Saturday, January 14, 2017

Here Be... Cookies, To Turn A Phrase, and Ivanka Trump

Periodic reminder:
European law requires us (the authors of this blog) to remind European visitors that Google, host of Blogger, places cookies on the devices of all visitors. We (the authors) have no control over the cookies that Blogger/Google places on your devices, and if you visit this blog, we assume that you consent to the cookies.

Talking of European cookie law:
The law firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP recently wrote about European proposed e-privacy rules that may be adopted early in 2018.

Honestly, I do not believe that the authors of this blog have any access at all to visitors' data, email addresses or anything else (unless you leave a comment, and mostly, you don't).  There does seem to be a visitor counter at the very bottom of the blog page, and according to the above referenced law firm, visitor counters do not require the consent of visitors.

On "60 Ways..." not to leave your lover but "To Turn A Phrase":
In an interesting article about how he advises clients on creating unique and memorable trademarks, Nexsen Pruett refers to "Figures of Speech or 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase" by Arthur Quinn.

Read Nexsen Pruett's blog if you are thinking of getting a trademark (mine is Space Snark and I did not take this expert's advice).  I'm thinking of buying the late Arthur Quinn's paperback.  However, it is short and expensive, and Google Books helpfully reveals quite a lot of the content (very interesting content on use of misspelled words),  Pages 12-24 consecutively and in full, for instance.

And a search of "And" reveals "To And or Not To And" pages 1 to 9 inclusive. It's a mystery to me how Authors Guild lost that lawsuit, and this is totally lawful.

Last but not least,
I bought an Ivanka Trump dress last week. It was marked down at T J Maxx, and was well made, flattering, and a modest length. I cannot say the same about the length, of a Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP law firm's article about artists piling on Ivanka Trump because their artwork shows on her home's walls in the background of her selfies.

If the late Prince and his music publishers could not prevail in the Dancing Baby case for his music playing in the background of a home movie, it's even more likely to be fair use for whatever one has permanently displayed on ones walls to be in the background of personal photographs.

It might be a different matter if the lady were taking high quality photos of just the artwork and selling prints, but she is not doing that.

The legal blogger (Ms Pillsbury) makes excellent points about Fair Use as regards background images in non-commercial social media type posts on Instagram.

Authors might extrapolate something to consider before taking photographs to promote their own books if there are prominent and clear images of more famous authors' works in the background. It's not cool to use--or tag-- another author's name (without permission) to promote oneself.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trapped in Virtual Reality

Numerous works of fiction use the premise of a character stuck inside a game (including a few holodeck episodes in the various STAR TREK series). If you enjoy that kind of thing, try the Japanese "light novels" (a generic label based mainly on books' length, not the "light" or "dark" tone of their stories) in the "Sword Art Online" series by Reki Kawahara. In the first sub-series, the protagonist, Kirito, one of the beta testers for a cutting-edge virtual reality game, gets trapped inside the game world along with hundreds of other players who log in on release day. The game designer has fixed it so that nobody can log out, and anyone who dies in the game dies for real because of the way the creator covertly rigged the brain-machine interface. Thanks to Kirito's experience as a beta tester, he becomes one of the survivors. The main appeal of this story lies in his Intimate Adventure journey from his original stance as a self-reliant loner to friendship with a fellow player, Asuna, and ultimately to deep mutual love with her. The game, Sword Art Online, feels like a three-dimensional, physical experience in most ways but with many game-based factors. For instance, getting injured drains points but doesn't cause true pain. So, despite the total immersion effect, because of details such as this the players have no trouble remaining aware that they're playing a game.

The latest sub-series, which I'm reading now, introduces Kirito to a new VR system that's far advanced over Sword Art Online. The new game, still in the testing phase, simulates the physical world in such extreme detail that the environment can't be distinguished from reality. When Kirito inexplicably wakes up in this environment with no memory of how he got there (no awareness of returning to the test facility, logging in, etc.), he feels hunger, thirst, fatigue, and pain as if in his real body. The only way he can confirm his guess that he's inside a hitherto unexplored version of the game is by opening status windows for objects in the environment. To the people he meets, these windows are simply a form of magic, "sacred arts."

If such a virtual world existed, simulating the primary world in the finest details, how could you know (unless you could access game features such as status windows) whether you were in a real environment or a fictive one? Would there be any way to prove either hypothesis? Furthermore, if you experienced all the effects of living in normal reality, would it make any difference whether you were or weren't?

This scenario brings to mind the problem of solipsism, the one view of the universe that's impossible to refute. If I believe all people and objects I observe are figments of my imagination, how could you refute that belief? The fact that things I can't control and/or don't enjoy happen around me doesn't provide a valid counter-argument, because uncontrollable and unpleasant events often happen in dreams, too. The solipsist hypothesis is completely untestable. Robert Heinlein seems fascinated with this world-view. One of his classic works has a protagonist who (thanks to time travel) is all the characters in the story, including his/her own father and mother. It ends with the chilling sentence, "I know where I came from, but where did all you zombies come from?" I've read a short story (can't recall author or title) set on an interstellar spaceship, in which one character begins to doubt that his memories of Earth are real. Maybe he and his crew mates have always been on the ship? He deteriorates from doubting the reality of Earth to believing that the other people on the ship cease to exist when not in his immediate presence. In THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, Alice ponders whether the sleeping Red King is a character in her dream or she's a character in his.

If "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream" (Poe), how would we know that? If we live within a perfect three-dimensional, multi-sensory simulation, we can't confirm or refute that possibility unless we can somehow get outside the simulation. As I read in some philosophy course long ago, "A difference that makes no difference is no difference." So it makes sense to operate on the working hypothesis that the universe and all its inhabitants actually exist.

By the way, I've written one "trapped inside a game" story, which appears in the collection DAME ONYX TREASURES, here:

Dame Onyx Treasures

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Interview With Francis Carmody via Facebook

Interview of Jacqueline Lichtenberg
Francis Carmody
via Facebook

In November, 2016, Francis Carmody contacted me by leaving a post on my Facebook "wall" asking me to do an interview.  I agreed, and he posted the following questions which I thought interesting to Science Fiction Romance Writers because he demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit that fiction writers (who are self-employed business people) need.  Look at what Francis Carmody is doing and absorb that attitude of getting the task done.  The numbered paragraphs are the questions he created and JL: is me answering.

----Francis Asked ----
1. The last time we talked together, you said that you “loved my spirit.” Why?

JL: This set of questions is a good example of why.  The Major Media should do so well at formulating their queries!  Fiction writers, likewise, plot by asking questions, presenting possible answers, confronting Characters with choices.  Characterization is always rooted in "Why" -- "What does she see in him?  Why did he betray her?" Much of this list of questions consists of prime thematic material.  If the New York Times asked this type of Question (and got truthful answers), we'd be in much better shape as a country than we are today.

2. If you had to pick a single issue as the most important concern for the 21st Century, what would it be?

JL:  I think Alvin Toffler nailed the issue, way back in the 1970's with his book (still available because it is a fine illustration of the problem).  It is FUTURE SHOCK -- technology is causing the way we live life day to day and minute to minute to change faster than the human brain/nervous system can adapt. 

The issue is how we configure the human/A.I. interface. 

Inside that issue is the problem science fiction (and Romance Genre, too) has been gnawing on since the 1940's and before: The fully transformed world (Asimov's vision of Robotics, colonies on other planets, Caves of Steel here) will be able to supply all human needs with only a tiny fraction of humanity employed in paying jobs.  What does everybody else do? 

Gene Roddenberry answered that question in STAR TREK -- art, exploration, creativity.  No pockets in the uniforms because nobody carries "money." 

So our 21st Century must address the problem of how do we get from here to there and avoid the pitfalls Asimov (and Heinlein) so ably pointed out. 

Science is now showing how a child's activities (or lack thereof) configures the child's brain with synapses often shaping the adulthood the child will live.  This produces the "generation gap" issue where parents in the 1970's couldn't program a VCR and today adult children are dealing with parents who can't use a smartphone.  Can't not won't. 

The technological generation gap will become most apparent in the next few decades as kids who had smart(phones; toys) as 3 year olds (and yes, I've watched kids playing educational games on handheld smartscreens), grow up to deal with their 90 year old parents who can't adapt to the next innovation. 

By 90 years from now, we will have self-driving cars and household robots, and other outgrowths of the 1940's thrust to create "labor saving devices."  We may have Lunar and Martian colonies and be exploring way beyond our solar system. 

At the turn of the 20th century, science postulated that it should be possible to distinguish humans by measuring their Intelligence and ranking them by capability and potential, thus allowing government to avoid wasting educational resources on the incapable.

Today, science is exploring genetics and brain function to the point where "intelligence" is being redefined and redefined. (Emotional Intelligence, Mechanical, Artistic -- whatever).  Bottom line: we know NOTHING about ourselves (yet).  But we will before this century is out.

We have CRISPR now:
And in 2016 word has come out that the Chinese are experimenting with genetic modification of human beings.  Their "one-child" Communist Government imposed limitation is about to cause their country to "implode" -- and they realize they don't need all their people, but only those capable of contributing to this new, highly complex, technology based world. 

So what it comes down to is Power, it's use and abuse, a big topic on this blog

Science is producing technology which lays Power into the hands of human beings who have not evolved to be immune to the psychological need to dominate other humans. 

Science is also simultaneously laying the Power to modify humans into the hands of humans.

Therein lies the challenge we are facing -- the configuring of the interface between the human Spirit and the technology we produce. 

Science Fiction Romance is a fiction genre uniquely suited to explore the possibilities, and create "What if ..."  "If only ..." and "If This Goes On ..." models of the futures we must choose among.

This blog is designed to reveal the potential of Science Fiction Romance Genre as a problem solving tool of the 21st Century.

3. Today I see a lot of Christendom caught up in what I call the Disinformation Wars or even more simply the Apocalypse Fever. What do you think is going wrong in our churches, and why?

JL:  I don't frequent Churches, so I am not qualified to comment on this question.

4. What is your spiritual orientation? I ask for the benefit of the the real question is, why are we NOT enemies?

JL: Actually, I've written 5 books that nibble around the edges of this question.

Jean Lorrah calls me a Mystic, and I'd guess that fits.  My degree is in Chemistry (with minors in Physics and Math) -- however, I really majored in Science Fiction Writing but didn't tell the University that (because they basically despised it and held any fan in utter contempt.)  I did not take a single English or History course in college, just passed tests to get the credit without attending classes (which was permitted and even encouraged for Math and Science majors). 

To be a science fiction writer, one must know science.  For that, University is essential because you need the expensive labs to do actual hands-on experiments and work your way through how all that we know was originally worked out, one tiny step at a time. You may not use scientific knowledge that you were TOLD -- you must PROVE IT for yourself, in order to possess it at a level where you can use it to create with.  

Fiction, on the other hand, you can teach yourself easily and cheaply through Free Public Libraries (and now the Internet, with tools such as my blog.)  To teach yourself, you only need the cognitive tools acquired through a University science education (wall-to-wall physics/math/chemistry) with an occasional bit of Archaeology or Linguistics, Paleontology etc so you know what to look up.

(see discussion on Facebook:  )
essentially to present my argument that the University Professors were wrong about Science Fiction, and I expect that is a gut-level reason Gene Roddenberry wrote Star Trek.  Science Fiction is crucial to humanity surviving the next epoch, and survival means getting off this planet sooner rather than later.

Study of Science brings you an understanding of the physical matrix in which life is embedded.  Study of Fiction gives you an understanding of the psychological matrix in which you live your personal Life.

Studying the interface between physical reality and psychological reality, we find grand and great Works (especially Romances about improbable Soul Mates) scattered throughout human history, spawning philosophies and religions galore.  I've studied most of them in some detail -- and all that effort just led me back to where I started -- Kaballah, the Oral Tradition about the meaning of the collection or anthology we now call The Bible.

The traditional story goes that God offered the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) to all the other Nations before coming to Abraham.  Sort of the same approach you've used -- try to peddle services to whoever is around, and then just do-it-yourself.  He chose Abraham and then made of him a great Nation.  And this is illustrated by the scattered bits and traces, the Ultimate Truths, you find in each and every civilization we've dug up or preserved.  Every successful civilization has been fueled by a bit of the Torah.  

I do not see a separation between the spiritual and the physical.  I never have.

5. Part of the reason I created this ministry ( ) was simply so that I could teach myself how to be successful in earning my own living. Please name one service that my growing network of supporters and myself can do for you and that you would actually pay me for.

JL: Well, see that question is another reason I admire your spirit.  THAT is the spirit that will fuel the successful negotiation through the coming century where we must create an interface between what is human and what humans create. 

At this particular moment, Sime~Gen Inc. is not hiring and has no employees.  That could very well change soon.  We will need more Lawyers, Accountants, and Agents, maybe a Manager to interface with Hollywood.  As the formats for tech delivery of text change, we may need techs to re-do all our books.  And there is a graphic novel/video game project designed to take Sime~Gen into the space age. ( news breaks first on the Sime~Gen Group on Facebook:

6. What would you consider your ruling passion in life?

JL:  Maybe an absolute greed for knowledge, to know everything, to understand everything.  That's probably shared with most other fiction writers.

7. What about politics? What do you think of the upcoming Trump presidency?

I have to write a blog entry about this for the Science Fiction Romance Writers.  I followed the election via Astrology -- many astrology websites predicted a clean Clinton landslide, and had evidence to prove their points.  I, on the other hand, used a totally different analysis (it's that science fiction writer thinking - looking at life, the universe and everything as a STORY). 

Point by point, day by day, throughout the entire year's campaign, all Trump's blurted mistakes and Clinton's failure to follow-through, or her dazzlingly gorgeous performances (the speech at the Convention was marvelous), all were easily traced by comparing various charts.

There was no astrological evidence about which candidate would become President.

That is the nature of Astrology and for that matter, Tarot. There is no "future" to "foretell."

There is no "power" to be attained by mastery of the Occult or any form of Mysticism.  The future is determined by by the Creator of the Universe, and you may argue well in prayer and deed, thus altering His choices. But Free Will (of each and every one of us, plus all of us together) is primarily active in shaping our world and our personal destinies. So Astrological Natal Charts do now show "death" for example, because the universe goes right on spinning after you die.  Tarot can't predict if you will succeed or fail, but only read your present emotional frame of mind and heart.  Just like Astrology, Tarot can tell you only what you already know, (but sometimes don't know that you know.)

However, there are things you can learn that can be of great interest to fiction writers trying to craft a plausible plot.

Trump's natal chart has Relationships to the USA natal chart that are as distinctive (but different) as Obama's natal chart's relationship to the USA Natal chart.

And transiting Saturn is descending into the Obscure part of Clinton's Natal Chart, but Ascending into the Public (New Starts, New Career) part of Trump's chart.

But it was a Battle of the Titans, toe to toe, nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball.  It is amazing it has not (yet) spread more destruction than it did.  They are too evenly matched.  And in the end they both "won" -- Trump the Electoral College (which is indicated by his connections to the USA natal chart), and Clinton the popular vote (indicated by her Natal Chart and derivatives of it -- she was at a lifetime peak of popularity and accomplishment but under a long transit that undermined her judgement).

So Trump is the man of the hour - on the hot-seat - has bitten off much more than he can chew, and is only now discovering that.  He has much more humbling before him.

He will do very well indeed the first part of 2017, with disasters and spiritual defeats and sagging spirits maybe in February, but lots of blazing hot accomplishments up to maybe around August, and then a huge downsweep, overwhelming defeats -- and then up again into the end of 2017. We may not notice his sagging spirits or defeats.  This reading is only about what's going on inside him, not what others see.

For the USA, his Administration is not a culmination but a prelude.

Look at the transits to the USA Natal Chart (I've done some blogs about this -- here's an index post to some blogs on Astrology Just For Writers)  Pay attention to the two part entry called Part 6.

The USA has two distinct (equally valid) Natal Charts for the signing on July 4th, 1776, as two groups of men signed at different times.  One describes the life-course of what we now call the Democrats and the other the Republicans.  Those were not "Parties" but philosophies.

One chart is for 2:13 AM LMT, 1776, which I identify with our current "Republicans" and their philosophy of government (for various reasons in the chart's configuration).  The other is known as (and mostly given much more credence) The Sibley Chart which is for 5:10 PM LMT, the second and final group of signatures.  The Sibley Chart describes the philosophy of what we currently call "Democrats." 

Saturn is going into obscurity for the Democrats, and rising above the 7th House cusp (into prominence) for the Republicans.

Trace back through History and you see the two factions (party names changing), which have different ideas about what Government is (especially the Federal Government, a government of governments), what it does, and what it is for, and see how well the transits of Saturn correlate to which party holds the White House and dominance in the Legislature.

What is worth watching during the Trump Administration is the transit of Pluto to both Charts of the USA -- Pluto is so slow that it's place is identical in both charts, but the house position is different.  At the exact TIME of the 2008 mortgage derivatives collapse that gave the USA a financial Heart Attack, Pluto was transiting conjunct the Nation's 8th House Cusp (0 Deg Capricorn).

8th House in personal natal charts represents "other people's money" (a husband's income for example; parent's financial situation).  It also represents not love but animal sexuality.  And it is associated with the conditions at death, but that's difficult to assess.

My take on the significance of the 8th House in a nation's natal chart is that it represents Taxes, the public money trough at which politicians feed.

The USA natal Pluto is in the 9th House of that chart which predicted the financial crisis (and the connection to Obamacare is all there, too.)  In BOTH political parties' USA Natal Charts, Pluto is in the same exact place.  But in 1 it is 9th House (international affairs and philosophy of government; Natural 9th is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, growth, truth, justice, rulership).  In that natal chart, 0 Degrees Capricorn is the 8th House cusp. 

Here's the thing.

Pluto is lining up to do the USA's first Pluto Return -- where transiting Pluto gets to the place where it was on that fateful July 4th.  That will happen beginning in February 2022, again in the summer through December 2022 and sustain through October 2023.  The degree to watch is 27 Degrees Capricorn.  Pluto transits typically manifest after the final contact, but in the case of 0 Degrees Capricorn, the financial collapse was right on.

That Pluto Return would be a Trump administration second term mid-term election result -- major structural power upset.  Or maybe we'll change Presidents.

To figure what that might be like you must delve deep into the significance of Pluto, of  Capricorn and its Ruler Saturn, of the 9th House (which I peg as a country's Foreign Affairs and governing philosophy), Sagittarius, Jupiter. 

I've discussed Pluto and its relationship to "accounting for taste" in fiction, to the varying tastes in fiction through the generations, and how to use it to construct a plot.

You don't have to know astrology to use astrology in writing.  Most people use it just fine by consulting their gut feelings.  Trump calls this "good judgement" and he has it in spades.  He listens to his inner voice.  He launched his campaign at the most auspicious moment for success (when he came down that escalator) and every turning point in the campaign was right exactly as it had to be. 

Astrologers point to the moment he gave his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention as being inauspicious for success -- and in fact it was, but Astrology is tricky like that!  It was his acceptance of the Party Nomination and it was very inauspicious for the Party Establishment which took a grand licking for months afterward.

I don't think Trump is using an astrologer as Reagan's wife did.  I think he just listens to his inner voice. 

People point to his business failures to say they disqualify him for the work of the Oval Office -- but I suspect it is through those false starts and the consequences of various bits of immoral behavior that he has learned to listen to that voice.  Like Reagan, he has only one talent -- and is a disaster at everything else.  He is a keen judge of people.

We all know that Reagan was not doing the President's job.  He was failing badly after being shot.  Everyone else around him, people he'd chosen via his judge of character, did the actual work of governing.  That's not the first time we've had a figure head for a president, and it won't be the last.

People view Trump with such fear, but what they fear is a fabricated image having nothing to do with the real man.  The real man is much scarier but for totally different reasons.  He is just a prelude to the President who will take this country through our Pluto Return (which no human being ever lives long enough to experience; which is why I love Vampire stories!).  He's the set-up. The real blow comes next decade.  The backlash against whatever Trump does will be a new experience in this country's history.

Other countries have survived Pluto Returns -- we can, too. 

8. What is your view of gay marriage, and why?

JL: On this and many related politicized "social issues" my view is that humans have to learn to mind their own business.  That's a hard-hard lesson, and does not come naturally to humans.  Just watch 2 year olds playing.

We don't come equipped to understand the borderline between Self and Other.  That border is depicted clearly in astrological natal charts -- we have access to it in that gut-feeling level without knowing astrology.  By the age of 5, we have begun to grasp it.  But I think most humans only gain the ability to grasp this fine point of existence in their thirties.  Whether they then learn it, or not, often depends on the marriage situation.

All that modern-technology/human interface discussion in a previous answer above pertains to this.  Big Data deep diving has stripped away the privacy barriers (read Alvin Toffler's books).  So it is assumed anything you don't make public must be secret and therefore nefarious.

People don't know the difference between privacy and secrecy (hence Clinton's email disasters).  The philosophical relationship between privacy and individual identity, the importance of individuality to the group (1st House vs 7th House), has all been wiped away for this new generation who, at the age of 3 or 4, are already learning via smartscreens.

There's an old saying that could be revived. Don't wash your dirty linen in public.  Which also has a corrolary - don't wash your clean linen in public. 

Today, there is the saying, "Too Much Information" -- a cringe written as TMI in social media because it's such a common communications problem.

This is an "editorial" function, more than a writing function.  How much to reveal, and when and to whom.  Getting that correct means knowing that line between Self and Other, and secrecy and privacy. 

This secrecy/privacy dividing line and a raft of related issues about Identity and the role of humans in a roboticized society (as discussed above) is indeed that Single Issue Of Most Concern you referenced. 

This evolving civilization is in the process of redefining very fundamental issues.  But those issues are so fundamental people don't want to think about them, even don't want to know they exist.  Because of human nature, humans focus all attention on the most irrelevant matters to avoid confronting the issues that do matter. 

9. Do you know and understand what a LARP is? For most of my life, the Christians around me have had a very negative attitude toward popular movies, “secular” music, and especially gaming. What is wrong with this picture, and how has the interview changed your understanding of what I am trying to do?

JL: yes as a long-time fan I know LARP.  In fact, there has been a Sime~Gen LARP, and I think one based on my novels MOLT BROTHER and CITY OF A MILLION LEGENDS.  The novels are designed to be played, which is why there very likely will be a Sime~Gen videogame fairly soon.

My understanding of what you are trying to do has not changed.

I wouldn't say there is anything wrong with this picture.  As noted above, we are swinging into a Pluto Return -- 8th House is also mysticism as is Neptune (which also signifies the state of mind necessary for Romance).  Right now Neptune is transiting it's own sign, Pisces.  The "Gates" are open to other dimensions of reality.  Few can tolerate that.  The level of confusion, the paniced grasp at belief as the cognitive tool to understand reality will increase, and not abate until maybe 2025. 

I did an essay, (it is on somewhere) about the precession of the equinoxes and how that correlates to the way Earth's various populations view God. 

Once you understand that the majority around you are viewing the Ineffable through the one window with the curtains open, then it shouldn't disturb you to discover that you are peeking through a crack in the curtains of a different window.  All of us are looking at the same thing -- what is OUTside this reality.  But we all see something different.  It is the Blind Men And The Elephant problem - to know what part of reality is, is not the same thing as knowing the entire reality.

All those people who see what you do not see, and do not see what you see, are doing fine.  Mind your own business and all will be well.

10. If I asked you to help me make a Star Trek Connection, would you trust me enough to do it? What about Wil Wheaton?

JL: I doubt Wil Wheaton knows who I am or "follows" me, though I follow him on Twitter.

These people are actors (or writers, directors, producers) of a commercial product.  The people are not the characters they play or create.

Study Hollywood and you will learn that actors and writers are at the bottom of the pecking order, people of no consequence.  Talent is cheap and plentiful and they are utterly replaceable from the point of view of the Industry that reaps profit from their work.

Actors and writers don't want to hear from you unless you have the power to pay them or increase their popularity.  If you do have that power, your Agent or Manager will contact their Agent or Manager.  If you attempt to contact an actor directly, you are telegraphing that you have nothing to offer them (except fannish adulation, maybe, which is often felt as intrusive or inappropriate), have no clue how the Industry works, and will never have any place in that Industry.

This relates to my answer above emphasizing Individuality - privacy vs secrecy.  Who are you?  If you're a professional in my industry and have a business proposal for me, then you know how valuable my privacy is to me, and you know how to contact me to present your proposal.  That is one of the most widespread prevailing attitudes, and it is an attitude rammed into their heads by force -- because of the impact of loss of privacy due to fame (and/or infamy).

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Does Every Cloud Have A Silver Lining? (Copyright-Related)

In 2016, Google claimed to have removed 900 million allegedly copyright-infringing links according to an article on TorrentFreak.

Apparently, the number removed represents approximately 89.9 percent of the over-a-billion take down requests made to Google by rights holders. Surely, there would be fewer requests if there was a way to ensure that a link cannot be re-upped once it is taken down?

The comments on the piece make depressing reading. Let's say that the followers of torrent freak are not copyright-protection enthusiasts.

I gained a new perspective on why so many folks in society have so little respect for copyrights and the right of musicians, authors, photographers, movie-making participants and others to be paid for their time, talents and effort from the free Hillsdale College lecture covering the difference between Originalists and Progressives when it comes to the rights of an individual.

According to Professor Ronald J. Pestritto, the Progressive ideology is heavily influenced by European--especially German-- thinking, and holds that the needs of the Community is always superior to the needs (and rights) of the individual, and far from certain rights such as the right to Life, to Liberty, and to the Pursuit of happiness being bestowed on mankind as a birthright by the Creator, all rights that an individual has are permitted by the government depending on convenience and expediency.  (And can be revoked.)

How expedient and convenient do you suppose it is to uphold individual copyrights?

Also, in a guest post on TheTrichordist, Marc Ribot presents a chilling analysis of why individual "content creators" (aka copyright owners) are so helpless against piracy.

The "Ghostship" title refers to the dreadful warehouse fire, and the economic plight of working artists in San Franscisco as a result (Mr. Ribot suggests) of political, legal, and economic decisions, not least of which concerns copyright.

I'd like to end on a positive note. However, there are some revelations about Risk Factors (intellectual-property-right related, of course) that Facebook had to disclose in its 2015 annual report. According to the fascinating Chris Castle, Facebook is selling artists' names as advertising keywords, allegedly without permission.

Perhaps, given the lofty stock values of some tech companies, it might be a good time to look into shorting Big Tech? Does The Cloud have a silver lining? (snort!)

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, January 05, 2017


I've just read THE HIDDEN PEOPLE, by Alison Littlewood, a richly textured and deeply disturbing novel about fairy changelings—maybe. We never quite find out for certain whether fairies exist, since the story is told in first person by a troubled, confused narrator. The protagonist, a young Victorian gentleman, travels to rural Yorkshire to investigate his cousin's murder by her husband on the grounds that she'd been stolen by the Hidden People and replaced by a duplicate. Although disdainful of the villagers' superstitious beliefs, the narrator gradually gets drawn in, until he begins to think his own wife might be inexplicably changing. This novel was inspired by the real-life case of Bridget Cleary, whose husband burned her to death as a suspected changeling in an Irish village in 1895. Angela Bourke's THE BURNING OF BRIDGET CLEARY tells the full story.

I've long been fascinated by the concept of changelings, probably because they embody one of my favorite themes, "fish out of water." Of course, we most often think of them as babies switched soon after birth, rather than adults. Folklore speculates that fairies take human infants because their own bloodlines have run thin so that they don't bear children very often or they give birth to sickly infants. A baby not yet christened faces particular danger and should be protected by charms and cold iron. If a child appears to have been replaced by a fairy doppelganger, a variety of "cures" can be used to force the "good folk" to take back the replacement and return the "real" child. If less drastic methods don't work, one last resort is to hold the changeling over the fire—the remedy inflicted on Bridget Cleary in real life and Lizzie in THE HIDDEN PEOPLE.

Some other recommended fiction on this topic: Maurice Sendak's haunting picture book OUTSIDE OVER THERE has the same plot premise as the movie LABYRINTH: A girl, impatient with taking care of her baby brother, wishes he would disappear. The fairies or goblins steal him, and she goes on a quest to save him. In Delia Sherman's YA novel CHANGELING (and sequels), the heroine, Neef, has grown up in "New York Between," a parallel version of the city inhabited by elves, mermaids, demons, and other mythological creatures. She knows she's a human changeling and is happy with her status—until she breaks fairy law and risks becoming a sacrifice to the Wild Hunt. Kaye, the protagonist of Holly Black's much darker TITHE (and sequels), is the opposite of Neef. Although Kaye has interacted with fairies all her life, she has no idea she's one herself, a changeling left in place of a human baby.

In pre-scientific eras, the changeling belief offered a potentially comforting explanation for babies who were born weak or deformed, looked healthy at birth but turned sickly soon afterward, refused to eat and failed to thrive, or suffered from then-unidentified conditions such as autism. If such a "changeling" reverted to "normal," the magical remedies must have worked. If the baby died, parents could cling to the belief that a changeling had died and their own child was living happily with the fairies. As for young women, who might be whisked away to the faerie realm to infuse fresh blood into the elven race, a wife who suddenly became "querulous," "unnatural," or "shrewish" could be accused of having been replaced by a changeling. An ingenious pretext for husbands intent on controlling their wives' speech and behavior!

Like witchcraft persecutions, changeling beliefs could have been used as a means of social control. Diana Gabaldon combines the two superstitions in OUTLANDER, when one of the charges in Claire's trial for witchcraft (resulting from a rival's scheme to get rid of her) accuses her of involvement in the death of an alleged changeling infant left out for the fairies to reclaim.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Theme-Archetype Integration Part 2 - How To Tell Hero From Villain

Theme-Archetype Integration
Part 2
How To Tell Hero From Villain
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Part 1 of Theme-Archetype Integration: The Nature of Art can be found here.

There we discussed how human (and MAYBE non-human) psychological archetypes are a fixed attribute of the nature of reality, the pattern from which human personalities and life-courses are created.

The storyteller's "art" does not create archetypes (scholars discover them, as physicists discovered the Higgs Boson, rather than inventing it).

The storyteller's "art" is all about choosing what details go in which compartments of an Archetype to create a fictional "Character" that readers can understand and believe is real.

So, Literary scholars have identified the archetypes they call Hero (the Hero With a Thousand Faces is a worthwhile read).

And of course The Hero's Journey.

These two non-fiction books detail old, tried-and-true, analyses of how humans, myth and fiction work.

But this blog is about writing Alien Romance, a blend of science fiction and romance genre that transcends both.

One of the keys to worldbuilding an environment to tell a science fiction tale is to question the very facts that everybody knows to be true.  The least questioned, hard facts of science, the proven beyond doubt facts, make the very best fodder for the science fiction novel's premise.

Science fiction has been described as the pursuit of one of the 3 following inquiries:

1. "What if ...?"

2. "If only ...."

3. "If this goes on...."

Any two combined raise the interest of the mature science fiction reader.

Use all 3 at once, and you get a novel that turns heads and gets talked about.

Note that all 3 apply just as well to a Romance plot.  Staring at a just met prospect, a lead Character might think, "What if he/she was interested in me?"  "If only I could attract his/her attention..."  or "If I agree to a second date, where will this lead?"

In science fiction, the subject is the tried-and-true Laws of Physics or Chemistry etc., and in Romance the subject is the Relationship with a particular person.

Science Fiction worldbuilding premises are about the structure of physical reality, and the Romance worldbuild premises are about the structure of human personality and what we refer to as "Character."  That's not the individual player in the story, but rather the elements that make up the Personality and Values inside such a player.

"Character" is remarkably hard to define.  I wrestled with it mightily when the term showed up on my elementary school report card.  I was well into my 40's before I began to get a grip on what attribute "Character" refers to.

It is a difficult, abstract and complex quality.  You can point to a cup of coffee and say, "That is a cup with coffee in it."  And you see it, and smell it, and you feel the heat, and you know what it is.

OK, so now go point to your own personal character.

Where is it in your body -- between your eyes, at your mouth or throat, at your heart, your gut?  Where do you carry your Character?

What does it mean to be a "Good judge of Character."  Could you write a story where the main character is a good judge of Character?  Could you detail what goes on inside the mind of someone who is accurately identifying a "strong character" or a "weak character?"

Do you think rereading Joseph Campbell's works would give you those lines of inner dialogue you could put in italics and attribute to your Hero?

How about a Villain who is a good judge of Character?

Is the ability to distinguish accurately what sort of person another person is a trait that only Villains have -- or only Heros?  Is it a common trait -- to be very accurate about summing up the driving force of another person just on first acquaintance.

Think about that in terms of Love At First Sight.

In order to have a Love At First Sight experience, to identify your destined mate and absolutely perfect other half at the blink of an eye, do you have to be a Good Judge Of Character in general?

The answer to those questions formulate the Theme of the novel you are worldbuilding.

The existence of the trait (in human and/or non-human nature) "Good Judge Of Character" is a bit of Worldbuilding pertaining to the structure of the Archetypes you are using in your worldbuilding.  Yes, you can "make up" fictional archetypes to create an alternate reality, but in that case you must reveal the distinguishing difference eventually, usually in plot events and conflict.

Without telling or even showing the reader in detail about the physics and biology of the world you are taking them into, you establish the fact among these people there exists a distinguishing trait that the reader might term Good Judge of Character.

Is this trait rare among these people?  Is it a trait that is admired or feared?  Is it the most common trait and thus of no value?  Creating Aliens who have an aristocracy that exhibits the trait Good Judge Of Character, or that have that trait as their most common trait, gives the writer a way to both draw the reader into the created world and to distinguish that world from all others.

The best example I know of using Judge of Character as a common trait distinguishing the Aliens is E. E. Smith's Lensman Series where the Arisians (non-material beings) judge human character and select certain people to be given a device called a Lens that bestows a range of psychic abilities on the human.  The judgement the aliens make is about whether absolute power will corrupt this human absolutely -- or not.  The humans with the ability to hand raw power without becoming corrupt are chosen as Lensmen (and yes, women).

Apparently there is no Kindle edition that isn't riddled with scanning errors or edited down to excerpts.  Here, from Wikipedia is a list of the original series:

Triplanetary (1948. Originally published in four parts, January–April 1934, in Amazing Stories)
First Lensman (1950, Fantasy Press)
Galactic Patrol (1950. Originally published in six parts, September 1937 – February 1938, in Astounding Stories)
Gray Lensman (1951. Originally published in four parts, October 1939 – January 1940, Astounding Stories)
Second Stage Lensmen (1953. Originally published in four parts, November 1941 – February 1942, Astounding Stories)
Children of the Lens (1954. Originally published in four parts, November 1947 – February 1948, Astounding Stories)

Many book editions also were published.  The plot outline (with spoilers) is on Wikipedia:

But you don't get the impact of the Character Archetype via the summary.  My favorite of the novels is Gray Lensman, where that Character trait is starkly detailed.

There are many other ways to get the Lensman Series, so look around.

Everyone who has blogged about the Lensman Series has a different opinion about what it is about.  I could write a book about the worldbuilding behind this landmark work of science fiction romance (yes, Helen of Troy Move Over! should be the title.)  This is a Romance.  The Hero is monumentally crush-worthy.  And yes, it was the most scorned work of science fiction at the time of publication, as well as the one work most responsible for the advent of the Science Fiction Romance (yes, in 1941!!!).

As with Tolkien, the stories are suitable for young children but the vocabulary and syntax is adult level.  In fact, you might have to use the Kindle "look up" feature to identify the meaning of some of the words.

Being Space Opera, the Villains are likewise drawn in stark, high relief, with utterly villainous traits.  The villain is Boskone, the shadowy adversary of Arisia, two civilizations at war for millennia, using genetic manipulation of humans on Earth to war with each other.

The writer, Edward E. Smith, Ph.D., (a chemist by trade) leaves us no doubt which are the good guys and which are the bad guys.  But it is worth your while to study these novels with that question in mind.

Modern Space Opera (Star Trek and Star Wars in particular) presents a more adult, more equivocal portrait of the Good vs. Evil issue.  In Star Wars especially, we learn the inter-marriage issues between the monster Bad Guy and the rebellious young Good Guys.

We know what Theme is, where it resides in a novel, and how to integrate theme with Character and with Worldbuilding.  Here are the index posts listing those discussions:

You might have a Theme that says, "There is no such thing as a Villain."  Or conversely, "There is no such thing as a Hero."

If your Theme is that there is no distinction between Hero and Villain, then your plot events must challenge that thesis -- you must create a society where the norm is a lack of distinction between Good and Evil, or Strong and Weak, or whatever traits you choose to distinguish Hero from Villain, and then create that One Oddball Misfit Character in that world who is a Hero (or Villain) and wrestle his/her internal conflict (I'm not like everyone else but I have to be), and his/her external conflict (Everybody hates me and I hate them), to a Climax (Escape From Planet Of The Apes.)

If, on the other hand, your Theme is that Heros/Villains Are Born Not Made, you might fabricate a World where how you are born does not matter -- or conversely how you are born might get you Legally Executed in your teens if you turn out "wrong."

Theme might be: It is Wrong To Make Yourself Conform -- or conversely Making Yourself Conform Is The Highest Virtue.

These themes easily integrate with the master conflict of Person vs. Society.

In our everyday world, we tend to label the people who want to tear down and destroy "society" as the Villains, the criminals.  The Hero, or good guys, are those who protect society from the savage destruction.

Do we have a label, a word, for those who Build a Society?  Are Builders hero or villain or something else?

Many great Romances have depicted the perfect match between a "nice" conforming girl and a "bad" or non-conformist boy.  Falling in love with a drug dealing Biker Dude seems very natural to some women readers, not implausible at all.  Bad Boys are attractive in a dangerous way.

The plot may go in the direction of the good girl reforming the bad boy.  Or the bad boy drawing the good girl into the fun of confronting danger.  Or the plot might explore how society's assessment of the bad boy as 'bad' (e.g. Villain) is incorrect, and he is really a Society Builder, a Great Reformer, labeled "bad" by the corrupt power structure he is intent on tearing down.

All of these Characters are shaped (and often labeled) by their environment, so Worldbuiilding is one of the most critical writing skills.

Theme is the connection between Worldbuilding and Characterization.  How the writer depicts the impact of the "world" (society, civilization, prevalent values, upbringing, social status of parents, etc) on the Individual Character reveals a core theme of the work.

That core theme might be, "Strong Characters Are Not Affected By Environment" or it might be "No Amount Of Strength of Character Can Withstand Environment" (or put another way the apple does not fall far from the tree).

As noted in Part 1 of this series, the writer's Art is in choosing what elements go with which other elements to flesh out an Archetype.

I used the example of buying a dress pattern (choosing an Archetype), selecting material, then going to the notions counter and choosing thread, buttons and other decorative bits to give the dress unique individuality and beauty.

So the thematic contribution to the distinction between Hero and Villain is the simple statement of whether, in your build World, there actually exists a Hero Archetype (Heroes are born not made) and a Villain Archetype (Villains are born not made) or if all humans (or all aliens) are simply victims of our environment -- or possibly some more complex mixture.

This is the old Nature vs. Nurture argument about human Character.

Theme makes a statement about that Nature vs. Nurture issue - yes, no, or maybe sometimes.

But worldbuilding requires the writer to determine how Character Archetypes work in the invented world.  The closer to observed reality the writer chooses to work, the easier it is for readers to immerse in the invented world and walk in the Character's moccasins.

So to tell the Hero from the Villain, first you decide if these are two different archetypes (and if so, what that difference is) -- or not.

In your World, is there such a thing as a Villain with a Strong Character?  Or a Hero with a Weak Character?  Is the distinguishing characteristic of Hero and Villain innate (archetype) or acquired (arbitrarily chosen by the writer).

How do you inform your reader which character is which?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Resolutions And Revolutions

Happy New Year!

I hope that everyone (else) made good use of the extra "leap second" last night. You didn't? Apparently, there have been 27 "leap seconds" added to our time since 1972 in order to keep the atomic clock time consistent with "Earth time" because the Earth's revolutions are not perfectly identical.

Why don't they take care of "leap seconds" every fourth year during a "leap year"? Would that not be sufficiently accurate for the time lord (Peter Whibberly) of Britain's National Physical Laboratory's time and frequency group?

In a recent issue of DISCOVER magazine, which this author recommends from time to time, there was an archaeological article about unearthing Philistine burial sites. Not much is known about the Philistines, apart from unfavorable propaganda.

History is generally written by winners. What your History teacher teaches you in school or college may not be the whole story, or it may be colored by the bias of the academics writing the officially sanctioned textbooks.

Which brings me to Hillsdale College. This author is currently taking the free online course in CONSTITUTION 101. If one writes science fiction, one may need to create a world with rules, conflict, and a genius founding document or two.

Listening to a forty-minute YouTube lecture once a week for ten weeks is a resolution that might not be as hard to keep as the traditional New Year's resolutions.

Happy New Year.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy New Year

2017 is almost upon us (while I've barely gotten used to writing 2016, a symptom of growing old, no doubt). Do you make New Year's resolutions? As I've probably mentioned before, I gave up that concept a long time ago. I think more in terms of goals, plans, and hopes. Some goals for 2017 include: finishing the paper I have to deliver at a conference in March (a task I can't avoid unless I want to show up at the session with a rough draft!); submitting stories to two annual anthologies in which I've occasionally been included in past years; and completing a short novel I started several months ago but haven't worked on lately because of holiday prep, proofreading a re-released novel, and typing up my usual annual vampire fiction bibliography update.

The current issue of RWR (the Romance Writers of America members' magazine) includes an article about planning. It highlights the virtues of paper planners and discusses some advantages of mapping out long-term and short-term plans on paper instead of just relying on an electronic schedule. Brain research has shown that writing by hand is uniquely helpful in making material "stick" in the mind. While I haven't tried a planner, I do like making tangible lists. The older I get, the more I need the confidence of having things written down in order to remember them.

Along with some good things—my husband and I celebrated our 50th anniversary in September, with all our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren present, along with some other relatives and friends—2016 also brought some negative events for me. My two principal publishers closed this year, leaving most of my works "orphaned." Another publisher is picking up the books from Amber Quill, but of course it will take a while before everything becomes available again. I'm still considering what to do with the books and stories from the other closing publisher, so another project will be self-publishing a few of those pieces. Recently we've had illness and other trouble in our extended family. In the public sphere, we've witnessed the loss of iconic figures such as Leonard Cohen, John Glenn, and Carrie Fisher. And then there's the American presidential election, a source of "comfort and joy" to almost 50 percent of our population, but a cause of disappointment and anxiety for me.

On Christmas Eve our priest preached on Hope—as distinct from optimism, a feeling of confidence (whether substantiated or not) that things are inevitably getting better. Looking around at the world, we see many factors to undermine optimism. As one of my favorite carols, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," laments, "Hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on Earth, good will to men." All the more reason to practice the cardinal virtue of Hope.

Loosely quoting Colonel Potter from a New Year's episode of MASH, "Here's to the new year. May she be a durn sight better than the last one."

By the way, on the subject of the holiday season, which doesn't officially end until January 6 (Epiphany), I've just finished rereading Connie Willis's collection MIRACLE AND OTHER CHRISTMAS STORIES, as well as her two long stories not in that volume, "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know" (the cumulative effect of all those thousands of playings of "White Christmas" generates an unprecedented worldwide weather anomaly) and "All Seated on the Ground" (aliens land, and nobody can figure out what they want until they hear Christmas carols at a mall). Willis's keen wit infuses all the stories with her unique brand of humor-in-seriousness. Highly recommended!

Wishing happiness to all in 2017!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Theme-Archetype Integration Part 1: The Nature of Art

Theme-Archetype Integration
Part 1
The Nature of Art
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

On Facebook Messenger, I was discussing how to create fiction that can sell to a commercial market and at the same time just write what you want to write, what you feel you need to say, what is deeply personal and matters to you -- what you personally want readers to feel in their guts, way below the verbal level.

That gut-response is what makes fictions memorable, and thus talked about and recommended. 

I get that response to many things I've written, particularly Sime~Gen.

Sime~Gen #14 is in the works, with more planned.

Most recently, I was reminded on Facebook how moving my first non-fiction book, STAR TREK LIVES!, has been to people still connected to me via social networking. 

Robert Eggleton posted a picture of the cover of STAR TREK LIVES! and said nice things about it, whereupon a number of people chimed in with their memories.  I only noticed the post when Robert J. Sawyer "tagged" me on his comment, and I got drawn into a long discussion where I answered underneath people's comments.  If you know how Facebook "works" -- it spawns lots of conversations under a broad topic where lots of people exchange views.  Choose the right friends, and it can be very cordial.

On previous series of posts on this blog, I've explained the intricate relationship between STAR TREK LIVES! -- non-fiction about a TV Series -- and Sime~Gen a future-history of humanity set (so far) mostly on Earth of the far future.

The private discussion on Facebook Messenger with this other writer was within the context of the lasting impact my work has had, still echoing down the generations of writers and readers. 

I had pointed her to

and to

... which she had read through once, and came back to say she was left puzzled by my use of the term "archetypes" (she is a well educated professional writer, so it was my usage not her ignorance).

And it is true, I do use the word to refer to a bit of fiction-structure which is related to fiction the way math is related to theoretical physics. 

 That archetype structure behind the fictional worlds is what gives those fictional worlds their verisimilitude.

We've discussed verisimilitude in several posts.  Here are a few:

Creating verisimilitude is a key writing craft skill -- craft not art.  Craft can be learned by anyone who can write a literate sentence.  Art may be born into you, or absorbed from those who raise you, or a combination, but you can't just "learn" it with the intellectual part of your mind.  And you can't learn Art with the part of your mind that can be trained in a Craft (such as driving a car can't be mastered by reading a book about it.)

I make vocabulary distinctions to refer to components of what it takes to launch into a commercial fiction writing career. 

Art is like Math.  In Math you "let X equal" -- or just arbitrarily assign meanings to blank variables.  That trick is the power behind applying a mathematical discovery to a real world problem, such as the Grand Adversary of all students, The Word Problem. 

A Math formula is the math equivalent of fiction's archetype. 

If you are accustomed to solving problems using carefully selected math formulae, then you know on a nonverbal level what an archetype is.

Yes, it is non-verbal.  The language handling section of your brain can not acquire or manipulate the underlying concept "archetype" with the kind of facility necessary to create the artistic dimension of fiction.

LOVE CONQUERS ALL leading to the HAPPILY EVER AFTER is the result of applying an archetype to a problem, of "letting X equal and Y equal" then applying rules to manipulate the equation until you get a solution.

The problem you are applying the archetype to is the problem of "What Is The Meaning Of Life?"  Or maybe, "What Is Life?"

Which archetype you select to apply to that WHAT IS LIFE? problem is dictated by the theme for your fictional story.  Or maybe the other way around on some occasions, the resulting THEME your novel explicates (after you cut, trim, rewrite, clarify) will have to be an exemplification of the archetype you accidentally applied.

When you are doing "Art" - those "accidents" are in fact your subconscious screaming at you, "SAY THIS!" 

We don't always know what we know until we tell ourselves. 

So how do we know what we know in order to say it in a novel?

We view the world and then we depict what we see.

Art is a selective depiction of Reality.

Art is not reality itself.  Art is a few bits and pieces of Reality, rearranged to say something that may be useful to those who hear it. 

Fiction is a conversation about Reality in the language of Art, between fiction writers with readers eavesdropping.  Art is a "language" just as mathematics is a language.  Physicists talk to each other in Math.  Fiction Writers talk to each other in Art.

Physicists talk about the structure of Reality, and Writers talk about the structure of Life.

Both professions are Artistic professions, creative professions, exploring "where no one has gone before." 

Good physicists ask good questions no physicist has asked before.  Good writers as questions no writer -- or in the case of science fiction romance, no living being -- has asked before.

Having asked a New Question, the artist then suggests an Answer.

Not THE Answer, mind you, but An Answer.  Another writer will try to disprove that Answer, postulating a different Answer, and the argument will take shape as readers try out every variation they can imagine.  News stories and academic studies will flow, "progress" will be made, and the conversational argument will continue.

That exploration of the non-existent, unreal world of imagination is endlessly fascinating because if a human can imagine it, some other human can make it real.

That is how Art fuels human progress, and why it is so important to "support The Arts" -- Art inspires.

Commercial Art may inspire but that is not its purpose.  Commercial Art exists to make a profit, and Commercial Artists do this work to make a living while dreaming of making a killing! 

Art is a necessary component of human life -- it existed as Cave Paintings and campfire stories long before people lived in permanent structures with sewers and chimneys.

Art has proven to be a necessary component of Civilization because it inspires creativity and convinces young people to dream and make it real.  Through Art we know we can succeed.

So, as I have discussed in many previous posts, the Artistic component of novel writing, as opposed to the Craft Mechanics component, comes from the writer's ability to look at the tangled mess of "white noise" that is the Reality we live in, and sort out a signal, see a pattern in the randomness of reality. 

That signal may actually be there -- or maybe not, maybe it is just the writer's imagination.  Psychological Studies have determined that humans will always see patterns where there actually are none -- such studies are cited as proof that God does not exist, but is just a figment of our imaginations.

We see patterns in the Stars and give constellations names.  Various cultures have seen different patterns and named them differently, attributing different powers to the same sky patterns.

There is something that we just know:  Reality consists of patterns.

We don't believe this.  We know it. 

Science, on the other hand, seems to have proven that we see patterns where there are none.  Most of reality is random.  Entropy (disorder) always increases.

Then there is the Observer Effect, in physics, where the act of observing changes the observed.  This happens because to observe, one must bounce something off the object being observed and detect it.  When the bounce-impact happens, the observed object thereupon changes, and the bounce-back particle does not carry all the information about what the object will become. 

In other words, as of the early 20th Century, theoretical physics (mostly just math at that time, but now being checked out by the Hadron Collider) postulated a connectivity among all physical objects.

Oddly, this notion mirrored the bedrock principles of the most Ancient mysticism we have record of -- ancient magical traditions, religions even more ancient, -- humanity has always "known" that somehow what we think and feel affects concrete reality. 

Physics is all about discovering the equations that describe how physical objects affect one another (gravity and so on).

Art is all about discovering the archetypes that describe how human lives affect one another (Romance and so on).

The psychological "archetypes" that Carl Jung made so famous
describe not only how individual humans function, but also how we are all "connected" through the collective subconscious. 

Structuring human psychology this way brings human psychology into the same kind of structure that physics was postulating (during those same decades of the early 20th century).  In short it is "wheels inside of wheels" -- symmetry. 

And if you study Kabbalah, you will find that the Tree of Life structure that delineates (with mathematical precision) the connection between human consciousness and the physical world around us also uses that "wheels inside of wheels" structure.

The 10 Sepheroth or areas of definition, each contain all the 10, each of which contains all the ten -- the infinite regression effect symbolized by the Quaker Oats box with the picture of the Quaker Oats guy holding a box of Quaker Oats with the Quaker Oats guy holding a box of ..... infinitely.

Note how the image here shows each of the Sepheroth as Trees in and of themselves.  Now visualize how each of the Sepheroth on each of the little Trees contains another Tree.  In Math, these are called Cross Terms. 

One excellent way to understand how this bit of physics (reflection, infinite iteration) applies to human emotion at the interface between the spiritual and the physical (Love vs Sex) is to study this book:

This 49 day drill, done annually, educates and trains that non-verbal part of the mind that knows without believing.  (...knows such things as Love Conquers All -- a corollary of Joy Breaks All Barriers -- and other principles that are hugely unpopular these days.)

The human emotions are the lower 7 of the 10 Sephiroth, and each of the 7 manifest in human beings as combinations with each of the other 7X7=49. 

Each one of these focused exercises will yield at least one, of not dozens, of Romance Novel Plots, all with Beginning, Middle, End laid out clearly.

Underlying this particular book's explanation of this 7X7 structure of the human psyche is the pure Archetype that generates our human personality.  Once fully grasped, these principles will reveal why sayings such as, "There's no accounting for taste!" are not true. 

Archetypes belong to the realm of non-verbalizable knowledge.  It is not belief, but actual knowledge accessed by a different cognitive function that does not encode data in words or even in math.

An archetype is a pattern.  If you set out to make a new dress, you go to the notions store and select a pattern.  That pattern envelope contains several variations (long sleeve, short sleeve), and the one you select will give you a range of sizes. 

Behind all the variations and sizes is an "archetype" of "dress" -- ball gown, job interview dress, cocktail dress, etc.

Now you go select material and matching thread and buttons, zippers, sequins, whatever. Every possible combination will produce vastly different results.

But underlying all those different dresses is still The Archetype for that style dress that generated the folded tissue inside the envelope.

With writing a novel, you do the same thing.  You go to your store of Views of The Universe -- (life's a Ball, life's a party, life's a dinner date, life's all work, life's deep sea fishing expedition) -- and you pick out one of your Views.

Then you go to your notions counter and pick out details of how this Life you are going to depict is going.

Just as sewing that dress is an exercise in craft, so too is writing the novel depicting the meaning of life as experienced by this particular Character.

Your reader will recognize the verisimilitude of the life you are depicting because your reader, too, knows the archetype behind your original creation.

As Jung pointed out, we are all connected by something -- and he called that something the Collective Unconscious.  Maybe there is no such thing, but there is something we all have in common, we all recognize, no matter how hidden by details.

Art is in the selection of details juxtaposed to convey a theme - a message about the nature of life.

But the commercial novel writer does not get to invent new patterns, freehand.  If enough readers can recognize the underlying archetype, the pattern you selected, the novel will sell well.  If that pattern is not recognizable, the first people to buy it will not recommend it to others.

Scholarly, creative writers don't get to invent archetypes either -- but they may discover them.  Archetypes are as structurally fundamental to the structure of reality as are the laws of gravity.  We can't invent gravity - but our understanding of its relationship to space and time has changed markedly over the last few decades.

 Jean Lorrah, my sometime collaborator and a Professor of English, has noted that the novels we write belong to a hitherto unrecognized category, a particular Plot Archetype which I call Intimate Adventure (Action Adventure with the Action replaced by Intimacy which may or may not be sexual).

In real life, all the archetypes overlap and interact -- every human born on this planet has a unique composite of archetypes (Natal Chart) plus all the modifications (epigenetics) they gather through life.  It's a mish-mosh. 

In fiction, the Characters have 3 prominent traits, only one of which is dominant.  Characters are like musical chords, formulated just so. Not every chord goes with every other chord -- in a novel, the writer has to stick to the "Key" as the music writer has to stick to a Key.  The plot events of a novel are the "Time" or rhythm, -- is it a waltz or a fox trot or a tango? 

As I have explained in previous threads, Writing Is A Performing Art, a wisdom taught to me by Alma Hill.

Commercial Fiction Writers perform the story, just as a pianist might perform a Chopin piece for an audience.

No two performers do it the same way, and no two performances by a given pianist come out exactly the same.  A performance is a hand-made, one of a kind, artistic creation.

It is just like giving a speech someone else wrote, or making a dress from a pattern bought at a store.  Individual components are carefully chosen to go together into an artistic whole, with each component enhancing the meaning of all the others.  A huge set of individually mastered skills are brought together into a performance to present a tiny glimpse of infinite wisdom.

The choosing of components, the bringing of the components together to make the underlying Archetype visible, yet manifesting in a unique way, is the writer's Art.  The craft lies in the practice and mastery that makes the performance seamless, effortless, uplifting, memorable.

One sour note, one off-beat plot event, can reduce the sublime to the intolerable.

The Art is in the non-verbal message that is conveyed by the style, voice, and the beauty of the performance. 

Some commercial writers have to know what they're doing to do it well.  Some can't do it at all if they know what they're doing.  Others are hybrids of these extremes.

How you accomplish the performance is idiosyncratic.  What story you perform for which audience is idiosyncratic.  Writing teaches you as much about yourself as it does about the world and your audience.

The art lies in how you fit what you have to say within the recognizable archetype you share with your audience. 

Artists see something in the chaos of reality that the audience doesn't see, then use the tools of shared archetypes to reveal the purpose and meaning of life.

There is no art form that does this better than the Science Fiction Romance.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Inventing Traditions

I think I've previously mentioned one of my favorite seasonal books, THE BATTLE FOR CHRISTMAS, by Stephen Nissenbaum. The "Battle" refers to the replacement of the REAL "old-fashioned Christmas" by what we now think of as the "traditional" holiday, a process that occurred in the nineteenth century. Christmas in prior centuries would have looked to us like a blend of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras, and New Year's Eve. (Even in the mid-1800s, a major part of the Christmas celebration in the American South consisted of excessive drinking and making lots of noise, mainly by shooting off guns.) The transformation to the domestic holiday we cherish didn't come about through natural evolution but as a result of deliberate choices. The concept of St. Nicholas bearing gifts, although derived from one strand in Dutch culture, was not only popularized but effectively invented, as far as America was concerned, by the literary circle to which Clement Moore and Washington Irving belonged. The Christmas tree seems to have originally been, not a universal German custom, but the practice of one region in Bavaria. When it spread to England and North America, within one generation people were saying, "Of course we always have a Christmas tree," as if this "tradition" had existed from time immemorial.

The habit of giving gifts to children replaced the old practice of the upper classes bestowing bounty on their servants and poorer neighbors and giving treats to groups that performed wassail songs door to door. The "old-fashioned Christmas" of earlier eras was thus deliberately transformed into the domestic Christmas we're familiar with. Furthermore, worries about children becoming greedy for presents and anxiety over what to give to friends and relatives who already "had everything" sprang up almost immediately. Manufacturers and merchants were quick to produce and sell items designed especially as Christmas gifts. The family-centered celebration and the commercialized Christmas lamented by Charlie Brown grew up together. C. S. Lewis thought the "commercial racket" was a recent development in his own lifetime (as he discusses in the essay "What Christmas Means to Me" in GOD IN THE DOCK), but he was mistaken. As Nissenbaum's book points out, people in every generation have tended to conceive of the "real old-fashioned Christmas" as something that has just recently died out, in their parents' day or at most their grandparents'. In fact, the image of a pure, "authentic" holiday that existed in some past era is a myth.

So at Thanksgiving we sing "Over the River and Through the Woods," even though most of our grandmothers, like Charlie Brown's, live in condos rather than on farms. We sing, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," even if we grew up in one of the many parts of the country where it seldom snows (if at all) until January. Families have their personal traditions, of course. Some don't set up the tree until Christmas Eve, a custom that baffles me, because they go to all that trouble and then have only a week or a little more to enjoy the result. Of COURSE you are supposed to set up the tree as soon as practicable after Thanksgiving, and you open presents on Christmas morning. NOT on Christmas Eve—what a scandalous breach of propriety. :) During our sons' childhoods, our tradition included watching Christmas specials on TV, something my parents couldn't have done as children. Earlier in the twentieth century, visiting the department store Santa Claus began to grow into a tradition for many people. At nearby Sandy Point State Park, there's an annual lavish display called "Lights on the Bay," and driving to view that is probably a traditional part of many families' holiday season.

Consider "classic" carols and seasonal songs. How long does a song have to remain popular to enter the category of "classics" or holiday standards? Some now beloved and well-established songs have become standards in my lifetime, notably "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and "Little Drummer Boy," which I don't remember hearing in childhood.

Some Jewish families, as a concession to the dominant culture, set up a "Hanukkah bush" in their houses during December, a custom that's local to North America and dates back at the earliest to the late 1800s. Does this count as a "tradition"?

How long does a custom have to exist before becoming legitimately "traditional"? Mother's Day became a national holiday in 1914, thanks to a campaign by one woman, Anna Jarvis. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by an African American professor. The U.S. official Grandparents' Day has existed only since 1978 (and I'm not sure how much it has caught on other than with greeting card companies—I've never taken any notice of it, since I maintain that its purpose is already covered by Mother's Day and Father's Day).

Whether "invented" or not—and all celebratory practices were invented by somebody once upon a time—"traditions" are basically whatever people cherish as such.

Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and festive Yuletide to all!

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Depiction Part 23 - Guest Post By Carol Buchanan

Part 23
Guest Post By Carol Buchanan
Depicting Relationships

Here is the index post to previous entries in the Depiction series:

Today, Carol Buchanan has provided a Guest Post on for my series on Depiction, she has titled Depicting Relationships. Here it is, below.

Last week I reviewed Carol Buchanan's 4th novel in her Vigilantes series,

Carol Buchanan has depicted the formation of the States of the United States out of raw land - a wilderness rich with gold and searing cold winters.  No setting is more appropriate for Romance, and Science Fiction (science of mining, politics of the science of mining, life in constant confrontation with "the unknown" and "unknowable" (thus the murder-mystery theme fits perfectly into the Romance of Science Fiction)).

I recommended that writers of Alien Romance study what Carol Buchanan has done in this tetralogy to reformulate stacks of original-source documentation into real-life-living-full-color story of human beings struggling with their personal issues and still creating a new order -- the United States, -- all these states distinctly different, under different laws (and good reasons why laws had to be different) yet united.

The Vigilante series depicts the period when paper money was first being promulgated and valuated, when gold dust and coin was "real money" that you dug out of the ground.

The series speaks to the issues we've explored in the series on Astrology Just For Writers and on Tarot Just For Writers -- the innate problem of the Individual vs The Group (1st House vs 7th House).

Index to 10 posts on Suit of Swords:

Index to 10 posts on Suit of Pentacles;

All 5 Kindle volumes on Tarot are collected here (free on Kindle Unlimited):

Index to posts on Astrology:

The essence of story is Conflict.  Depicting Conflict is so hard that much of what you read today substitutes fist-fights, space battles, explosions, and chase scenes for "conflict" because writers (and many readers) do not know what conflict actually is.

So our modern entertainment industry has gone for the Visual Depiction of conflict, using symbolism even the youngest children can understand. BOOM!!! BAM!!!

In Romance and Mysteries, we divide novels into sub-categories: Sweet, Steamy, Cozy, Dark, Hard Bitten (Sam Spade), Gritty, etc. In science fiction it is Nuts-n-Bolts vs Sociological and a large variety of other sub-genres.  What survives today is mostly the Space Battles variety of science fiction that makes the concept of Science Fiction Romance seem odd.

But nothing could be farther from the truth of the matter.  Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction, and Westerns -- all of them, even the ones with a Conflict of Man Vs. Nature, are about Relationships, and very little other than Relationships.

Yet, in publishing we do discuss "The" Relationship-driven Plot, as if it were distinct from everything else.  It is not. All fiction is about Relationship, and all conflicts somehow involve Relationships -- even when the Main Character is a prisoner in solitary confinement relating only to himself and his/her imagination.

How a human relates to him/herself deep in the unconscious mind configures how that individual will relate to other people.  We all play out what is inside us, creating the drama of our lives.

The story writer's job is to reveal that fact in a way the targeted readership can absorb and understand in a non-verbal way.

Carol Buchanan has hit on a way of understanding that intangible fact about what the Relationship driven Plot really is.

Her previous Guest Posts on this blog are:

So here is her new Guest Post, Depicting Relationships, that may be of great use to Romance writers, especially those writing Paranormal or Alien Romance novels.

-----------GUEST POST BY CAROL BUCHANAN-----------

The Space Between: 

Depicting Relationships The Ghost at Beaverhead Rock

 At the core of a relationship between you and your other(s) lies the unspoken – the thoughts, the wishes, the desires known perhaps only to you, that are quite aside from overt speech or action. 

Likewise for the other.

In the space between you and the other person is the core of your relationship, the subliminal meeting neither of you may understand in the moment, no matter how long you know each other. Each of you conveys some of your inner life to others without being conscious of it.

In this space neither speaks, but only acts. The rhythm of breathing changes. One of you raises a wineglass, arches an eyebrow. A different tone colors a word.

Body language. There are whole books about that form of silent communication, but if I succeed in saying what I mean in this article, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about, although body language is a part of it.

The core of a relationship lies in the space between you and one or more others. The raised eyebrow may communicate an attitude or a feeling, but something happens between you and the other that is not brought to the surface. Neither of you speaks of it, but somehow you know there’s a difference on the other side of that space.

That’s where the relationship happens: In the spaces. In the nebulous area that holds the pauses in what is said, as a sudden silence falls on a party.

The partners in the relationship blink and ask themselves what happened.

The core of a relationship is subliminal.

The Subliminal Core of Relationships in The Vigilante Quartet

In the series I’ve titled The Vigilante Quartet, I make use of the subliminal core when Dan Stark, the hero of all four historical Western novels, encounters not only danger and violence but the direct opposite, love.

takes place in what is now southwest Montana. Historically, in 1863, it was a region where ruffians ruled and murder was tolerated. When a group of men form the Vigilance Committee (as they did in the history), Dan Stark becomes its prosecutor.

I brought the McDowell family into the novel as a foil for the violence around them – the gunfights, the vandalism, the terrorizing of decent people.

Martha McDowell’s determination to give her children a better life counters her husband’s aggression. Everything she does, from secretly learning to read against his wishes, to holding onto her faith in God, opposes his violence. She takes in two boarders. Dan Stark and Deputy Sheriff Jack Gallagher, a friend of her husband’s. Dan suspects Gallagher is secretly one of outlaws.

At supper one evening, McDowell and Gallagher challenge Dan, who they think threatens their rule by intimidation. (They’re right.)

At the same time, Dan and Martha recognize their feeling for each other. For their own safety, they must not let the other two suspect what happens between them. Their mutual knowledge comes by way of a change in how they see each other.

It occurs amidst covert threats against Dan from McDowell and Gallagher. With McDowell’s wife and children present, they can’t threaten Dan openly. The reader understands the threat because of three elements:

§  Gallagher and Dan have had increasingly hostile encounters earlier in the book.
§  Dan senses the threat as a snake’s rattling.
§  He is afraid for Martha and her young daughter sitting in a dark place beyond the candlelight.

Danger surrounds him, and he is afraid, but in the midst of this dark fear he catches Martha looking at him in a way he thinks of a “luminous.”

A light shines in the darkness.

In the space between them.


In my latest and final book of The Vigilante Quartet, a new relationship of a different order comes into the story of Daniel Stark’s evolution as a Vigilante.
The ghost of a hanged man haunts him.

Dan has married Martha following his return from New York City to pay his father’s debts. He is a prominent Vigilante, who has put the noose around the neck of more than one man. He first notices the ghost when it boards the stagecoach he is on at Beaverhead Rock (a landmark mentioned in the journals of Lewis and Clark.)

The ghost carries with it the stench of death, and takes the shape of a hanged man who carries a revolver in its hand.

The specter appears sometimes as a thickening of a shadow, a shimmering, a shudder where there can be no movement because shadows do not more on their own. It has no substance and makes no sound.

Dan thinks to himself, I do not believe in ghosts. But as a rational man, a lawyer, he cannot deny the evidence of his senses of sight and smell. If it doesn’t exist, how does he see it? Smell it?

That’s my challenge to readers. Is it a symbol of Dan’s sense of guilt? Is it one of the hanged men come back to accuse him of murder? Does it even exist?

Ghost and man never overcome the space between them..

How I Learned about the Space Between
Dan and the Ghost are in a relationship between human and nonhuman. Their entire relationship lies in the space between them.

I learned about the space between from an odd instructor named Gus.

Gus was a horse. My horse for a decade, until he colicked and I had to have him put down to end his suffering. 

One cold grey October day I went into the pasture at the equine sanctuary where I volunteered. I thought Gus had something that appealed to me, but I’d only known him for a couple of weeks. If he didn’t acknowledge me, I thought, I would concentrate on another horse. Sure enough, he stood grazing apart, a few yards away from the other horses that gathered around me for treats.
He raised his head, looked at me, and planted a tentative hoof in my direction, as though was uncertain what coming closer might bring him.

I thought, You’re my horse.

With him, I didn’t have the modes of communication I was accustomed to. A horse’s face are hide over bone, so they don’t have the facial mobility we humans read in each other.

Communications methods we learn from pets are useless with them. They don’t wag their tails as dogs do, for example. They don’t hiss, meow, or yowl as cats do.

But dogs and cats – and humans – are predators. Predators have monocular vision, with both eyes in the front of their faces, which gives depth perception and helps to judge striking distance. Perhaps predators have an innate sense of each other.

The horse is prey. And he knows it. He has binocular vision, with his eyes on opposite sides of his head. This gives him a nearly 360 field of vision, very good for spotting predators. He cannot see directly in front close up, nor directly behind.

It makes him very acute in sensing predatory intentions, in reading people. He “gets the vibes,” as they said in the Sixties.

From Gus I learned to listen for the vibes.

Sure, there were plenty of overt signals I learned. His vocal range would have done an opera singer proud, from soft rumbles in his throat to earsplitting bugles. I paid attention to the warning in a lifted hind hoof, and to the positions of his ears.

As time went on, we communicated almost by telepathy. I say “almost” because I’m hedging my bets. On our last trail ride before he got sick, I felt he was not happy, that the enclosing forest made him nervous. I thought, He won’t put up with this till the end.

Did I signal him somehow when I thought that? Did I mirror his nervousness back to him? Maybe. Probably. Horses are telepathic.

At any rate, awhile later, he turned back the way we had come. He was going home. I lost the discussion, but when he wanted to run home, I held him to a walk all the way back.

In the Space Between
Writers and writing books talk a lot about dialogue in terms of words spoken, gestures made. But I think there’s room for us to explore what is not said, what is not done in relationships.

To consider the space between.

To “Be still and know that I am God.” Yes, that relationship, too.

Carol Buchanan

Learning how we "relate" to the animals of Earth might be a big help in First Contact with non-humans from elsewhere.

We now know that monkeys, dolphins and whales speak to each other.  We humans have a lot to learn about Relationships.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg