Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Depiction Part 4: Depicting Power in Culture by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 4
Depicting Power in Culture
Jacqueline Lichtenberg
This post is about developing Rules of Engagement to depict a culture different from our own, yet thematically related in a way that allows the reader/viewer to walk into the story and see the whole thing as "real" even though the "world" you have built is truly alien. 

This skill-set of depiction arises out of the Theme-Worldbuilding Integration series.


The previous posts on Depiction are:



In short: depiction is show-don't-tell brought into a high, subtle, "off-the-nose" artform. 

Depiction is the author being sneaky and not letting their own opinion leak through into the worldbuilding.  No two readers will assess what is depicted the same way.  But what they do assess is the part of the book they will remember longest.

That's why, when you go on social networks and try to get someone to help you remember the title or author of a book you halfway remember, and relate this vivid scene or starkly memorable character, what you get back is scattershot attempts to help, and not the book you are looking for.

The part you remember is the part you found in the depiction.

As a writer, you can't use depiction to make your point. 

But if you do not have a point, and you are not trying to make that point, most readers will get bored and drop the story in the trash. 

If you don't stick to the point you depicted on Page 1, and STOP once you've made that point (nail The End), if you let bits and pieces remain in the final draft that should have been deleted for use in another book with another point, you will get very angry readers giving you 1-star reviews on Amazon.

The clarity of "point" that most readers want has to be made off-the-nose.  It is via that point depicted that the reader enters this alternate Reality and rides with you to The End.

One of the issues that many readers have with Romance Novels is the HEA, the Happily Ever After ending that just is not plausible in their own everyday reality.  The lack of plausibility is often (not always) traceable to the depiction of the HEA. 

The HEA is the resolution to a problem that the reader believes can not be resolved.  The resolution of the conflict has its roots on Page 1, in the way the conflict is depicted.  Do Page 1 right, and the reader suspends disbelief and actually believes the HEA (at least for a few seconds). 

The Depiction series of posts on this blog is about mastering the techniques of depiction in order to create an HEA that is not a HFN (Happily For Now), and yet is absolutely believable by readers living in a harsh reality.

To that end, we are examining how to depict culture. 

Cultures are based on abstract ideas like religious ideas that the cultural pressures (peer pressure) make desirable. 

If you live the beliefs of the culture around you, you are taking the easiest path to developing Relationships.

In Science Fiction, we focus mostly on the individual who is an oddball, a maverick, an outcast, a 'drifter' type in a Western, a "First-In Scout" (an explorer with no ties to anyone).  We focus on the Loner who has no problem with being a loner.  And Science Fiction is mostly about depicting by stark illustration what value such loners have to society and ultimately to the culture.

The Loner is not always the person so unstable they are about to freak out and murder a mob of people just because they're angry.

The Loner is depicted as honorable, kind, just, and strong. 

Being a Loner is not the problem a Science Fiction Novel is written to solve.  The Main Character of a Science Fiction Novel does not experience being a Loner as a PROBLEM.  He/she is not "in conflict" with the situation of being alone. 

The Science Fiction hero's Loner situation usually comes about because of being at odds with the Establishment.  He's the Scientist who believes there really is life on Mars, or UFO's have visited Earth, or human activity really is not creating climate change, but natural forces of Earth itself are causing what we observe.

The Science Fiction Hero is the oddball, tin-hat crazy who turns out to be correct, and the plot-driving major conflict depicts his determined effort to prove he is correct -- or depicts his efforts to just get away from those who want to make sure he never proves he's correct.

His opposition has a "vested interest" (an emotional need) to know beyond doubt that this Science Fiction Hero's ideas are crazy, and thus untrue.

The HEA rejection mechanism is psychologically similar, so pay attention. 

The Powers That Be in our modern culture have that kind of "vested interest" in convincing the majority that the HEA is not possible.  The Universe structure which makes it obvious to us that the HEA is possible lies at odds with the Universe structure that gives the Powers That Be power over us.

Here are a few posts on the HEA.




So the typical Science Fiction Hero (this blog is about Science Fiction and/or Paranormal Romance, the hybrid genre), is alone, at least at or before the start of the story. 

What does it mean "alone?" 

It means not just having no family ties, or being free of obligations, debts, and other strings, but also it means being sovereign over your own mind, heart, body, and course in life. 

The Science Fiction hero is a person who has become a Strong Character because of being a Loner.
Part 3 has links to previous parts in the Strong Character series.

So it is natural for the Science Fiction Hero to become the Most Desirable Hunk in the Romance heroine's world.  He's a REAL CATCH -- and unattached to boot. 

Why did it take so long for Romance to discover Science Fiction?  (it all started with Star Trek, you know, and the Vampire Romance)

So when you set out to build a world around your story, you hide the point deep inside the worldbuilding.  Your point, as a writer, is an unconscious assumption of your characters, and a given of their culture. 

You get to state your point baldly in a single sentence that takes up half a line at most -- and is placed near the end or actually at the end of the novel.  It is Blake Snyder's "theme-stated" beat (see SAVE THE CAT! trilogy of books on screenwriting.)  Your point is inside your theme and is depicted within the characters' culture.

In Science Fiction, you often have two or more cultures to play with, and usually they are at odds with one another creating the main external conflict.  That's how most science fiction turns out to be about wars.

So a culture that is the outgrowth of war has to have its most prominent identifying beliefs focused on the use and abuse of Power.

Remember Star Trek's Klingons.  A good day to die.  The relish of the fun of combat.  Social interactions based on dominance displays. 

The original depiction of the Klingons (designed to work in the tiny space allowed in a TV episode), was very comic-bookish, too cliche, too facile.

So as the popularity of the Klingons grew, we saw different foreheads, a more thoughtful explanation of their values, and development of the language by a fan, and the addition of culturally specific weapons depicting tradition.  The culture acquired a history, depth, and real people. 

And all of it is based on the combat stance in personal relationships.  So Klingon culture has a whole lot of rules about who can do what to whom, when and how much.

The unfolding of Klingon culture from a line-drawing sketch of something to oppose the Enterprise into a galactic dominating, swaggering, and mighty culture with real people, and a character named Worf who grew up in a human family is a good model to study for depiction of opposition, and for worldbuilding a culture in order to depict a "worthy opponent."

Note how as Star Trek developed, this formidable opponent was nearly destroyed, and was rescued by Kirk et. al., then became an ally of the Federation that Kirk represented.  That "arc" of development of the Relationship between the two cultures is DEPICTED, -- shown not told.

One could make the case that early Klingon versions were bullies, or the most admirable trait in Klingon culture was bullying. 

We discussed bullying in the Theme-Worldbuidding series:


The anti-bullying culture subscribes to some simple rules of them to detect bullying situations. 

"Don't hit below the belt"

"Don't pick on someone smaller than you" (in size, power, reach, ability)

This picking on someone smaller than you is what Israel is depicted as doing to the Palestinians especially in Gaza.

See how easily depiction can be used to paint a picture which remains indelible in the mind long after a conflict is over?

The USA culture despises the Bully and righteously rejects bullying.

But how many Americans actually know what Bullying is? 

Most people don't think philosophically, or theoretically.  In life as in fiction, people want concrete, clearly defined edges to the ideas that form the world.

So they know what bullying is because they've seen it in school yards, or on Gang dominated streets.  Maybe they've seen it in domestic abuse.  They know it when they see it, but they don't analyze it to figure out what it is, and how to "depict" it in a Alien Culture (non-human culture).

Lifting out the essence of a concept like Bullying and using that essence to generate a non-human fictional culture is Art.  It is what Artists do for a living -- depict the world from a different angle than the reader/viewer has ever seen.  The artist does this to reveal an inner, hidden truth.

So conspiracies and International Intrigue, subterfuge and obfuscation make wonderful raw material for the Artist.

Remember how Leonardo DaVinci would look at a slab of marble, and see the statue buried inside it, then free that statue by paring away the dross?

That's what artists do -- take away the dross to reveal something hidden inside. 

So take the Middle East situation as an example.

Most people look at that mess and say Israel is a Bully -- because clearly they have a strong economy, high tech weapons, and can fend off the worst that Gaza can throw at them.  A few Israelis died, and thousands of Gazans died, so who's the bully? 

Obviously tiny little Israel is a horrible bully for keeping the Palestinian borders closed, and policing every movement they make.

That's Leondardo DaVinci's view from outside the block of marble. 

What does the artist see looking at this mess?

The artist sees the Gazans as the bullies. 

Isn't that startling? 

You can make the case that the Palestinians are more powerful than Israel if you understand the hidden connections and the history.  If you don't believe the history, you can't see the Gazans or the Hamas infestation in Gaza as the bullies.

The Palestinians have been made into a political football, or hot potatoe, by the much larger countries and factions surrounding the area.  They are the boxing glove worn by Iran and bigger countries in order to punch Israel without being hurt themselves.  They have been armed, deprived, and ginned up with religious fervor to be used as a weapon against a tiny country. 

Or so the argument goes.

Those who argue that Israel is the bully, say that Israel threw the Palestinians out of their homeland. 

Those who argue that Hamas and Palestinians are the bully, say that when Israel was forming as a State under U.N. Mandate, the Jewish refugees had no problem accepting the residents of the area as citizens of the new state.

But the Powers That Be in the surrounding countries lied to the residents to make them flee the new Israelis.  And then those Powers That Be refused to accept the refugees they had made homeless. 

There are conspiracy theorists who hold that those same Powers That Be planned to use those refugee homeless to attack and destroy the fledgling country Israel, a pushover without an army, populated by shell-shocked, starved people rescued from concentration camps.

Artists, especially those writing novels, love conspiracy theorists.  Such Drama!!!

Regardless of the actual motives of those Powers That Be, or even which countries they were from, the net result is a population of Stateless People, people not protected by a government, and without a land franchise of their own.

That population has grown, but as it has grown, it has not produced world class universities, patents, trade goods, intellectual property, or anything to add to the world GDP.  Trillions of dollars of the world's wealth has been poured into the Palestinian populace, and nothing has been added to the world Gross Product, the wealth of humanity. 

They are poor, and make a profession of being poverty stricken. 

So obviously anyone who attacks them is a bully. 

So what is a bully to do when the weakest kids on the block are given powerful weapons and attack as a mob?  Is the bully required (by cultural rules of engagement) to refrain from fighting back?  To refrain from self-protection?  To refrain from pre-emptive strikes to disarm?

The Palestinian situation makes a wonderful Situation to study for an interstellar war simply because the actual war is all about something totally different than Israel vs Palestinians.

What exactly it's all about -- aha, that's a matter for the Artist to chip away and reveal.  If you're stumped, go look again at the Klingons and the Romulans. 

Take this Situation, set it out amidst the stars of this galaxy, create different species, religions, billions of years of history, ancient ruins, Great Shrines of sacred planets,

Observe the Middle East melting down, and observe the techniques used to cause that to happen.  Look deeply into the religious wars, the many religious factions within factions -- there are as many flavors of Muslims as there are flavors of Christians, and Jews are no slouches in the flavors department.  A new faction seems to arise every week or so.

Are you looking at a religious war, or is the religious war an excuse to hold a good war the way the Klingons love to do?

How would Klingons (or Romulans) react to finding out they were someone else's patsy, a tool to hammer an enemy and escape retribution?

Which side is the bully and which the victim is a question few readers are comfortable pondering.  The reader wants you to tell them the answer.

There's a basic human psychology principle behind that reader preference.

People who bully in other areas of life become truly upset when they see what they think is bullying happening before their eyes.  They become upset because they can't look at themselves and acknowledge their own bullying tendencies. 

The psychological principle behind this is rooted in the subconscious.  What we hate other people for is the very thing we loathe so much in ourselves that we bury it deep in the subconscious. 

The Artist knows that when you see a flaw in someone else, it is because you have that flaw in you.  It's a reliable principle.  If you don't have that flaw, it won't irk you in others even when it is there.

So human cultures establish rules-of-thumb to measure or judge behavior objectively. 

You can tell a busy-body "Mind Your Own Business" by citing that cultural rule of privacy without getting personal, insulting, or obnoxious.  It's a generally accepted principle, not something you just made up.

The Prize Fighter waits for the guy he decked to get back on his feet before attacking again.  There's an ethical reason for that, and a moral one, but a referee enforced cultural rule. 

"Pick on someone your own size."  -- yes, you must fight, but only people who are an even match. 

One time there was a strike in Football, and instead of the scheduled match they televised a match between a professional team and a college team -- the college team got creamed.  And spectators didn't enjoy the sight.  They never did that again.

Do we enjoy such sights of uneven matches these days?

Check YouTube. 

There are a lot of Video posts by teens are of uneven matches.  There is that "trend" of walking up behind someone and sucker-punching them to the deck -- and it is done to older, more frail, or less fit (even handicapped) people.  The objective is to deck the other person WITHOUT WARNING, and that's pretty much like the old American Indian idea of counting coups by sneaking into another tribe's camp and stealing or marking their horses, leaving trace that their defenses are porous.

The message from the more powerful to the less powerful is "I am BETTER than you, so don't mess with me."

The message is MIGHT MAKES RIGHT.

That is the bully's message to the weak.

Is that now the new cultural mantra we all must live by?

Or do we still know that the weakest contestant in such a transaction is the bully him/herself.

Yes, bullies are cowards.  That's one of the oldest principles, and the origin of the advice parents always gave kids beset by the class bully -- just punch him back good and hard.  Deck him in front of his cronies.  That's the end of him because he'll react with cowardice not heroism.

Bullies are all about their Pride, so they focus on Who Is Right. (see the illustration at the top of this blog).  They do that because they are afraid they are wrong.  The Hero, the Strong Character (or one getting stronger) is focused on What Is Right, and always curious to find any error, misconception, or mistake.  The Hero is about correcting mistakes, and takes joy from each mistake found and corrected.  That's a hero.

Both Science Fiction and Romance are about heroes.  But very often, a combination of SF and Romance depicts a coward becoming a hero.  Many World War II movies depicted that character arc showing the flinching coward becoming a "real man" by finding inner courage.

On the TV Series DEFIANCE,

where several species of aliens have landed on Earth, each with their own culture and customs.  There is an alien culture where males are unquestioned in their (brutal) dominance of females. 
Exposure to Earth's ideas has given the wife of one prominent businessman some ideas about just becoming the boss.

She has framed him for crimes, had him imprisoned, nearly killed him in the street, humiliated him before other males of his species, used his son by her as a patsy and commanded the business interests behind the screen of his son.  She wants dominance in a MIGHT MAKES RIGHT culture that attributes its strength to dominating its women absolutely.

Their religious leader opposes her, and she frames him for murder of several women (wives of the prominent and powerful) and he is publicly executed.  She does this right in front of her husband.  The acting is absolutely superb and makes the show worth watching all by itself.

Now these are not "real" aliens, you understand -- they are Hollywood Aliens created to DEPICT a THEME.

At the inter-cultural interfaces among the various species, ideas cross over.  Each culture has its own definition of bullying, and of the value of the bully to a culture.

And yes, just as humans have a zillion cultures, likewise each alien species has different cultures.

The location is the USA, vastly transformed by destruction at the arrival of these aliens, and continuing threats.  The various aliens and all the different kinds of humans clash, and form uneasy alliances, and in some cases get along quite well.

The entire series is about Power -- who has it, who doesn't, what to do with it.

In the sparse, superficial language of Television Series, this series depicts Power In Culture.

The devastation depicted wipes the whole Israel/Palestinian conflict off the map.  The series doesn't give much about what's going on in the rest of the world, but clearly nothing that was going on is still going on.  Nobody turns up from China or a new Caliphate to take over the US, Canada and Mexico.

The focus is close up on a group of people (and non-humans) just trying to survive long enough to learn to get along.

And it's very much a "Strong Man" and "Gang" dominated society, very much like the "failed state" scenario we saw in The Balkans, and are seeing now in Libya, Somalia, some African areas, and Iraq, etc.  But Iraq might yet pull together something.

Still, DEFIANCE is a science fiction series depicting the failed state pulling itself together -- sort of.  It takes a really big bully to pull such a mess together. 

Is that why humanity is so well supplied with bullies?  Do we need them?  Is humanity's need for the bully-personality (cowardice and all) the reason God created so many bullies?  Or was that just evolution speaking?  All that is raw material from which to craft themes you can depict by using the culture you create for your characters.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Right Of Publicity (The More Famous You Are, The Fewer Your Rights)

Authors are usually liable for what they write about living or deceased people, hence the disclaimers in the front matter of works of fiction, often saying something to the effect that "this is a work of fiction....names, characters, titles and incidents are the product of the author's imagination... any resemblance to any real person living or dead is purely coincidental..."

However, one cannot rely on ones own good taste and discretion, any more than one can rely on a front matter disclaimer to protect oneself. Know the law, and know that the law is not the same in every State or country.

I'd like to share a couple of links to some very enlightening legal analyses on the exploitation of the famous, with kudos to the Drye Wit blog, and lawyers Audrey Jing Faber and Lee S. Brenner

Part 1
Defenses and limitations of claims, and examples of successful Right of Publicity claims.

Part 2
"A person’s right to control the use of his or her name or likeness, however, has its limits. In the context of expressive works, a person’s right to control the use or portrayal of his likeness diminishes as the person’s celebrity or public figure status increases."


Mr. Noriega lost his lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard for the use of his name and likeness in a game; some student athletes won a large settlement in their class action over a game maker's use of their likenesses; one wonders what would happen if a certain North Korean political leader were to sue Sony.

Happy New Year!

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Many Faces of Scrooge

A CHRISTMAS CAROL is my favorite holiday story, and I "collect" (sort of) movie adaptations of it. Not that I systematically collect them, but I own lots of versions. This classic tale surely rates right up there with one of my other favorite books, DRACULA, in the number of different film versions that exist. It's fascinating to notice the differences among adaptations—what elements of the original text the movie-makers decide to include or omit, what newly created bits they insert.

Many film buffs seem to have a special fondness for the vintage Alistair Sim version. This movie adds a lot of material that isn't in the novella, especially in the past, exploring Scrooge's rise to wealth. My own favorite used to be the one starring George C. Scott, until the Patrick Stewart adaptation rose to the top of my list. George Scott's Scrooge, in my opinion, remains grumpy and cynical a bit too long into his supernatural ordeal. Both he and Patrick Stewart, however, embody the dry wit that characterizes Scrooge in the book. The Scott movie adds a bit of dialogue that isn't in the original, where Scrooge lectures Bob Cratchit about the advantages of coats (can be used for years) over coal (expensive and perishable) for warmth. The Stewart version is the only one I've seen that shows the reformed Scrooge attending a church service, as the book mentions in passing. It also features a voice-over epilogue, spoken by Scrooge's nephew Fred, that quotes a line from the book about how Scrooge's "own heart laughed" with joy, not included in any other film. This movie differs from most others by dramatizing Marley's funeral in a brief prologue, a scene only alluded to as back story by Dickens.

Two scenes often omitted from film adaptations come from the Christmas Present segment—the panoramic tour in which the Spirit shows Scrooge people from all walks of life celebrating Christmas and the nightmarish glimpse of the boy "Ignorance" and the girl "Want" under the Spirit's robe. In Christmas Past, I recall only one movie that includes the view of Belle as a happily married woman on the night of Marley's death. Several films, such as the musical SCROOGE, show Scrooge delivering the Christmas turkey to Bob's house personally instead of having it sent. This change saves time but either inserts a form of Scrooge's mock threat to Bob (for coming to work late on December 26) into the turkey delivery scene or omits it altogether.

One thing I always look for in a CHRISTMAS CAROL adaptation is plenty of dialogue from the book. MR. MAGOO'S CHRISTMAS CAROL, surprisingly good for a cartoon rendition, includes a lot of Dickens's wit. It also contains some lovely songs. Because of its short length, though, it leaves out all but the most pivotal scenes, deleting Scrooge's little sister, Fan, and her son, Fred, completely. Disney made an animated version starring Uncle Scrooge McDuck—of course!—with Donald as his nephew, Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit, and Jiminy Cricket as the Ghost of Christmas Past. It's fun to see Scrooge McDuck play his namesake, but this cartoon includes almost none of Dickens's prose beyond "Bah, humbug." The lively MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL, with Gonzo playing Dickens to supply metafictional commentary, has some nice songs and hits most of the familiar notes of the story. Kermit the Frog plays Bob with Miss Piggy (of course) as Mrs. Cratchit, who has the chance to tell off Scrooge at the finale. Viewers get an engaging blend of humor, terror, and pathos. However, it includes Fred but omits Fan, leaving the uninitiated to wonder how Scrooge ended up with a nephew. I don't like Disney's feature-length version with Jim Carrey as much as I want to. It's full of dazzling special effects but, in my opinion, carries the over-the-top visual spectacle too far at some points, at the expense of the story (probably to indulge lovers of 3-D).

Then there are the re-visionings of the story in different times and places. While SCROOGED isn't one of my top favorites, there are things about it I enjoy, such as the genre-savvy protagonist, who's actually filming a live-action CHRISTMAS CAROL TV show, and the fact that this version is one of the few, if not the only one, in which the protagonist receives a happy ending with his "Belle" analog. A DIVA'S CHRISTMAS CAROL, which I re-watch almost every year, may not be deep, but it ingeniously modernizes the original story with a female protagonist—Ebony Scrooge, a black superstar singer who came up from a broken home in poverty and trampled on all her human relationships along the way. Given her name and the fact that her assistant is called Bob Cratchit, with a sick little boy named Tim, the viewer has to suspend disbelief and accept that in the world of the movie Charles Dickens never wrote the book. There's at least one more female Scrooge version, starring Cicely Tyson as Ebenita, but I haven't seen it. I highly recommend AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL, set in the Depression with Henry Winkler as a wealthy man made bitter by a hard life. Being a orphan when we first see him in the Christmas Past visions, he doesn't have even the tenuous family ties the original Scrooge tries to reject. In the flashbacks, he ends up turning his back on his father figure, the story's Fezziwig analog, who rescued him from the orphanage and taught him a craft. AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL doesn't adapt the original so much as transform it through a fresh incarnation of the story in an American, early 20th-century setting.

Some films try to answer questions left unresolved by Dickens. Why does young Ebenezer's father banish him to boarding school? At least one movie proposes that Scrooge Senior hates the sight of his son because Ebenezer's mother died giving birth to him. That can't be true, because his sister Fan is clearly younger than he. (The original text explicitly says so.) It seems unlikely that Scrooge Senior remarried and had a daughter if he was so bitter about his wife's death that he rejected his son for it. How did Scrooge meet his fiancee, Belle? The movies that address this question always have them meet at Fezziwig's Christmas party. Why did young Scrooge have to struggle to make his fortune (as he and Belle discuss in a flashback) if his father had enough money to pay for boarding school, send a carriage to bring him home, and purchase his apprenticeship with old Fezziwig? Did Scrooge Senior lose his money somewhere along the way? Or did he disinherit Ebenezer and leave the estate to Fan? Then why does Fan's son, Fred, have less material wealth than Scrooge (even though Scrooge makes no use of it to buy himself a comfortable life)? Scrooge, by the way, labels Fred "poor," which he clearly isn't; that's just a reflection of Scrooge's deeply distorted world-view. Fred obviously has a pleasantly middle-class lifestyle (he throws a Christmas party and employs at least one servant). When Scrooge dies alone in the Christmas Yet to Come vision, where's Fred? Given his character as shown in the present, it's hard to imagine his abandoning the old man. Maybe Scrooge finally pushed him away once too often. Or maybe when Fred dropped by to invite him to dinner that year, Scrooge managed to conceal how sick he was. Above all, what's wrong with Tiny Tim? To fit the observed conditions, his disease has to be (1) chronic but not immediately fatal, (2) crippling, (3) ultimately though not inevitably fatal, but (4) able to be successfully treated by 19th-century medical science, otherwise Scrooge's money wouldn't save him. Here's an article exploring two theories:

What Was Ailing Tiny Tim?

And here's a discussion of another possibility:

Tiny Tim Diagnosis

Regardless, to recall his familiar line, "God bless us every one!" Merry Christmas and Happy Yule!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Reviews 11 by Jacqueline Lichtenberg Artificial Intelligence

Reviews 11

Artificial Intelligence
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Robert Heinlein created the AI "Mike" who "runs" the Lunar Colony infrastructure.  He was absolutely adorable and readers just fell in love with him.

Mike wasn't the first AI in Science Fiction.  Heinlein had created smart cars and other writers added all kinds of AI scenarios.

Of course, the Horror writers grabbed that and ran with it.  The human phobia against things smarter than ourselves (or more powerful or ubiquitous -- lions or Army Ants, Ebola, West Nile Virus, ) is the main subject of Horror.  Frankenstein "monster" is another example of what we create being more powerful than ourselves.  Jekyl and Hide also show this problem in symbolic ways. 

Horror is about why you can never win.

Romance is about how you can always win.

Put the two "genres" together and you have an unbeatable combination.

That combination is symbolized by Artificial Intelligence.

Asimov created R. Daneel Olivaw -- a robot/android figure many female readers had a crush on.  Roddenberry modeled Data on that.

And of course Star Wars contributed AI examples.  Oddly, the less humanoid R2D2 is the most crush-worthy.

The trend continues as we get closer and closer to real AI.

Here is a grab bag of good reads to consider if you want to play with the story potential of Artificial Intelligence.

First we have a novel by the award winning, immensely popular writer Robert J. Sawyer (who is very justifyably famous). 

RED PLANET BLUES is a novel work that starts with the material of his Hugo and Nebula award nominated novella, "Identify Theft."

It's an odd read if you have read the novella.  The characters, setting, and mystery-plot (the main character is a Private Eye on Mars) are all so memorable you get disoriented, "I've read this before, haven't I?" 

But after you get beyond where the novella ended, the whole thing is just one whopping good read, filled with characters driven by their Relationships.  Romance is not the main factor here -- but you can see in the way they related to each other that pairings are in the thin Martian wind.

And the technology that drives an old space ship buried in the dunes of Mars is operated by the onboard A.I.  -- gotta meet that one to appreciate what we might be able to do. 

It's a Hard Boiled Detective On Mars story -- and there aren't many of those.  Maybe you want to write one.

Second comes some great humor in a Fantasy Universe.

Simon R. Green has been working two series of novels, two sets of characters, all set in one, huge Fantasy Universe complete with dimension travel, "forces" unknown, and massive amounts of politics.

I can't say which is my favorite - the Nightside or the Secret Histories series, but when you need to energize your sense of humor, try some of these novels.

This is one of those $10.99 Kindle e-books that Amazon fights publishers about -- with authors caught in the middle.

The "Secret Histories" are about a family of Guardians who wear magic-seeming armor (from another dimension) and fight Evil across dimensions, defending Earth. 


Should give you a list of the books in order.

Third we have a series by Laura E. Reeve that I find absolutely captivating.

And this one has a hot love-story -- well, actually there's good serious Romance threading through the whole series which is labeled A Major Ariane Kedros Novel.

Ariane Kedros is an alias this character wears.  She was in the armed services in an interstellar war and carried out a mission that ended the war -- but probably destroyed a Star and its inhabited planets.  When mustered out of the service, she was given a new Identity.

Now she is partners with a guy who owns a space ship and prospects for Alien Artifacts among the stars.  Together they found one, and it's being explored by the xenologists -- there's big money at stake.

Meanwhile, they ran afoul of the interstellar version of The Mob via a friend who was kind of in the gray area between law and crime.  This fellow bequeathed them an AI which now resides (illegally) on their space ship, but the law is after them, which will entail the discovery and perhaps destruction of this AI (who you will love).

4th is another new series discovery that I found to be a high-impact, refreshingly different, nice-old-fashioned, unique Universe, with great, tightly worded writing (hits all my requirements), and has made me a fan of the author, Alex Hughes.

The series is titled Mindspace Investigations (yes I love Private Eye novels).

This series has been likened to another favorite of mine, The Dresden Files, (the forensic wizard who is a Private Eye ) but though the plotting methodology is as intricate and brilliant, the tone and flavor is totally different.

Hughes captures a tone and flavor using details of her background world that just sizzle with possibilities.

The Dresden Series borders on "The Dark" but Mindspace Investigations has dark-horrible things in it yet (like reality) is basically a "Light" universe.

Dresden Files In Order

In Mindspace Investigations, people do nasty-bad things with horrendous Powers that Hughes calls "Ability" -- and the main character is pretty much beaten down to a bare shadow of his former self -- yet the total picture comes out with a Star Trek like optimism that is stronger than Jim Butcher creates with Dresden's universe.

Hughes' main character tells his story in First Person, and adroitly informs us of the history of his universe.

On Earth, we gott to the Internet of Things years before this series starts.  With all the smart-devices connected an AI is born.  The AI tries to take over the world.  The people with Ability (espers) fight the AI and win, and in the end (long ago) hacked out a treaty with Normals that allows the Guild of the Abled to have complete sovereignty over the Abled.

Our main character is a high level telepath who was a professor of telepathic skills until various political things happened at the Guild and he ended up expelled to die on the streets.  But he didn't die.  He got a job as a consultant for the police.

Now he is seconded to Homicide on occasion to "read" murder scenes for what exactly happened and who did it which is apparent in "Mindspace."

Because of budget cuts, he has to get a certification, and the only thing he can go for is a Private Eye license -- but he's a felon by technicality of the law, so he's having trouble there.

Now you see why I love Mindspace Investigations -- I get ESP, a Private Eye, oh, and a MENTAL LINK between the private eye and the homicide cop (a woman I can really admire who gets migraines), plus a Guild as interesting as the Telepath Guild in Babylon-5. 

Lots of emotional ebb and flow -- lots of intrigue, mystery, suspense. 

If you want to top that, give me a Romance WITH an AI who is, maybe a Private Eye.

Alex Hughes has compiled all my favorite things, and INCLUDED a history of AI impacting our real world to create this really odd future world with backwards seeming technology.

Really, you MUST catch up on Alex Hughes and then follow how this develops.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Back To The ConFusion (January 16th - 18th)

I (Rowena, the alien romances Sunday blogger) will be attending my first science fiction/fantasy convention in mid-January. It's the literature-focused "ConFusion" and will at the Hilton Doubletree in Dearborn, Michigan.

If any friends of this alien romances blog will be there, I'd love to meet you.

The Literarature tract Guest of Honor, is Karen Lord, multiple award-winning author of Redemption in Indigo and Best of All Possible Worlds.

The Music Guest of Honor is Canadian recording artist & touring musician Heather Dale.

The Gaming Guests of Honor are Shanna Germain (a writer for and the lead editor of both Numenera and The Strange) and Monte Cook (professional writer and award-winning game designer).

The Science Guest of Honor is Dr. Cynthia Chestek, a professor and researcher in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The Honored Fan Guest is Aaron Thul, who has served on the convention of committee of ConFusion for 8 years and the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association board for 3 years. 

Subterranean Press is once again bringing Special Guests: Steven Erikson, author of the critically-acclaimed Malazan Book of the FallenJoe Abercrombie, author of the best-selling fantasy books The First Law Trilogy – The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings, and Ted Chiang, Nebula and Hugo-award winning short fiction writer.
This is my schedule

Friday 6pm: Every Creature (Real and Fantastical) Poops
"You may have read the book Everyone Poops, but it's so human-centric. What about mermaids, centaurs, and other fantastical creatures? Let's see if we can analogize from real species to arrive at a theory of fantastical pooping. (Caution: conversation may stray into food, sex and gestation.)"

Saturday 11am: Authors Who Game
Authors talk about their favorite games, of any type.

Saturday 12pm: Curing the Common Cold
Will we ever cure the common cold? What about the common cancer? 

Saturday 3pm: Mass Autograph Session

Saturday 5pm: Where the %*$# Are All My Bookstores?!
"Ah, the good old days when you could just drive down the street to pick up your favorite book. Or is it easier now to just click a "Buy" button? How has the book selling industry changed in the last 20 years, and are bookstores going to quietly disappear?"

It sounds like fun. Does anyone have any tips for me about sci-fi cons? Any thoughts about any of the topics? Does one wear costume?

Best wishes,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Biology of Blood-Drinkers

From the author's note in a recent vampire novel, I discovered a book that would be fascinating and valuable to all writers who create vampires as well as anybody interested in the often "alien" weirdness of animal biology and behavior in our terrestrial ecosystems. DARK BANQUET (2008), by bat expert Bill Schutt, subtitled "Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures," surveys the "obligate sanguivores" (creatures that feed exclusively on blood) of the animal kingdom. The animals discussed range from vampire bats (the only mammal in this category) to leeches, bedbugs, ticks, etc., with glances at a few creatures that sometimes consume blood but don't live on it, such as "vampire finches." Anticoagulants and anesthetics in the saliva of vampire bats and leeches have inspired similar features of the naturally evolved vampire species in my own fiction. It's intriguing that, because of the high volume of water to nutrients (mainly protein) in blood, vampire bats have to ingest a large percentage of their body weight every day, yet leeches and bedbugs can go for weeks or months without feeding. What makes the difference—the metabolic rate of mammals versus invertebrates? If so, my own vampires' ability to survive in a dormant state, without nourishment, theoretically forever must be a bit of a hand-wave, but after all, it's fiction. I've also postulated that my vampires' saliva has antiseptic properties that keep the bite wounds from getting infected; the saliva of human beings and some other animals does contain antibacterial chemicals, but this book doesn't mention any such qualities in bats or leeches.

One vampire bat trait I definitely did not adopt for my fictional species is the need to get rid of excess water to make themselves light enough to fly away after drinking from a victim. The bats often start urinating even while they're still feeding. Far from glamorous!

After the opening chapter on vampire bats, enlivened (like the rest of the book) with personal anecdotes and observations, Schutt devotes a section to the physiology and chemistry of blood in the context of the history of medical science. One topic I wish he'd covered more thoroughly, instead of briefly mentioning, is the nutritional content of blood and the digestive adaptations needed for an animal to survive on what his final chapter labels "A Tough Way to Make a Living." I've often wondered how many calories are in a pint of blood and have never been able to find a definitive answer.

For me, the most fascinating tidbit of information in the book is that vampire bats have been observed to snuggle up to the brood patches on hens' chests. The hen relaxes, contentedly settling down as if the predator is a chick, and allows the bat to feed. On other occasions, a hen may respond to a bat on her back by passively assuming the mating posture, as if mounted by a rooster. So my premise that members of my vampire species lull or seduce human victims into willingly surrendering their lifeblood has a factual basis in biology!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Theme-Symbolism Integration Part 1: You Can't Fight City Hall by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Symbolism Integration
Part 1
You Can't Fight City Hall
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous post on Symbolism:

Is fighting City Hall romantic?  You bet it is! 

But first I want to point you to a short post by Margaret L. Carter here on Alien Romance.  She surveys the effect of going back in Time by watching very old TV Series and how those series depict characters.

The dissonance she refers to measures the sudden change in social norms.  It's too sudden for humans to adjust without psychological stress, according to Alvin Toffler in FUTURE SHOCK change in social norms.  I think we are still in the midst of that change, and therefore Romance Writers can leverage the chaos into massive commercial success bigger than mere destruction-derby, action, raw sex, or violence.


So let's journey back in time, then apply what we can learn.

One of the hottest hunks of an era was the guy who brought down the mob-corruption in Chicago when the mob had total control of "City Hall."  And the actor who portrayed that sexiest guy was likewise a heart stealing, larger than life, ultimate target for any woman worth her salt.

Here is an Amazon Video page with some of the titles available for a refresher course in that era.

The Untouchables Instant Video

And here is a Kevin Costner remake of that story:

The background theme in the mob story is "corruption."  Corruption is the way to "do business" and/or "Corruption is Dishonorable" and/or "Corruption is a figment of the imagination of those who want to control you."

The themes of Corruption are a theme-bundle, a set of independent but related themes that can be used to drive the stories of a whole set of characters who are in external conflict (plot), but each learning different lessons from being opposed.

Outside of a mere dictionary, the term "corruption" will be defined in a myriad different ways.  "This is corrupt."  No, nonono! "THAT is corrupt!"  "No actually neither is corruption at all." 

"Corruption" is a term with a huge, negative semantic loading (like EVIL, and we all admire the kickass Heroine who fights EVIL and protects our world from invasion and domination by Evil), but unlike Evil Corruption doesn't doesn't come in "Black" vs. "White." 

So with the shift of Generations, as time marches on, we see our very language morphing, words taking on new connotations, new definitions, and being used in new ways. 

Compare that Kevin Costner remake of The Untouchables with the earlier version from 1959 and watch that difference:

Now, consider "Corruption" in the abstract.  The concept lends itself handily to Thematic Statement -- what particular action in which situation actually equals "corruption" and what action does not qualify.  This is potent stuff, and crazy-sexy stuff, too because it makes or breaks Relationships. 

A woman looks for a "strong" man, a man who will stand for what she believes in, fight to the death to protect her and his children, never break his promises. 

Marriages founder on such broken promises, even if "Oh, that's not what I meant" comes into play when accused of breaking a marriage vow.

You see this argument unfolding in today's headlines, all the dodging and weaving to redefine what an oath actually means, what the US Constitution actually means (nevermind meant long ago) and what that has to do with "reality." 

Nobody knows how to resolve such an argument.  The internal parameters are fuzzy, foggy, blurred, and there's no concrete definition of what's right and what's wrong, nevermind what's legal and what's illegal.

This befuddlement affects people of different ages differently and thus your Target Audience is divided by age group.  To capture more than one age-group, you need characters of different ages bespeaking the attitudes and values of their own generation.

Remember how we broke down the Generations among your target audience according to what Sign of the Zodiac Pluto was in at their birth? 

---------quote from that Part 6-----------
Gen Y came of age just as the possibility of video games emerged, and the home computer became financially feasible.

PLUTO IN SCORPIO kids -- only 10 years worth of kids -- grew up with computers in GRAMMAR SCHOOL classrooms and at home and became the market for the most violent video games. Pluto rules Scorpio, the Natural 8th House - when Pluto was in Scorpio it was its most POWERFUL. For the 1/12th of those kids born with Pluto in Scorpio in their own 8th House, Pluto issues are likely to rule the whole life.

There was a huge baby boom in the 1990's. Though it's only a 10 year span, 1985-1995 saw an unusual increase in the demographic significance of that generation who are now entering college and the lesser educated workforce.

That Pluto in Scorpio generation turned out the most young voters ever in this previous Presidential election, and you've all seen their vehemence (power) in political rallies (both sides of the issues!)

The generation reared on the most violent video games is determined to assert their right to their inheritance, their rightful possession by dint of the fact that they exist.

Employers have already noted that the current 18-20 year olds they hire are mortally offended by any workplace rule that prohibits texting during work hours. Employers have no right to restrict behavior or communication during work hours. (I saw a study about that posted online, and saw several interviews about it on TV, but didn't save any references, sorry. I may have referred to it in a previous post here.)

The Pluto in Scorpio generation (only 10 years long) has passed on their taste for video games to the Pluto in Sagittarius generation.

PLUTO IN SAGITTARIUS, 1995 - 2008, are still just babies, and their buying power is still mostly controlled by Gen Y parents.

But for us, it's interesting to note the success of TWILIGHT with the Pluto in Sagittarius teens.

Gen X acquired a real taste for the teen-vampire novel. The sex appeal of Vampires with the edgy connotations of risking death is soooo PLUTO!

YA shelves filled with vampires in the 1980's, which naturally gave rise to BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER a little later, and all sorts of vampire spinoffs for older people.

TWILIGHT and the urban-fantasy vision of reality as a thin film over a seething cauldron of evil is intensely popular with Pluto in Scorpio AND Pluto in Sagittarius.

Noel Tyl, an astrologer's astrologer, has identified the axis in the natal chart that describes one's deepest anxieties, fears, nightmares, repressed fears -- the kind of deep, inarticulate fears that rule our behavior and which we rationalize.

That axis is the 3rd House/ 9th House axis.

The Natural 3rd House is Gemini, ruled by Mercury (thought, communication, short trips, fast moves, and also indecisiveness and restlessness).

The Natural 9th House is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, and all about Philosophy, Courts, Social Justice, the generous and magnanimous King, the kindness of the world, success by expansion, growth. Sagittarius is all about open-honesty as the adjacent sign of Scorpio is all about hidden realities. Sag is long trips, foreign countries, PUBLISHING!!!

Kids with Pluto in Sagittarius are the teens who gobbled up Harry Potter (foreign published) when they were 9 years old, TWILIGHT etc, in their teens. TWILIGHT treats the darker (Pluto is "dark") aspects of the vampire as "out there" and mostly ignorable, while the vampires that are "in here" are trustworthy and above all that dark stuff - probably. In TWILIGHT the nasty part is "hidden" (Pluto).

Marketers have noted a leveling off of the growth of computer games sales (not shrinking, just not growing as fast as there are no more Pluto in Scorpio kids coming to buying age)

The trend in films toward ever more exaggerated violence and destruction, spectacle for its own sake, (TRANSFORMERS?) pleasures and amuses Pluto in Scorpio folks in some way that mystifies the Pluto in Leo folks. And I don't think it's just because the Pluto in Leo folks are older. I think it's because the Pluto in Leo folks have an Amusement Button that's configured differently.

When the Pluto in Sagittarius kids are 18-25, what films will they be taking their girlfriends to? What games will they spend their money on? What will amuse them life-long? What songs will they popularize? (already, I see lyrics changing)

The dark, ugly subject matter of the first wave of popularized rap is giving way to something else, but it's gradual.

If the Pluto in Scorpio generation pushed the violence in video games beyond all previous taboos, what taboo will the Pluto in Sagittarius generation (the obese kid generation -- Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius is famous for obesity, the JOLLY FAT WOMAN image is usually Jupiter on the Ascendant) what taboo will this new generation expand out of all sense and reason? What will obsess them as violence and destruction obsesses Pluto in Scorpio?
----------end quote-------

Yes, it's a long post, and that is a tiny slice out of the middle.  It was posted in 2009.

I still think understanding the generations, and the attitudes they have toward Government (what it should be used for, what it can do effectively, what it must never do, etc) is a vital key for writers who are aiming at a particular Demographic which is seen by publishers or producers as currently gobbling up a certain type of fiction.

The full effect of a generational obsession is not seen until that generation has a) money they earned, and b) power over others (e.g. getting promotions to management positions).  The effect is not seen in politics unless there is a significant portion of the total population born in that time-span.

For commercial purposes, industry (Public Relations Firms mostly) have named the generations and assigned them boundaries in years, then attempted to parse the statistics of the mass-behavior of these people.

Forbes Magazine did an article in July 2014 examining the breakdown of generations, and highlighting individual biographies to illustrate a point.


And it contains the key graphic writers can gain from, a chart defining the generations in percent of population, and their behavior at different life-stages.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Improving the DMCA Notice and Takedown System

A reminder that the USPTO and NTIA will host the sixth public meeting of the Multistakeholder Forum on improving the operation of the DMCA notice and takedown system. The meeting will be held on December 18, 2014 from 9:00am-12:00pm at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA. The link to access the live webcast for this meeting is: http://new.livestream.com/uspto/multistakeholderDEC2014. The phone bridge information for remote participation is: 1-888-453-9955; Passcode – 6039037. An agenda for the meeting is available here:http://www.uspto.gov/ip/global/copyrights/Sixth_Public_Meeting_Agenda.pdf .
For more information about the Multistakeholder Forum, please visit the Multistakeholder Tab at: https://www.signup4.net/public/ap.aspx?EID=THEG32E&OID=148. For an archive of documentation relating to past meetings of the Multistakeholder Forum please visit  http://www.uspto.gov/ip/global/copyrights/index.jsp.
To register for the meeting, please follow the instructions at:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Separating Art from Artist

The Bill Cosby scandal reminded me of a topic that came up in passing at the Chessiecon panel on "Reaching Readers": In this era of all-pervasive social media, readers expect to interact in a quasi-personal way with authors, and revelations about an author's personal life can influence his or her reading audience. Where flaws and sins of creative artists in earlier generations might not have been widely known until after their deaths, nowadays fans will inevitably learn about misbehavior and rumors thereof—and may reject the artist's work on the basis of his or her character.

If you've admired the work of an author, actor, singer, etc. and later learn that the artist has done deplorable things in private life, do you feel the work loses its value? Don't the admirable qualities of the work still exist after the revelation of the creator's sins, just as they did before those sins were made public? Do fans stop watching movies or football games because an actor or athlete has committed reprehensible actions? Some do, of course; many don't.

My personal feeling, after long consideration, is that the value of the work isn't negated by the flaws or sins of the creator. A good book remains a good book even if written by a bad person (or a person known or rumored to have done bad things). Yet I can grok how some people might balk at contributing to the income of a writer whose character and actions they deplore. Does it make a difference if the offender is dead and past being harmed or benefited by boycotts or sales? Does it matter how long the artist has been dead? By all accounts, some classic authors and poets were dreadful people (e.g., Byron). Yet their flawed lives don't keep them out of English lit textbooks.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Theme-Plot Integration Part 15 - Protecting a Community by Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Theme-Plot Integration
Part 15
Protecting a Community
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

In Part 14 of the Theme-Plot Integration series,
we took a hard look at Ruling a Community -- what it takes to worldbuild a social environment for your Fantasy World, or for a Contemporary Romance, or a Historical.  Science Fiction on other worlds likewise takes a great deal of hard thinking about the social matrix your character is embedded within.

We noted:
1st House defines the Self.  7th House defines the one-to-one Relationships, but in some forms of Astrology 7th House represents also The Public.

What does it take to be a RULER of a Community?

Well, first, the only times Ruling ever works historically, you see that the Ruler was a member of the Community (not an outsider -- that always fails dramatically which makes good story fodder).

So in effect, a Ruler from a Community is subconsciously imposing his own personal values on the community, but he got those values by growing up inside the community, so though "ruling" implies "imposition" what he's imposing was there already.

Think of it as singing on key in a choir and the Ruler just steps out and does a Solo.  Has to be a solo from the same song everyone is singing behind him.  The Ruler's values have to harmonize with those of the Ruled -- or the Community fragments.

So Humanity has been on a millennia long search for the operational relationship between Self and Other.

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

You'll find a list of the posts on Theme-Plot Integration here:

And the series on Theme-Character Integration is listed here:

And as you know, I'm a big fan of fiction based on themes "ripped from the headlines" -- as long as it's the THEME you rip, not real characters, places etc.  If you are writing non-fiction, you have to get permission to use copyrighted work, so be careful what you rip out of the headlines.

In order to transform a "headline" -- or generally spotlighted public issue -- into a story or novel, you have to bore down deep into the material and extract the theme.

That's what we're going to do in this post today. 

One of the hottest political topics in the USA, and maybe the world right now, is the issue of cyber warfare,  Identity Theft, Industrial Espionage, Patent and Copyright infringement.

All of this rather abstract warfare is going on within the context of the  transgression of national borders.

In the Middle East, Isis renamed itself the Islamic State and trampled right over national borders from Syria to Iraq to Lebanon, and shows no signs of wanting to stop.  They are trying to carve out a new nation, then expand into a replay of the Ottoman Empire.

Some of the best Romances I've read have been set in the historical venue of the Ottoman Empire.  Think about Elizabeth Peters.

In Africa, similar groups are trying to move the borders of nations.

In the Americas, people from Iran, Syria, Iraq, etc. and Central American countries have poured over the US southern border at a time when there is a cultural movement among Mexicans living in the USA asserting that Arizona, New Mexico and parts of California and Texas actually must be re-possessed by Mexico.  (I didn't make that up!)

I follow these news headlines and park stories in a flipboard "magazine" called Pluto in Capricorn
because at this time Pluto is transiting Capricorn.  Pluto is about power, about transformation, and Capricorn is about government, discipline.  Capricorn is "The Power Behind The Throne" while Leo is about "The Throne" and its occupant.

Leo is about leadership, ruling, reigning.  Capricorn is the power behind that leadership that puts it in place then keeps it in place.

Today, that means Leo is about who has won the Election, and Capricorn is about the source of power that made that happen (Money, Media, Scandals hidden).  Pluto transits tend to open hidden scandals to the light of day -- and that generally happens with explosive power.  It's not a surprise (that's Uranus) but it is a revelation, sometimes a religious one. 

Pluto is rules Scorpio, and thus is all about Secrets.  The Power Behind the throne, not on it.

So one of the objectives of those "in power" who remain behind the throne, invisible, out of the media spotlight, is simply to remain in power, to be able to predict what large "masses" of people will do under given circumstances.

Thus the primary tool today of the Power Behind the Throne is Public Relations -- the now math based analysis of how to instigate herd movement in huge numbers of people (e.g. win an election).

The current trend is away from making LAWS to enforce behavior and toward making REGULATIONS to enforce behavior.

Regulations are made by appointees, often not subject to legislative approval, (EPA, NHS, NSA, IRS, Department of Education and other alphabet soup agencies), and thus not responsive to voters. 

If there's a regulation that you don't like, you are absolutely helpless to protest.

If there's a law you don't like, you can vote against your Representative at the next election.

You can speak out against that elected representative who voted for the law you don't like.

That open discussion keeps the conversation between the Throne and the Community.

It does, however, circumvent the Power Behind The Throne.  It can derail the plans of the Powers That Be. 

Regulations are made to please the Powers That Be.  Laws are made to please the voters.  The two interests, in a well knit community, will largely coincide and become indistinguishable from one another.

The Powers That Be behind the throne strive mightily to keep all control initiatives as regulations, not law.

They need to keep them out of the headlines and away from the knowledge of those who would object and call elected legislators to do something about it.

 So I was scanning my feed on Google+ and got interested in a conversation on reading, and disallowing children to read certain things.

This is a conversation about, long ago, students reading Nancy Drew in school were "forbidden" by parents and teachers from reading such terribly bad books.  It's bad to be exposed to such bad art.  Others chimed in with lists of their most cherished kid's books that parents and teachers tried to prevent them from reading, and their strategies of defeating such restrictions.  Readers vs. non-readers.

The conversation got quite long and far-reaching, and a comment emerged:

Another person joined the conversation and noted that in High School, she had to attend a compulsory pep rally for school spirit, held during school hours.  She did, but kept her text books open and studied, intent on college and a bright future.  She was sent to the Principle for discipline, argued and won the case, didn't have to serve detention.

The incident the comment cited was some while ago.  Would that happen in today's world?  Would a teacher order a student to not-study during school hours in order to participate in whipping up an artificial emotional peak? 

I thought about that problem carefully, and realized it is a Headline Issue teased apart down to the thread of theme behind it.  But connected to that thread of theme are many other themes forming the warp and woof of 21st Century attitudes. 

These themes form the perplexing set of fallacies upon which our current, real-world decisions are being made.  Politicians are now calling each other "liars" and applying euphemisms to avoid using that incendiary world.  Soon the word liar won't be incendiary simply from being used to describe someone who is telling the truth.

All that brings us back to the series of posts on the use of Fallacy in creating fiction.





The real-world fallacy under discussion here today is the fallacy of Protection.

Protection is very sexy, and a core element in any good Romance.

It's deep in human nature.  The pregnant female must be protected by a capable male, or the offspring will not survive birth.  The child must be protected by parents. 

The world is full of predators that eat humans (including human predators who eat souls), and those who can not protect themselves must be protected for the good of the community (or family).

A community that can not protect the young does not survive.

It's that primal.

But how does a community produce capable protectors?

By what process are protectors made? 

Those are questions spearheading the explication of A Thematic Statement - the core of your reason to write this novel. 

The theme is the reason your intended readers want to read the novel.  To get a browser to buy your novel, you must state the theme in the first sentence, with an enticing hook, a concretization of that theme.

A question is one way to construct a hook. 

For a novel with the theme "How A Community Produces Protectors" might be something like, "I never let my little brother get his feet wet." 

And then a conversation between the brothers indicating that the little brother, as an adult, does not feel capable of protecting (possibly a pregnant wife, or pregnant ex-wife?).  Something about the big brother always yanking a problem out of little brother's hands and fixing it for him, then being steaming mad that he has to do everything himself. 

See?  That is a show-don't-tell explicating the theme of "how protectors are made." 

Little brother was not allowed to mature into a protector -- and by disallowing that maturation, big brother managed to wreck his own emotional maturation.  Why?  Drunken parents?  Choose something that fits your theme to explain why these brothers just didn't make it to adulthood.

Or is that a fallacy?  Are protectors born, not nurtured?  Are only males capable of protective instincts?  (well, there wouldn't be any humans if human females weren't protective of their young).  What kind of Alien would have no protective instincts?

We all know the sexy jolt of suddenly finding yourself the object of someone else's protective instinct.  Like sucking, it is a primal reflex.

We suck at the breast for LIFE.  And our lives depend on being PROTECTED.  Sex is about protection.  (rape is the opposite)

But how does the CHILD become a protective ADULT? 

Is that romance novel material? 

So I thought about the issue of censoring kids' reading, prohibiting certain material, forcing other material. 

Everyone on the Google + discussion seemed to agree that Nancy Drew and similar works should not be prohibited, especially not by school teachers who had an urge (or directive from The Powers That Be) to regulate children's reading material.   

So I thought about other current school campus regulations that have only recently been enacted. 

Just as contradictory as prohibiting Nancy Drew is the current regulation enacted ostensibly for Security (a euphemism for Protection) of policing campus visitors.

We all know the shooting incidents highlighted by the media, but few of us know that the amount of such violence and the damage it does has actually decreased over decades.  Research some statistics and see what you find.  Many studies claim an increase; many claim a decrease.  It seems the current goal is zero incidents.

There's another theme in that.  "Is perfect control of all human behavior the responsibility of the government?" 

To defend students from all potential incidents, there is a new regulation (possibly not in your community yet) of not just forcing school visitors to identify themselves with photo-ID (guilty until proven innocent), but also to surrender said ID into a non-secure location.

Campus visitors must surrender a driver's license or unique photo-ID to a secretary who doesn't have even a Snowden-level security clearance, working behind a desk that doesn't even have Bank level security screens -- and in order to gain access to meetings on the campus, one must leave that secretary without a receipt for your unique identifier.

Such a card that actually identifies you is a card which is worth a bundle on the black market what with all the illegal immigrants a small portion of whom may be criminals, but all of whom are desperate for legit ID.  There's a whole industry devoted to turning stolen ID cards into illegal ID's.

But most people don't know such an industry exists.

Until you've had your Identity stolen, you have no idea how precious it is or how easy it is to steal (or the raped feeling that comes with that theft.)

Without your ID card, you are trapped on that campus as if it were an actual prison with barbed wire atop cement walls.  If you surrender your driver's license (and are law-abiding), you are a prisoner, and you've done that to yourself "voluntarily" in exchange for the privilege of attending whatever meeting you might be there for (PTA or whatever.) 

If someone with authority doesn't like what you say at that meeting, you might want to walk out and leave, but you can't if they won't give you your ID back until the Police arrive (even if you didn't do anything illegal).  Or you then would commit the crime of driving without a driver's license (unless you can get a ride -- maybe that's why UBER is so disliked by Authority?)

Do you see plot-threads spinning out of the core theme here?  Plot is fabricated out of theme -- remember that.  Character (strong and otherwise) is fabricated out of theme.  And the themes that sell books are the ones that make headlines. 

A Strong Character is likely to be a mature adult with full blown Protective Tendencies.  Such a person is likely to attend PTA and other community meetings, often held on school campuses (a lot of Hot Guys turn up at such meetings).

A strong character with protective tendencies who loves his/her Community is very likely to upset someone in authority from time to time.  That's the nature of being a Strong Character.

THEME: Should such Powers That Be have the ability to constrain the movements of a Strong Character? 

PLOT: What if the Power That Is makes a regulation and requires a hireling to enforce that regulation -- thus avoiding being available to Strong Characters who object to the regulation?  Powers That Be types of people are spotlight averse by nature.  They put a patsy up to take the fall for them. 

Already you see a cast of characters unfolding from a simple thematic element, and plots galore abound as soon as a Strong Character steps onto the stage.

So back to Regulations Today.  So after the meeting, you must (MUST -- the powers that be decree, must!) stand in a long, slow, line to turn in your visitor's pass and get your ID back provided nobody ahead of you in line has claimed it and absconded with it. 

A theft would make a nifty plot complication, but it works also as a plot-driver (the problem that must be resolved at The End.)

What if the stolen ID belonged to your female lead character, and the Hot Guy steps in and chases down the thief, tackles the Regulation-Maker and forces the State to make a law against denuding school campus visitors of their ID. 

Identifying yourself to gain entry to a public place is a reasonable invasion of privacy because the place is public.  Surrendering your Identification, thus imprisoning yourself, is not a reasonable invasion of privacy and could make a plot-driver if the Hot Guy at the meeting turned out to be a Lawyer, or have a little brother who is a lawyer.

Theft is a good plot-driver because for hours, your ID has been available to Identify Thieves for copying.

I know a bit about what can be done with hot-ID, and it is a card you NEVER let out of your sight. 

Even in supermarkets now, clerks don't swipe your card,  you do it with your own hands. 

Stripping the honest of their ID prevents the dishonest (or crazy) from performing illegal acts on school premises. 

How could attacking the law-abiding PROTECTORS (parents) benefit the PROTECTED (kids in school). 

Students in CUSTODY of a school gain no protection from adults surrendering their Identity. 

Custody.  That's a legal term for in jail. 

Kids are guilty until proven innocent.  It's more like The Inquisition than like modern courts -- you just can't prove your innocence if you're a kid, because some other kid somewhere MIGHT actually do what you're being actively prevented from doing (even if you wouldn't.)

Immaturity is a sin.  The punishment is custody.

But the sentence is only 18 years, and you might live to 100, so shrug.

You've heard the term "over-protective parent." 

Good parenting consists of total protection of the new-born, gradually (ever so gradually and not in a steady progressing way) lifting that protection.  Protection of children is like training wheels on a bike -- left on too long it creates dependence.

If, all through High School, we are kept in a vacuum sealed campus and protected from ourselves, as humans we remain children even after sexual maturity. 

The Powers That Be behind all Political Parties, find an adult population expecting life to be "safe" (without risk -- because such over-protected humans never learn risk-management by getting hurt and paying a price for bad judgement) much easier to manage, to control, to sell things to, to get votes from. 

Such adults, oddly enough, become much more amenable to launching into a war just because someone in authority points at a threat and tells them the only way to deal with that threat is war.

A child who hasn't learned risk-management the hard way becomes an adult who lets "someone else" manage risk for them.  Such an adult is not a "Strong Character."



So that's what happens to a child who goes all the way through college on campuses that are "protected" as if they are playpens, not the real world.

But what of the parent who goes to meetings at such campuses all the years of raising their children?

Parents required to do such things as surrender their Identification for the privilege of exercising a right lose all sense of requiring of themselves self-discipline and honorable behavior. 

Keep in mind, schools are funded by the taxes that the parents pay.  Schools work FOR the parents attending meetings.  Yet they treat the parents as if the parents were still children, imposing regulations, requiring this and that.  The thematic message is that no matter what you do, how old you are, how many children you have, or who you vote for, you are never -- ever -- going to be a decision-maker.  You are a school kid when you come back as a parent.

So throughout life, to survive (at work, play, and while parenting) one must be absolutely submissive, and set aside one's Identity.

OK, a card is just a symbolic identity, but we're talking fiction-writing and in fiction symbolism is a key ingredient.  It is key in fiction because in real life it is very powerful.  Read up on the math behind Public Relations and see how they use symbolism to sell cars and perfume.



Practice makes perfect. 

By surrendering a driver's license to a non-secure location run by a non-Security Clearance secretary, we are practicing submission to authority instead of practicing being the authority that we must be to execute Parenting well. 

So how can we teach children to manage the power of authority when they are adults if they do as we do rather than as we say, and we do not take responsibility for our own actions? 

Identity is Responsibility (Saturn, Capricorn).  Identity is defined by boundaries, borders, just as countries have borders.

You can't develop a Strong Character without a strong Identity (an identity with borders.)  It's the invasion of your borders that wreaks destruction in the aftermath of rape.  Rebuilding those borders is a process that gives your Main Character a colorful history and a clear reason to Be A Strong Character.

Strength doesn't come upon one without effort, without pain to create the gain.  That is called GROWING PAINS -- growing up hurts. 

Good parenting is about gauging how much pain it takes for your child to grow, and where exactly the border is beyond which pain leads to destruction not growth.  One gains that judgement by having been well-parented.  It's not inherited.  It's learned.   

Here is a news item related to the "don't read that book" decrees of teachers long ago via the Privacy Borders themes.


And here's the counter-argument on "privacy" -- at what AGE do you gain the right to privacy?  An infant has none, a teen some, but when do you get all the privacy a human is going to get?


Privacy is about being able to read under the desk in class, choose what books to read, (or not-read), read all night on a school night then perform well the next day despite that expenditure, try out something your associates disapprove of, and pay too much for an item. 

Privacy is about doing your own risk-assessment, then making your own decisions accordingly, acting on your own judgment and reading the book anyway, or studying during a pep rally anyway. 

Getting the right answers in your risk-assessment process takes much practice, and without that practice, no matter how old you live to be, you will never be able to make reliable judgement calls for yourself, or your children.

If privacy is violated at the age when judgement is developing, then the individual will never mature into an adult, no matter how many years are lived. To find plot-threads from that set of Protection-From-Privacy or Protection-Of-Privacy themes look carefully at who benefits from either set of regulations and/or laws.

WHO BENEFITS gives you the Cast of Characters.

WHO PREVAILS gives you the Main Character.

WHO HOLDS THE KEY TO PREVAILING gives you the B-story character, or the Secondary Character, the Main Character's lover, or second point of view character.

When you use two points of view, you need two themes, but the themes have to both be derived from the same Master Theme.


Privacy is about the right to secret ballot, and personal Identity. 

That decree to exclude Nancy Drew (a series designed for a pre-privacy age-group) is offensive because it violates privacy and therefore thwarts the development of a personal Identity capable of  relying on a personal risk-assessment, and then acting.

All of this reminds me suddenly that I did tackle many of these issues in a novel, PERSONAL RECOGNIZANCE though many in this theme bundle were not addressed.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg