me.)

Put an upper limit on the intensity of pain. Make it just annoying enough to draw attention to sickness or damage, not enough to really hurt, about the level of a mild cramp. (Assuming people will have the sense not to ignore the signals.)

Synchronize the onset of puberty between the sexes, so the girls don't become young adults while the boys are still kids. If you're worried about increased premarital sex and teen pregnancy, adjust the females upward instead of the males downward.

Turn us into marsupials. Seriously, wouldn't it be easier to give birth to a half-formed fetus and carry it in a secure pouch, like an advanced version of a kangaroo?

Failing that, reduce labor to mild cramps (like pain in general, see above) and painless pushing. Also in the area of reproduction, it would be nice if human females in the first trimester of pregnancy could re-absorb the fetus at will, like rabbits.

And can't we arrange for women to reach orgasm as easily and automatically as the typical young man?

For men, move the prostate gland so it doesn't wrap around the urethra, an arrangement that causes much inconvenience in later years.

Hack the brains of newborn babies so they sleep through the hours of darkness instead of needing to be fed every couple of hours by night as well as by day. Also, how about making human toddlers as easy to toilet-train as kittens? Those two changes would go a long way toward relieving the exhaustion and stress of infant care.

Repair the immune-system glitches that cause allergies and autoimmune diseases in many people.

Currently, the average person's metabolism works the opposite of the way most of us would prefer. Let's have any excess calories not required for daily energy needs excreted instead of stored as fat. That would be a radical change. From an evolutionary viewpoint, the tendency to hang onto fat is a feature, not a bug; it increases our chance of surviving a famine—not a typical hazard in contemporary North America.

If we aspire to superpowers, we could request vision like that of eagles, hearing like that of bats, the speed of cheetahs, and the proportional strength of ants. I'm thinking more of fixes that would make life as we currently live it easier, though. Each of those alterations would involve related changes we might not like, unless we switch from the realm of evolution to outright magic.

Any other suggestions to improve the human blueprint?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Trends and Counter-trends Part 1 - Character Arc

Trends and Counter-trends
Part 1
Character Arc  

Here is something to watch for and think about.  Fitting your own stories into publishing is somewhat like jumping Double-Dutch -- it is all in the timing.

Whether you like it, or hate it, or don't care, there is a trend in fiction that appears in novels, movies, TV Series, and other forms such as the graphic novel, and games.

It is a story type trend.  Story is all about what is going on inside the characters, specifically the main character.

Often you see a novel explained as "the story of an orphan who finds true love" -- or "the story of a widow who moves West to start a new life."

Novels are "the story of..."

The plot is all about what this Character does and what those deeds cause to happen, to which this Character then reacts by doing something else -- until the conflict is resolved.

The conflict embodies the theme -- the statement about the true nature of reality that this novel explains and illustrates.

The story of "an orphan who finds true love" -- involves some sort of conflict woven from a strong spirited Character in conflict with his/her  loneliness, bereavement, helplessness.  The orphan "finds" (i.e. does something) to solve the loneliness problem, and love-conquers-all resolves the conflict.

The story of the widow who moves West easily houses the conflicts built from themes of "new starts" -- of having nothing to lose, of making a bold leap of faith.  The conflict is the strong Character confronting the bereft and hopeless situation and either running away or running toward a dream.  The conflict is resolved by finding a new community, and opportunities.

To fit into Romance genre, such a story has to end naturally in a Happily Ever After situation.

So the writer has to show-don't-tell what qualities this Character has inherent in them to make it possible, natural, or even inevitable for this Character to reach such a reward.

The classic method of showing the Character deserves Happiness is to show the Character learning a hard lesson the hard way, and along the way adoptiing the habit of Charity and Good Deeds.  SAVE THE CAT! (the book about screenwriting I recommend novel writers study) points out that the most efficient way to convince an audience that a Character is worthy is to "save the cat" -- to put the Character in a situation where he risks life and limb for the helpless.

So today's trends, if you slice and dice enough TV Series and novels, are the story of a Character who starts off with strong ethical and moral principles, would indeed save a cat from the top of a telephone pole, or rescue a kitten from a storm drain, but the story is about how this worthy person is brought to a point where they violate their own ethical standards.

Some expect to "get away with it" and others expect to "pay the price."

But the one story-form I am seeing the most is the story of the moral corruption and devolution of an otherwise strong and admirable Character.  Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter is a great series, very popular, huge best seller, and except for a few books, mostly very well written.  But it is the story of Anita Blake
violating all the precepts she holds dear in Book 1, and learning to make excuses, wallow in the practical necessity of surviving, and finally embracing all she loathed at the beginning.

Decades ago, the prevailing story was of the weak Character, vacillating, hesitate, out-classed and out-gunned who man's up, steps up, takes charge, and grows stronger for the experiences of the story -- a character who learns from the lessons life teaches, learns the basics of wisdom.

If you start with a Character that has perfected strength and wisdom ( Obi Wan Kenobe ) you have to devolve him or kill him off.

If you start with a wimp, you can build him into somebody worth knowing.

If you start with a Character in the middle, neither so wise or so weak, you can go either way.

Watch the publishing trends.  It is a pendulum swing.  Sometimes people want to read about Characters growing in strength and wisdom, and sometimes people want to watch the mighty taken down a peg or two.

And between these two swings, you will find a prevalence of stories about Characters who don't change (like TV Series Characters in an anthology series), they don't learn from their mistakes and adventures, but spiritually tread water.

Sometimes audiences just want to relax and have their lazy, static lifestyle validated.

Find the trend your story fits into and start submitting when the previous trend has hit peak.  Ride the trend waves.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Small Things, BIg Trouble... Or The Potential Thereof

"Little things please little minds..." the old proverb (attributed to Ovid) goes, and the riposte is, "while greater fools look on in amusement."

Take Tweets.  Or even, simply ReTweeting a Tweet. Writer beware.
Did you know that a Tweet can be libellous?  Mark Sableman of  Thompson Coburn LLP explains about the case where a single unkind tweet cost someone $430,000.

Or, take jokes. Or, better still, do NOT take jokes.

Jokes are --or can be-- protected by copyright. The legal blog for Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphries & Leonard LLP recounts the sad story of a late night host whose writers allegedly followed the Tweets of a joke writer, and allegedly pirated them.

It's a good cautionary tale!

Facts cannot be copyrighted, but punchlines can be, because the choice of words used to express an original idea can be copyrighted.

Of course, no one dares repeat the four or five copyrighted jokes, but they can be viewed in the court documents.

Given that the plaintiff has a Twitter account, and tells jokes for the enjoyment of his followers, he might be worth following.

Legal blogger Dylan J Price of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP presents a longer version of the same case, with added color from the Foxworthy suit against a T-Shirt vendor who tried without permission to monetize Foxworthy's "you might be a redneck if..." quips.

For authors, use your own quotable quotes on your promotional T-shirts, and make sure you set up free Google Alerts for your own quotable quotes.

Happy Memorial Day!

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 25, 2017

About Lying

The cover story of the June 2017 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC explores "Why We Lie." A pie chart of motives for lying or deception includes almost a dozen categories, such as personal gain, covering up a mistake or misdeed, playing pranks, hoaxing people for entertainment, self-aggrandizement, economic advantage, and the "social or polite" lie, what's often called "little white lies"—to avoid minor embarrassment, making someone else feel bad, etc. Everybody commits dishonesty sometimes. Cognitive scientists view the emergence of the ability to lie as an important childhood developmental process. Sophistication in deceit requires a well-developed "theory of mind," the capacity to see the world from someone else's viewpoint. Perpetrating falsehoods seems to have a connection with the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in processing emotions. The more often we lie, the weaker the amygdala's response becomes, so lying grows easier. Because our default inclination is to trust other people unless they give us reasons to distrust, the liar starts with an advantage. Also, familiar information is more likely to "feel" true, so the more we hear an alleged fact, the more we're likely to believe it. That's why publicly refuting misinformation is a risky endeavor; by repeating the statement, even to disprove it, you fix it in the audience's mind. Yet one more reason to resist immersing ourselves in a social-media bubble of information sources repeating stuff we already agree with.

The article includes capsule portraits of famous deceivers, such as P. T. Barnum and Richard Nixon. Try to pick up a copy of the issue; it offers much to mull over.

Have you seen the comedy LIAR, LIAR? A boy wishes that for one day his father, a lawyer, cannot tell a lie. Naturally, chaos ensues. Not only does the beneficiary (or victim) of the wish find himself incapable of the deceit his profession demands, he can't withhold the truth by remaining silent or even ask a question framed in such a way as to evoke an untrue answer. He tries with little success to explain to his son why adults sometimes have to lie. It's hard to visualize human society functioning without occasional untruths. Carried to its literal conclusion, this gift or curse would make it impossible even to give an equivocal answer to avoid hurting someone's feelings on a trivial subject or, at the other extreme, to deceive the Gestapo or a slave catcher on the whereabouts of a fleeing Jew or slave.

A species incapable of lying would have a very different culture from ours. If they couldn't understand the very concept of untruth, they would of course be disastrously vulnerable in a confrontation with human invaders. The relentlessly rational horses in GULLIVER'S TRAVELS don't lie and have a very hard time grasping the concept of deceit when Gulliver mentions it. In the original STAR TREK, it's rumored that Vulcans never lie. They certainly understand what lying is, however, and in one episode Spock points out, "It is not a lie to keep the truth to oneself." The series later confirms that Vulcans, like every known sapient species, do tell lies when deceit seems logically appropriate. (We see Spock engaged in deceit on several occasions, in fact.)

From the opposite angle, societies may differ in their judgment of what constitutes a lie; outsiders may think locals are lying when the locals don't see it that way. In some Earth cultures (e.g., Japanese) a blunt answer of "No" is considered rude. Instead, a politely evasive reply is expected and understood. Foreign visitors may think they've been lied to when any member of that culture would clearly understand the courteous "lie" as a negative response.

Mark Twain's little-known story "Was It Heaven? Or Hell?" presents a thought experiment on what might happen if any form of lying, even for the most compassionate purpose, were condemned as an unforgivable sin. Two maiden aunts, nursing their widowed niece and her daughter through a fatal illness, lie to the mother for her peace of mind, telling her the girl is well and happy when, in fact, both are dying. At the end, the aunts finally die and face postmortem judgment. They have always adhered to strict moral standards, one of the most important being that "speech was restricted to absolute truth, iron-bound truth, implacable and uncompromising truth, let the resulting consequences be what they might." They refuse to make any distinction between "a lie that helps and a lie that hurts." They are also kind, loving women who adore their niece and grand-niece and were told by the doctor that the sick woman must be protected from all excitement. (The doctor also declares that he tells lies, "a million a day," and so does every physician.) Which principle should prevail? To the vast majority of twentieth- and twenty-first-century readers, the answer seems obvious, but apparently in the culture of that time and place, the dilemma was real. The question in the title remains unresolved.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Index to Worldbuilding From Reality

Index to Worldbuilding From Reality
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

When a series gets long, I post an individual post listing the parts of the series that are connected, though posted on different dates.

Here are posts in the series titled Worldbuilding From Reality -- an angle on romance writing that uses the principle "ripped from the headlines" to lend verisimilitude to the theme "Love Conquers All."

Part 7 - The Cord That Binds Our Hearts In Love

Part 6 - Ringling Brothers Closing - 2017

Part 5 is the "Realistic Happily Ever After" post from November 2016.

Part 4 - Creating a Story Canvas

Part 3 Creating Future History

Part 2 Advertising Video Writing

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Communication Rights; Reproduction Rights... Repeatedly Targeting Women With Smart Phones

For those who think I am going to talk about SEX... I am not. I'm banging on about copyright, as is my wont.

Copyright law gives authors the exclusive right to reproduce their own copyrighted works (or to authorize or prohibit any copy of their works). In Europe at least, it also gives authors the exclusive right to communicate, or to authorize or prohibit any communication to the public of their copyrighted works.

This author has known many authors who upload short stories to their own websites, intending the short stories to be free for new and established readers to enjoy on the authors' own websites, or, if the authors say so, for visitors to the authors sites to download for personal, private reading.

Anyone who snags those free stories and publishes them elsewhere for their own glory or profit is a copyright infringer, at least in the EU.  Anyone who downloads those free stories from an unauthorised third part is also a copyright infringer.

Blogger Luke Moulton of the law firm Wright Hassall LLP has penned a very helpful and quite lengthy article explaining Communication Rights and Reproduction Rights and much more.  He also has a very clear chart explaining the difference between legal and not-legal uses of other peoples' copyrighted work.

In Europe at least, it is also copyright infringement to sell "loaded" media devices, whether they are loaded with copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright owner, or whether they are loaded with links to pirate sites where copyrighted works have been uploaded illegally. And, it is copyright infringement for the purchaser of such a device to click on the links to pirate sites and to download the illegally uploaded works on the pirate site.

So, there you have it!

Thank you, Luke Moulton!

Prolific legal blogger Mark Sableman of Thompson Coburn LLP is worth following! With his Sweepstakes Law blog, he's hit at least three home-runs with recent fascinating articles.

In this one...

... he explains rules for news aggregators. I assume that my summary of the best of the best of legal copyright-related analysis could be an "aggregation". It's relatively easy blog fodder. Someone else does the leg work. All the aggregator has to do is read a week's worth of good stuff, and select the most interesting and most relevant to her audience.

The redeeming feature of aggregation is that the polite aggregator sends her readers valuable eyeballs to the original copyright owner's site though links and attribution. It's only copyright infringement if the aggregator copies so much of the original content that interested visitors don't need to click through to the original.

Mark Sableman does point out some exceptions to the etiquette, especially where Europeans are concerned.

Finally, please forgive the required periodic reminder to our European visitors about Google cookies.
You cannot avoid them. The authors of this blog cannot prevent Google from slipping sticky cookies into your devices.

European Union laws may require us (the authors using Blogger) to obtain your consent for Google to put their Blogger and Analytics and AdSense and Google "cookies" on your machines. Since we cannot do that, we advise you that we deem you to have accepted Google cookies by virtue of visiting this blog.

We may also be obliged by strict compliance with EU law to give you "information" about "cookies".  Cookies are some kind of code that leaps like deer ticks and leeches on anyone and everyone who comes within range. They tell Google who you are, where you came from, where you go, and what you appear to like. This is so Google can sell targeted advertising.  Therefore, if you don't want to be offered opportunities to buy stuff that you really don't want or need, and cannot afford, clear your cookies as often as you can stand to do so. You may do so by clearing your History (which will also probably log you out of your favourite sites), or by viewing your Preferences and deleting all the parasitic cookies. And, once you have done it, you may have to do it a second time, because, as I said, these things are sticky.

PS. Mark Sableman addresses something like cookies on steroids with an account of an outrageous case where the cell phones of women who entered a health clinic (for any reason) were bombarded for up to 30 days thereafter with unsolicited and "mobile" advertisements for "abortion alternatives".

And we all thought that pregnant ladies had the right to be protected from stress!

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Early Hominids in America

Scientists have conjectured that a prehistoric site in San Diego County may prove relatives of early humans entered North America 130,000 years ago, at least 100,000 years earlier than commonly believed:

First Americans May Have Been Neanderthals

Researchers have been working on this discovery since the early 1990s. The ambiguous evidence meets with skepticism. Are the mastodon bones found at the dig evidence of human or prehuman hunters in the New World at that remote period? If so, they might not have been modern humans (Homo sapiens). They might be older members of the genus Homo such as Neanderthals or Denisovans (a distinct subspecies discovered in Siberia).

The idea of other kinds of human-like people sharing the world with us—Neanderthals, Denisovans, the Indonesian "hobbits" (Homo florensiensis)—fires the imagination. It would be like having aliens among us. An SF explanation of orcs, elves, and dwarves might be developed by postulating that those creatures were independently evolved humanoid species or subspecies. Suppose some of them lingered into historical times as the truth behind the myths? Or remnants of their kind live secretly in isolated wilderness areas to this day?

Personally, I'm holding out for the possibility that survivors of hypothetical early hominids in California form the basis of the Bigfoot legend. Why shouldn't a small breeding population of such a species continue to hide in the depths of old-growth forests? After all, mountain gorillas were discovered and identified as a separate species only in the early 20th century, and only about 800 are estimated to exist in the wild. Why couldn't other types of supposedly extinct primates have survived?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Worldbuilding From Reality Part 7 - The Cord That Binds Our Hearts in Love

Worldbuilding From Reality
Part 7
The Cord That Binds Our Hearts in Love
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Here are previous posts in this series:

Part 5 is the "Realistic Happily Ever After" post from November 2016.

Part 4 - Creating a Story Canvas

Part 3 Creating Future History

Part 2 Advertising Video Writing

The silken tie that binds our hearts in love is probably a fiber optic co-ax cable wrapped in serious insulation.

What do I mean by serious insulation?  And why do we need such a thing?

Love is intense, the vibration that carries the divine voice, or maybe the divine voice itself.  Remember the story of Mount Sinai where the Ten Commandments were spoken by the divine Voice and the hills danced, souls flew out of bodies, and senses were scrambled -- rivers flowed backwards.

Just consider what that imagery means.  What are those words trying to "depict" -- as we depict Romance wrapped in science?

Here is the series on Depiction:

And in the series on Theme-Symbolism Integration we examined the issue of "Why Do We Cry At Weddings?"

What happens inside you -- all the way from the purely animal body to the highest level of the divine soul -- when the tears just burst forth and flow down your cheeks?  Why is that effect so prevalent at weddings and when else in life is it common -- and why?  What exactly is happening in that moment?

We gave those questions microscopic examination and progressed to the use of symbolism.

So now let's glance back at everyday reality as a source of material your reader has in common with you -- the news headlines from which you rip your story.

As we are discussing Science Fiction Romance, the science of romance is a core source of story ideas.

The world you build around your characters has to include some real world science -- extrapolated just a bit, perhaps in defiance of a direction that the current science steadfastly endorses.

For example, a novel set in a Globally Warmed World - where everyone is fighting for their lives because of ocean rise and storms -- is not SCIENCE FICTION, but rather just science.  Science FICTION is produced by taking a theme such as A) aliens arrive and fix the climate for us (over our objections), or B) the science is all wrong and we're going into an ice age because of solar activity or C) the current science is correct but a genius arises who jiggers with the atmosphere (sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere) and for a while everything is fine -- except in the "now" of your story, his disastrous mistake is exposed.

And there are other possibilities -- but you get the idea. To write science fiction, you FICTIONALIZE the science.

Therefore, to write romance, you FICTIONALIZE the romance.

But to fictionalize, you must first grasp the real world version your reader lives with.

In our real world, it is very well accepted that the best, longest lasting and most inspiring marriages are based on trust.

Even when trust is betrayed a few times, the vast multitude of times it is faithfully upheld keeps a marriage together.

Over the last few years, lots of foundation grant money has been flowing into brain research - neuroscience.  So not only do we get an avalanche of papers in peer reviewed journals none of us read -- but they overflow into more widely distributed sources.

One such widely distributed source is the Harvard Business Review.

Yes, the Harvard Business Review published an article about LOVE CONQUERS ALL and the HAPPILY EVER AFTER -- though I seriously doubt anyone involved in the research or the publication had any idea at all what they actually said!  They thought they were writing about business.  I'm certain of that -- they really thought they were writing about corporate culture and business practices in managing employees.

Isn't it a marvelous world we live in?  They even illustrated the article with a LOVE CONQUERS ALL symbolism!

Here is the URL of the reality based article upon which you can easily build multiple fantasy worlds or fictionalized science based worlds for your characters to romp through.

The Neuroscience of Trust
Paul J. Zak

It says that employers are twisting themselves into knots to empower and challenge employees.

There are a number of wondrous fallacies embedded in the unconscious assumptions behind that opening sentence that are obvious to a science fiction writer and invisible to everyone else.  For example, nobody can "empower" someone else -- certainly not be "letting" somebody else do something!  If you "let" then you retain ALL the power, the power to set the agenda, to populate the dropdown from which the other must choose.  Employers and managers have to stop "letting" and start abolishing blocks.  Employees who are power-users will surge through the gap first chance they get (and terrify all the control freaks!).

Remember we discussed how a fiction writer can use fallacies in a sprawling discussion over many indexed topics.  Here are a few:

Theme-Plot-Character-Worldbuilding Integration  Part 6 Fallacy, Misnomer and the Contradiction

  Here is the Fallacy of Safety

Here is the fallacy of trust

Always be on the lookout for fallacies embedded in culture, language, and even science itself, because "love conquers all" is not just a big theme envelope, but an actual fact of reality that connects you to your reader.

So neuroscience has been studying the human brain (and brains of various creatures) to explain how and why we respond to other people (or not) as we do.

I'm sure there are many objectives behind this, but be aware of the giant amounts of money directed into this research by Foundations championing a wild variety of political causes including things like proving that God does not exist, that there is no such thing as a soul (therefore no soul mates), or that there are many handy ways to control the behavior of humans.  Most of their activity is charitable or academic, so they are tax exempt foundations that occasionally lobby for or against political causes.

The gigantic sums (billions of dollars) involved in non-profit foundations and corporations, and the huge amounts of grant money for special activities is really the tail that wags the political dog.  Use the mysteries of "follow the money" accounting as a plot device to bring your couple together -- for ideas, watch the TV Series SUITS.

Oddly, SUITS is a TV Series that comes up on #scifichat on Twitter on Fridays, and like BURN NOTICE has garnered a science fiction romance fan following.  Watch how SUITS plots turn on forensic accounting.

Also on #scifichat on Twitter, we have discussed, in connection with SUITS,  George Orwell's 1984.

1984 is a novel with a vision of a future written in 1948 that presented what humans of the 1940's would do with the technology we have today (drones with internet connected cameras, every computer in your house able to see and hear you at all times, phones that track your whereabouts).

The Surveillance state is a reality waiting to happen...
...and people will grab for it to feel safe from their neighbors who might turn into terrorists overnight.

Technology is both the enemy and the safety net.

Star Trek, in the 1960's discussed the dire threats of technology alongside the vast benefits -- a 3 year long contrast/compare essay on technological advancement.  Technology is just applied science -- commercialized uses for odd things discovered in laboratories.

Was George Orwell correct that the ability to spy on everyone would inevitably lead to government spying on everyone?

Why would anyone want to spy on someone else?

In a promising Romance, do the people spy on each other?  Well, in novels, yes -- if you are rich enough, you hire a private eye to do a background check on anyone approaching in a romance.  The rich don't stay rich by being stupid.

But where gold-digging is not the prevalent danger in a new relationship, do the really promising relationships proceed through spying on each other?  Sneaking into their phone, riffling through a pile of mail on the hall table, dropping into the place they say they work to see if they are really employed there, chatting up neighbors to see how well they care for their dogs?

Do we fact-check people we meet casually at parties before accepting a first date?

How distrustful of our information sources are we?  Yes, most of us have developed a distrust of commercial news sources, but has that distrust (yet) leaked into our everyday relationships?

According to this article in the Harvard Review, lots of money has gone into a study of business management practices and the results of TRUST in the workplace.

Alarmingly, a substantial fraction of the businesses the scientists studied do not exhibit trust to their employees.  Predictably, such businesses have a harder time holding onto good employees, and their productivity is not as high as businesses run on trust.  Thankfully, many businesses (largely tech related) do emphasize trust, assigning projects and encouraging creative problem solving.

Likewise in marriages, as we all know, good families run on trust, not fact-checking.

And likewise in Romances before marriage.  If you detect dis-trustfulness in someone you are dating, you generally consider dropping them, just as an untrusted employees starts cruising LinkedIn and .

Trust is the bedrock of relationship.  It's not something that develops over time, but something that must be there right at the beginning.

Trust is the silken tie that binds, one of the fibers in the fiber-optic cable that carries the force of  Love to blast through any barrier and conquer any challenge.

Trust is only one of those fibers, but if it breaks the others will fray with time.

---------quote from Harvard Business Review article-----------

Leaders understand the stakes—at least in principle. In its 2016 global CEO survey, PwC reported that 55% of CEOs think that a lack of trust is a threat to their organization’s growth.

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In previous posts on the Art of fiction writing, we discussed how the artist's eye finds symmetry that others don't see, and how the artist's job is to reveal the import of such symmetry to readers.

Here's an example of such a symmetry -- all the political polls show the country divided on most issues 44% to 44% with the rest vacillating in the middle.  The most solid consensus you see these days is about 52% agreeing on an issue -- 55% is overwhelming agreement.  (that has not been the case in about a century -- consensus should be way up in the 60-70% range).

Note how this scientific study of corporate culture's usage of TRUST comes up with a mere 55% see lack of trust as inhibiting growth  -- while the science reveals lack of trust definitely inhibits growth.

The article is about the research involving a chemical, oxytocin, which we produce naturally (as do rats) and is abundant when trust is in play, and brain studies trace this neural activity.  This chemical, administered to humans via a nasal spray, inclines humans to exhibit more trusting behavior.

In other words, people can be forced to behave "properly" by introduction of a chemical agent.  The article is about managing trust by having managers adopt 8 behaviors.  It is a 7 page article, summarizing work done between 2001 and 2016, and it is quite dense but readable.

Former Herman Miller CEO Max De Pree once said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant.”

The experiments I have run strongly support this view. Ultimately, you cultivate trust by setting a clear direction, giving people what they need to see it through, and getting out of their way.

It’s not about being easy on your employees or expecting less from them. High-trust companies hold people accountable but without micromanaging them. They treat people like responsible adults.
---------end quote---------

That quote from Max De Pree struck me as the perfect description of what a science fiction romance WRITER must do.  The way we say "thank you" to our readers is to deliver a plausible Happily Ever After.

But how can readers accept the plausibility of the HEA in today's world where distrust is rising?

Our media is fostering distrust, and our government appears to now run on distrust, alternative facts, fantasy reality.  It may not be a recent development but just a surfacing of an attitude shift that has been brewing for a generation.

Government is the last place you'd expect a trend to show up.  Family, and romance, is the first place a trend originates.

The silken cord that binds our culture -- trust -- going to shreds indicates a shift in the marketability of the idea that you shouldn't date someone who distrusts you.  And that you shouldn't distrust someone you're dating.

That prevalence (44%) of distrust in personal relationships could account for the divorce rate or the "living together" but never marrying rate.  Check the current numbers.  How can you marry someone you distrust?

If our modern culture has drifted as far as it can go into dis-trustfulness (letting fact become a matter of opinion, and your facts are as good as mine), then the science fiction romance writer has an opportunity to depict a future the exact opposite of what George Orwell depicted in 1984 -- a tech-surveillance culture where trust reigns supreme.

In other words, a tech surveillance culture in which everything is recorded, but those records are accessed only when the subject of the record demands it.  Build a world around that theme.

People could come to TRUST that dash-cam video etc would remain private and personal unless the subject wants it put into public record.

For example, in a car accident that isn't your fault, you can demand access to video proving it is not your fault but if it is your fault you can prevent access to the video proving that you are guilty of (whatever).  So the two people (or A.I.'s driving the cars) would end up head-to-head in court arguing over access to private records.

What kind of world would that be?  Maybe one where you have to prove your innocence but nobody has to prove your guilt?  That would be a science fiction premise because, as noted above, to fictionalize science you adopt a thematic stance opposite to the accepted reality.

Today, we still subscribe to the concept that nobody has to prove innocence because it is impossible to prove a negative.  The burden of proof lies with the accuser (or the government) not the accused.  The accuser must prove you are guilty.

Today, headlines scream "alleged" this or "accuses" that or so-and-so is "being investigated for" whatever.  The mere whiff of an accusation or investigation is immediately treated in the text of the article as presumed-guilty.  Surely nobody would waste taxpayer money investigating someone who is not guilty of something!

But with universal surveillance (1984 ) it could be possible to prove innocence but impossible to prove guilt.  And of course, what about hackers tampering with the recording?  There is so much for Love to conquer in these possibilities.

That leap to guilty until proven innocent ( and it is up to the accused to prove innocence) is rooted in that 45% of the people living in a distrustful world that mysteriously and inexplicably does not "grow."

It is not the kind of thinking employed by the 55% cited in the Harvard Business Review article as thinking that distrust inhibits growth.

To thrive humans must trust.

How can we repair trust in our culture when sworn enemies publicly threaten to put an invading army on our shores buried amidst refugees whose plight melts our hearts in love and whom we trust would make good Americans?

Consider the Romances currently happening among those millions of non-combatants fleeing explosions and starvation.  Babies are being born among them.  What sort of love-life will such children have after spending their formative years amidst such a ravaged culture?  Will they be able to trust?

Waft your answer to that question into the Galactic setting, and build a world where non-humans respond differently to trust, but meet up with humans who do trust (with certain glaring exceptions, of course.)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg