Yes, Star Trek in general has awful dialogue, and Voyager takes shitty dialogue to a whole new level. There, I said it. Sue me.
I got a question from a person who shall remain nameless (you know who you are) about what’s wrong with the dialogue in Voyager. And the thing is, Voyager dialogue is so shitty it’s kind of set the tone for the whole series, so if you simply point out an example of bad dialogue, people look at you blankly and say “what’s wrong with that?” It’s like the dialogue is such crap, we’ve lost our frame of reference because we don’t believe it’s even possible for the dialogue not to be crap.
“You are beautiful when you’re scanning.” That’s actually a line from Voyager.
There’s a specific and pernicious form of crap, though, that particularly sets my teeth on edge. I don’t mean just stilted, hamfisted dialogue, though of course Voyager has that in spades.
I don’t even mean “reroute the current flow through the turboencabulator to produce a transreversed pulse from the tachyon field emitter,” though Star Trek in general and Voyager in particular are legendary for their technobabble. (“Somehow, the energy emitted by the singularity shifted the chroniton particles in our hull into a high state of temporal polarization”? Seriously?)
What really gets up my nose is the “as you know” speech. This happens when character A tells character B something they both already know, but the viewer doesn’t. As you know, Captain, the Treaty of Blinkenmuunchen forbids the use of transreversed tachyon field pulses in an inhabited star sector…”
This…is not how people talk. And it’s a clumsy tool for exposition.
So: What would it sound like if scriptwriters for other TV shows wrote dialogue this way?
Columbo: Detective, we have a photo of the suspect from a traffic camera! As you know, sir, a traffic camera is an automated photographic recording device affixed to a stationary pole, usually at an intersection. It is activated by the operation of a remote automatic trigger that causes it to fix a photographic record at that instant. Unfortunately, it won’t tell us where the suspect went, as it records only a single frame.
Breaking Bad: We’ve found a new dealer for our drugs! As you know, the drugs we manufacture are considered contraband, which means their sale is prohibited by law. We have the facilities to manufacture them, but we require the assistance of others to carry them to distant places and make them available for sale. Since this process is a violation of Federal and state laws, we will have no recourse to the justice system if our dealer refuses to abide by the terms of our agreement, so we must screen our dealers carefully.
Game of Thrones: Chaos is a ladder. And as I’m sure you know, Varys, a ladder is a simple tool that can be used to climb from a low place to a high place. So what I’m saying is that I believe political chaos can be used to climb higher in the sociopolitical hierarchy. This is a linguistic construction known as a “metaphor.”
Sherlock: I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high functioning sociopath. Do your research. And as I’m sure you know, “research” is a systematic procedure or process by which one can check their ides against a rigorous body of source materials and conclusions.
NFL Sunday Night Football: Passing interference, 15-yard penalty. As I’m sure you know, a yard is a unit of measure, equivalent to three feet. This should not be confused with a yard that is an area of open ground in front of a house or other structure, commonly planted with grass, even though we are currently standing on an area of open ground covered with grass.
As you doubtless know by now, the “as you know” speech makes your characters look like idiots. That’s on top of being unnatural dialog. Don’t do it.
I’ve been talking a bit about my Talespinner lately, so inevitably, as night follows day, that’s prompted people to ask ask, “Your Talespinner? What’s that?” (Like, seriously, I’ve had dozens of folks on Quora, several emails and PMs, and one Facebook Chat question about this.)
If you’ve been reading my content for any length of time, you know I’m not monogamous. I have multiple partners, as do all of my partners. And naturally, because people aren’t fungible, all my partners are different.
Now, when I refer to my wife, people know what I mean. “Wife” is an ordinary sort of title. We all have a context for a wife. It’s not a terribly difficult concept, and as concepts go it has deep roots, dating back to the Agrarian Revolution or somewhere thereabouts. Point is, when I say “my wife,” most folks have a vague approximation of an understanding about what that means, even if some of the assumptions pre-packaged with “wife” aren’t necessarily true (we never pledged to forsake all others, for example, sometimes leading to raised eyebrows when I talk about my wife and my girlfriend and her boyfriend and I going on vacation together).
“Girlfriend.” That’s another easy one. When I say “my girlfriend,” most folks probably have some idea of what that means. And as when I say “my wife,” that mental model is not too badly wrong, though there are a few corners where expectation may not entirely line up with reality, as when I talk about my girlfriend sounding me while my wife holds me down and my crush takes video.
Ah, “my crush.” That’s where things start getting a bit tricksy. Most folks are at least passingly familiar with the idea of a crush, even if they tend to assume crushes are (a) short-lived and (b) unrequited. I met my crush at an orgy in a castle in France, a statement that never stops being weird however many times I type it, but it remained unrequited for nearly a decade until my wedding dinner, when my girlfriend said “hey Eunice, did you know Franklin has a crush on you?” (I still call her “my crush” because “my friend, co-author, and occasional lover with whom I share a vaguely defined relationship” is a bit of a mouthful.)
And that brings me to…
So what TF is a Talespinner?
Well, as it says on the tin, a Talespinner is a spinner of tales. A weaver of dreams. A storyteller. A person who spins narratives and fables of fantasy from the cloth of imagination and language. A creator of mythology. A chronicler of the unreal.
My Talespinner and I, working on our novel together in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on our way to Barcelona. The thing about being a writer? You write EVERYWHERE!
We met on Quora. Okay, not met, but “met”…
Lemme start over.
We “met” on Quora. We interacted with each other’s answers. At some point, I don’t really remember why or when, she said something about sex toys and I said hey, would you be interested in beta-testing some new designs? She said yes, I sent her tentacles and I think a kazoo ball gag, and so, when we were looking for titles, I became her Toymaker.
We looked for a title for her. I won’t disturb you with the details because they would…err, disturb you, but I was struck by her fertile imagination and her creativity, her ability to weave sexy stories from the most modest of threads. (In fact, we accidentally created a shared-world anthology of sexual stories with a robust and complex society, because apparently that’s the kind of nerds we are). So she is…my Talespinner.
We’re writing a book together.
No wait, scratch that, it’s not quite correct. We’re writing two books together, a rather heavy and quite dark literary novel that’s not about sex, and an anthology of erotic shorts that is.
The literary novel started because her girlfriend said “the Toymaker and the Talespinner? That should be a YA novel!” We started in that direction, got a bit more than a quarter of the way done with it, realized at about 28,000 words that it really wasn’t a YA novel but rather something much darker and more complex, tore up that novel, and started over from scratch.
She accompanied me on the extended polyfamily’s vacation to Barcelona, which was fantastic fun; in fact, my wife took a lovely photo of me snuggling my crush and my Talespinner in the orgy pit.
I love my polycule! My Talespinner told me it’s one of the warmest, most welcoming poly networks she’s seen.
Today, I had to run a rather annoying errand—namely, I had to hike down to the Post Office (a 20-minute trek each way), which thankfully is open half the day on Saturday, to mail some of my personal porn stash to Congress.
Yes, I’m serious.
To understand this story, you must first understand cataloguing-in-publication. Most books published in or for sale in the United States have a CIP data block on the copyright page. It’s a set of bizarre numbers and dashes, and it indicates exactly how the book should be catalogued using the Library of Congress cataloging system.
This system is way more complex than the Dewey Decimal System, and has category identifiers for every category of fiction and nonfiction you can imagine, up to and including subjects as specific as “hacking,” “betrayal,” and “voluntary human sacrifice.”
This CIP data block looks like this:
These numbers all instruct libraries exactly how to file the book. The CIP block is put together by library science researchers who are intimately familiar with the filing system, and study the book to see how to categorize it.
You can get this information free from the Library of Congress, or pay researchers at specialized companies to put this block together. Without it, libraries will refuse to stock the book.
If you have the Library of Congress do it, you can get a Library of Congress Control Number, an ID that links the book to its CIP data block online. This LCCN also appears on the copyright page. So far, so boring.
Now, when you register a copyright on a book, you must send two copies of the book to the Library of Congress. However, if you get an LCCN, you must also send a third copy to a different office at the Library of Congress.
When Eunice and I published our pornographic collection of short stories, Ecstatic Communion, we got an LCCN. I didn’t realize until today that the Library of Congress needed that third copy. I didn’t have any extra copies, so I just had to send them my own personal copy.
Which means I can now check off “send porn from my personal stash to Congress.”
For those of you who’ve been hiding beneath a rock these past few news cycles, the Internet Archive, the operators of the Internet Wayback Machine, was just handed a stunning defeat in a copyright feud with Hatchett, Random Penguin, and other major publishers.
Essentially, they had set up an internet lending library, and the publishers…didn’t take kindly to that.
As a book author, I have super-complicated and mixed feelings about this.
There are two different ways to think about this huge kerfluffle, morally and legally. On top of that, there’s a whole ’nother dimension to the problem that has nothing to do with books or copyright at all.
Buckle up, this will be a wild ride.
So first, let’s talk about what’s happening. The Internet Archive is trying to become a digital version of this:
Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris by Remi Mathis & Marie-Lan Nguyen — CC BY-SA 3.0
Libraries purchase books, which they lend out to readers. Legally, they can do this because of something called the “first sale doctrine,” which says if I buy a book it’s mine and I can do what I want, including loaning, giving, or selling it to you without paying the publisher.
I’ve already paid the publisher when I bought it. That copy is now my property. I can’t make copies of it and loan, sell, or give away the copies, that would violate copyright law (which is literally the right to copy).
But I can loan, sell, or give away my only copy, because there’s one copy of it that the publisher was paid for. If I give it to you, I don’t have it any more.
Okay, so. When COVID hit, libraries all over the world closed. The Internet Archive said, hey waitaminnit, people can’t go to libraries. So how about this:
We will buy a book. We will then scan the book into an electronic copy. We can then lend that electronic copy to readers, but we will only lend it to one reader at a time. Once we lend it to someone, we won’t lend it to anyone else until that person has checked it back in with us, which erases it off that person’s computer.
It’s the same thing, right? We buy a book, we loan the book out, there’s only ever one copy on loan for each copy we buy. Just like a library.
Well, hang on, not so fast.
The legal situation around ebooks is a mess.
Publishers have long resented libraries and used-book stores. They quite like the idea that everyone who reads a book gives them money. They’d prefer to live in a world where if you buy a book, you are not allowed to give it sell it to someone else—if someone else wants to read it, they have to buy it too.
Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris by Remi Mathis & Marie-Lan Nguyen — CC BY-SA 3.0
Publishers hate this
The first sale doctrine came about in 1908, after publishers sued a book store that was selling books for less money than the publishers wanted them to.
The Supreme Court held that publishers have intellectual property rights in books that pertain to copyright and distribution rights, but the distribution right is exhausted once a book is transferred.
In English, that means if I sell you a book you can’t make copies of it, but I can’t control what you do with that physical book you just bought—I can’t stop you from selling or giving it to someone else, nor control how much you sell it for.
Then ebooks came along. And ebooks aren’t physical things. And book publishers said “we aren’t selling you this ebook. You are giving us money for a license to read it. You don’t own anything. We aren’t selling this file to you. We still own it. The first sale doctrine doesn’t apply.”
If you buy a print book, you have the legal right to loan, give, or sell it to others.
If you “buy” an ebook, you are paying for a limited, revocable license to read it. You don’t own the ebook. The publisher can revoke your right to read it whenever they like. If Amazon decides to erase your Kindle tomorrow, they can do that. You have no right to loan, give, or sell that ebook to other people unless the publisher says you can.
So ebooks and print books are very different animals. You have a legally protected right to buy print books, start a library, and loan those physical objects to other people.
Ebooks? Nope. You have no right whatsoever to buy a bunch of ebooks and lend them out.
But wait! The Internet Archive is buying physical books!
Yup. But they’re not lending out those physical books. They’re scanning them, turning them into ebooks, and lending out the ebooks.
U.S. District Court Judge John G. Koeltl, who is overseeing the case, was quite blunt about this:
At bottom, IA’s fair use defense rests on the notion that lawfully acquiring a copyrighted print book entitles the recipient to make an unauthorized copy and distribute it in place of the print book, so long as it does not simultaneously lend the print book.But no case or legal principle supports that notion. Every authority points the other direction.
And legally, he’s 100% right. No law, court finding, or interpretation suggests that if I buy a book I can transform it into another medium and then loan, give, or sell it on.
Copyright law allows fair use in the case of “transformative use,” which is use adds “new expression, meaning, or message” to the original work.” This is how movie and book critics can show clips or excerpts; their critique is “transformative use.”
The Internet Archive said “hey, the courts said that when Google scanned books, that was transformative use!” Judge Koeltl said “that was transformative use because Google scanned the books to make them searchable, but Google isn’t giving out scanned copies. You’re not doing anything new, you’re just scanning the books and giving them out.”
Legally, Judge Koeltl is 100% absolutely positively right.
The First Sale Doctrine applies quite narrowly to physical objects—physical copies of a book. All the laws about this are quite clear on that (though of course in 1908 nobody could imagine a book that wasn’t a physical thing, but still—the law as written is what it is).
Judge Koeltl also pointed out that publishers have no way to know if the Internet Archive is only loaning out as many copies as they have.
Libraries that loan ebooks do so with special permission of the publisher. This special permission comes with all kinds of strings attached, including paying fees and using encryption systems to make sure that if I copy a loaned ebook, then check it back in to the livrary, then restore the copy, I can’t read it—when I check it in, the library servers revoke my encryption keys.
The library servers also record and report the number of copies on loan, and this can be audited.
Internet Archive? Didn’t do any of that.
Morally, as a published author who makes a living writing, I think the Internet Archive is 100% absolutely positively right.
Their logic is sound. The spirit of the First Sale Doctrine clearly is intended to allow someone who’s purchased a book to loan it to others, even if the law as written came from a time before ebooks.
The Internet Archive argues, and I believe, that loaning books encourages sales. I know I personally have bought books I’ve borrowed.
But regardless of whether or not that’s true, if you’ve bought my book you should be able to loan it out.
Now, the Internet Archive’s copy control system may be problematic, but that’s engineering, not morality or law.
I sincerely hope the appellate court sees the intent of the law and agrees. I doubt they will. I think this is headed for the Supreme Court, and if I were a betting man I’d offer 80/30 odds the Internet Archive will lose.
The Internet Archive is facing an existential threat. If it loses on appeal—and I think it will—the damages will be staggering. Enough to bankrupt the Archive (which is a non-profit entity) hundreds of times over.
And that would be a disaster.
I don’t use the word “disaster” lightly. It would be a complete catastrophe. The Internet Archive houses the world’s only archive of the bulk of the World Wide Web.
They do a lot more, too. They are a repository for old games, flash videos, and so on that have otherwise been lost.
I fear that huge amounts of history will be gone forever if the Internet Archive ceases to be. The transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age is a watershed moment in human history, as important as the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, but because digital records are ephemeral, incredibly important historical records are also incredibly fragile.
We are living, right now, in an important time in human civilization. The Internet Archive is literally the only existing record of important parts of it. If they cease to be and their archive is destroyed, it will be this century’s equivalent of the burning of the Library of Alexandria.
Orchids are cool, in a “nature is horrifying” way. There are species of orchid that have evolved structures that look like insects, which they use to lure in insects searching for mates.
Some orchids use these insect visitors to pollinate themselves. The insect does its thing and then flies off, horny and frustrated and covered with sticky pollen, but otherwise none the worse for wear.
But some orchids are carnivorous. They lure insects to their doom, slowly digesting their prey alive as the ill-fated insect struggles helplessly.
And some orchids mimic insect pheromones, sweeting the honeytrap with the same signals that female insects use.
I’ve been thinking quite a lot about sexual parasitism of humans lately, in no small measure because I’ve finished the first version of the Xenomorph Hiphugger Strapon, a Giger-esque nightmare sex toy first conceived by my wife Joreth. Imagine an alien facehugger that wraps around the subject’s hips, then incites the subject to seek out victims, violating them in a parasitic frenzy. As creepy as this image is, it’s table stakes in the game of real-world sexual parasitism, which is horrifying.
Anyway, that’s got me thinking: what if an alien species created mimics of human females to lure in the male of the species? (An idea for a horror novel with this theme is bubbling in my brain; stay tuned!)
What I’ve come up with so far is…well, pretty horrifying.
I’ve started work on a small, AI-illustrated graphic novella (is a graphic novella a thing?), though with all the projects in the pipe right now—including a version of the hiphugger strapon optimized for oral violation—it may be a while before it’s finished.
Preorders for The Hallowed Covenant, my new post-scarcity science fiction erotic novel with Eunice Hung, just went up today! And man, I am really, really excited about this book.
This is probably my favorite book I’ve ever coauthored. We take a deep dive into what it’s like to live in the City, along the way touching on themes like:
• How do you have a system of justice in a post-scarcity society with no police or codified laws?
• What are the AIs the people in this society worship as gods? What are they like?
• What do transgression and atonement look like when there’s no such thing as law?
And of course there’s lots of sex, much of it involving kinks so exotic they don’t even have names.
The novel follows seven friends as they wrestle with changes in their lives, set against the backdrop of the Festival of the Lady (the AI god of art and creativity)—think Burning Man in a society with a tech level that makes Star Trek look late Bronze Age, but more hedonistic.
The first two novels in the Passionate Pantheon universe have done so well people started asking us for audiobook versions, and guess what? We delivered! The Hallowed Covenant has an audiobook, narrated by the amazing (and incredibly sexy) Francesca Peregrine.
This has been an incredibly productive year. Well, years, actually. The last three years have been the most creative, most productive time in my life. And I’m pleased to share some of that creativity with you!
First up, a new novel, The Hallowed Covenant! This is the third book I’ve co-authored with the marvelous Eunice Hung. It’s also the third book in the Passionate Pantheon series of far-future, post-scarcity science fiction theocratic pornography.
Yes, we invented a genre.
Anyway, I’m incredibly proud of this novel. We explore (I think) some really interesting ideas about autonomy, responsibility, atonement, and forgiveness, amidst all the really hot super-kinky sex.
This is also the first Passionate Pantheon novel that will have an audiobook version, narrated by the amazing Francesca Peregrine. She had some lovely things to say:
Favourite chapter so far: a description of a festival that basically sounds like Sexy Sci-fi Burning Man. I want to…go there? Like….now? Immediately, please. Give me chaotic, beautiful art blended seamlessly with hot people Doing It. @franklinveaux and @Eunice_Serina
The book publishes this October. Preorders are up on Barnes & Noble and Amazon, but watch this space! You’ll be able to get a copy before pub date at a special price (and an early peek at the audiobook and the fourth novel in the series, Unyielding Devotion) if you back our crowdfunding next month!
I’ve also just launched a new website for makers who like sex: Tentacle Love. This is a DIY site full of tutorials and tips for making your own silicone sex toys, and includes downloadable 3D printable molds for you to cast sex toys yourself.
I’ve been making silicone sex toys for a while, so from time to time I also plan to put one-offs on the site for sale. These aren’t your typical sex toys, oh no—my tastes being what they are, I’ve made everything from kazoo ball gags (yes, seriously) to double-sided tentacle gags to…well, stranger things.
Join me and my co-author Eunice Hung Saturday, April 23, 2022 at 11:00 AM Pacific time/7:00 PM London time for a live-stream event! We talk about the book publishing process, how to co-author together, and how to start your own novel…plus you’ll be able to watch us begin work on a brand-new book!
Image by pascal stöckmann. There’s something unsettling about a camera pointed square at you, isn’t there?
It’s almost here! Where did the time go?Join Eunice and I for a live-streaming event on April 23, where we will answer questions about writing a novel, co-authorship, publishing, details about the world of the Passionate Pantheon, the trials and tribulations of working entirely remotely, and whatever other general random tangents that our brains drag us to (based on past experience)!All this, plus you get to watch the very start of the writing process for the fifth novel in the Passionate Pantheon series!
When: Saturday, April 23, 2022, from 11 AM Pacific/2 PM Eastern/7 PM London time, for at least two hours (but knowing us, probably a lot longer, because we don’t know when to stop).
What: You know that saying, “Everyone has a novel somewhere inside”? One of the most common questions we hear is “I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but how do you get started?” Another is, “I’ve always wanted to write with someone else, but how do you write together?”
Why: You can get your answers questioned…wait a minute, strike that, reverse it. (Although we’re always happy to have our answers questioned, if there’s folks with more expert knowledge in the livestream!) Plus people who attend will get a secret perk when the crowdfunder for the third novel, The Hallowed Covenant, goes live!
We’ll address both of those questions (though protip, you probably won’t start your novel(s) in quite the same way we started ours!), and talk publishing, writing, and the creative process. We co-author in quite an unusual way, so if the way we work sounds appealing, let us tell you all the mistakes we made so you don’t have to!
You’ll also be able to watch us begin a brand spanking new novel together! (Caveat: spanking not included.)
We plan to create a new, blank Google Docs file and start the fifth Passionate Pantheon novel right in front of you. It won’t just be us telling you how to start a novel; you’ll be able to see it happen!
The process itself—the conversations we have, the mechanics of how we write, the world-building, all of it will be on display for the whole world to see, warts and all. (Gulp!) You’ll see the dead ends, the changes, the moments when the plot or characterisation clicks—all the things you’ll probably experience during writing yourself, played out live in front of your eyes.
My co-author Eunice Hung and I have now finished four books together in our far-future, post-scarcity science fiction theocratic erotica series. The first two, The Brazen Altar and Divine Burdens, are out now. The third, The Hallowed Covenant, goes to press in a few months, and the fourth, Unyielding Devotion, publishes next year.
The reward for finishing a novel is you get to start a new one, so we’re gearing up to start the fifth, as-yet-untitled book.
And for this one, we’re trying an experiment. We have a ton of ideas we plan to introduce in the fifth novel…and we want to invite you along for the ride!
For Book Five, we’re planning something really unusual. (Fitting, because our writing process is also unusual.) We’ve had countless people ask how we work together, and countless more ask “how do you even write a novel, anyway?”, and one of the rules of good writing is “show, don’t tell,” so…
Beginning in April, we want to live-stream the start of Book Five. That means you can ask questions, see the conversations we have before and as we’re developing a book, and watch how the story changes from concept to final printed book. If it goes well, we might even consider making this a repeated event.
Whether you’re a fan of the Passionate Pantheon series or just interested in the process of how co-authorship works, or you simply want to write a book but don’t know how to start, we hope you’ll find the live-stream interesting.
We’re just starting to plan it all. As the plan comes together, we’ll be posting on the Passionate Pantheon blog. Interested? Drop me a comment!
The various evil things spearheaded by my crush notwithstanding, being able to spend time with her in Europe was fantastic fun.
For the past several months, we’ve been talking about collaborating on a writing project. She has built a fascinating world—a quasi-steampunk, high-tech, post-scarcity society with advanced biomedical technology ruled over by more or less benevolent AIs, worshipped as gods, who are fascinated by human sexuality, and so have bent the entire society toward the intersection of sex and religion.
It’s a fun (and hot!) place to visit. We want to create a book of erotic short stories set in that world.
While we were all in Europe, she and I officially started that project…using her body as a canvas. She brought a collection of fountain pens with her. I spent a couple of hours in the orgy room, beginning the writing of the book..on her back.
This his is, I think, probably the most unusual way I have ever started writing a book.
I have no idea when it will be finished; there are a number of writing projects ahead of it, and I’m still shopping for a publisher. (I am considering pitching it to Cleis and Circlet.) Still, I’m really excited about this book!
As a side note, writing on human skin with a fountain pen is remarkably difficult. Also, remarkably fun.