MT VOID 03/14/97 (Vol. 15, Number 37)

MT VOID 03/14/97 (Vol. 15, Number 37)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 03/14/97 -- Vol. 15, No. 37

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.

MT Chair/Librarian:
              Mark Leeper   MT 3E-433  908-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  908-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  908-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
              Rob Mitchell  MT 2D-536  908-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  908-957-2070
Backissues available at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URL of the week: Information about the new TNT made-for-cable movie.

Telecommunications Act:

On Public Radio this morning they were talking about term limits. One person who was opposed to the idea was saying why he thought it is good for the country to have Congress made up of more experienced people. I guess he meant people like Strom Thurmond who is rumored to have been the first to suggest to General Lee that he invade Pennsylvania. What the gentleman being interviewed said was that it takes experience to know what bills are likely to be fruitful and which are wastes of time. I thought to myself that if Congress is so good at knowing which are the best bills to work on, why did they ever even try something as infeasible as the Telecommunications Bill of 1996 which attempted to regulate and censor the information tidal wave of the Internet. Actually the same thing was tried in Germany where people were afraid that the Internet was a threat to public decency. Now I can tell you Germany is a country where toplessness is common on television. There is little you will find on the Internet that isn't matched by what is brought to you on television in Germany. (At least that is my understanding. If someone wants to make a case that there are more corrupting things on the Internet, they can send me the URLs and I will report back.) So why was Germany so anxious to regulate the Internet? Why would any country feel it was worthwhile to spend its taxpayers' money investigating ways to control the Internet when any expert on the technology could tell them that it was hopeless. Anybody who is determined enough can get around government restrictions on the Internet and just some restrictions are easier to get around than others. I am not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, it just is. If the law says you cannot put some material on a site in this country, someone in some other country will come through and give you the facilities to post what you want. The people trying to come up with the regulations are hide-bound fogies who have been elected to Congress. The people trying to find loopholes are kids in their teens and their twenties who have grown up eating technology for breakfast and lunch. And there are a lot more of them. Does anyone really believe that Congress stands a chance?

What is more Congress knows that is true. The general consensus on the Telecommunications Act is that Congress must have known in the long run they could not win. So why waste the time and the taxpayers' money? And the United States is not alone. A lot of countries have tried to limit access to the Internet or to control what is available. What happened? Not much. You can rip out the technology or you can resign yourself. Why do they keep trying? I think I know. Well, I remember seeing INDEPENDENCE DAY last year. We have pretty much the same situation there. Alien spaceships the size of towns are floating over cities and blowing them up. What does the Air Force do but try to take them on. Now if the aliens had the technology to float those platforms over cities, you really think that and Air Force jet is going to knock one down? Not real likely. But the thing is the Air Force may know it has no chance and it still has to try. They have been collecting their military salaries, they have a responsibility to try to do what they can when something like huge saucers come floating over cities. Never mind the fact they will never do it. They owe it to the taxpayers to try and fail, rather than not to try at all.

Incidentally they might have taken their lesson from when something similar happened in Japan. Japan had emperors for a long time, but when foreigners started showing up, they created another high office, the Shogun. The Shogun is really the general in charge of quelling barbarians. The office was created when people showed up and tried to convert the Japanese to Christianity. The guests quickly wore out their welcome and the office of Shogun was created to have one person in charge of throwing the rascals out. And they were very effective. For a long time the Japanese lived without any foreigners (though an exception was made for the Dutch). The office of Shogun was so important that the Shogun began to eclipse the emperors. The Shogun became more powerful than the Emperor. The Emperors were not happy, but what could they do. The Shogun who had the power to throw out barbarians also had the power to throw out the Emperor. For 250 years or so the Shoguns grew fat and happy because they had the power and no barbarians came calling. The emperors kept their office, but it did not mean very much. The real emperors were the Shoguns. Then a funny thing happened. The Americans showed up with big black ships and big guns. And other foreign powers joined them. Now the Shoguns who were on the payroll of 250 years had to prove they could do what they said they could do, throw off barbarians. But 250 years of technological advance was a pretty powerful thing even then. And after 250 years of ignoring technological advance that was proceeding in barbarian countries, the Japanese could not fight a modern military force. The Shogun was lucky to be able to smile and say "Long live the emperor" and quietly back away. He escaped with his life and the Meiji Emperor took control of Japan. His answer was not to ignore progress because it threatened but to master and control it. The Air Force does not have that option to back away smiling in INDEPENDENCE DAY. It does not matter if they have no chance, they have to fight the invaders with the advanced technology.

Well, Congress Critters do not want to give up their office. They had to put up some sort of token resistance to the amoral power of the Internet even if they knew it was a lost cause from the start. At least that is what I think they did. [-mrl]


We have a guest review this week:

3001: THE FINAL ODYSSEY by Arthur C. Clarke (a book review by Joe Karpierz):

I first read 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY shortly after I'd seen the movie in an effort to get some idea of what was going on. I saw the movie when it was first released in 1968, and I was nine years old. The book was quite a revelation, and while it explained many things that I didn't understand about the movie, it certainly kept the mysteries of the movie intact. Indeed, the movie is my favorite sf movie of all time.

I read 2010: ODYSSEY TWO immediately upon its release in 1982, and felt it deserved its Hugo nomination. In another year, Clarke very well might have won the Hugo, but being up against Asimov (with FOUNDATION'S EDGE, the eventual winner) and Heinlein (with JOB: A COMEDY OF JUSTICE) that year hurt Clarke's chances. While 2001 purists may dislike the book because it explained many things that those purists felt were better left unexplained, I enjoyed both the book and the movie.

I didn't get much out of 2061: ODYSSEY THREE. I got even less out of 3001: THE FINAL ODYSSEY. And because of that I was severely disappointed.

The novel begins with the recovery of the body of Frank Poole, one of the original Discovery crew members, frozen in space near the orbit of Neptune (for me, here was my first clue that I might be unhappy with the book, although I didn't know it at first: wouldn't his body be likely to be hit with micrometeors over the course of 1000 years to the point where it wasn't recoverable?). If you remember, Poole was attacked by HAL 9000 via the space pod Poole was using to go EVA and replace the faulty AE-35 unit controlling the communications antenna that was their lifeline to earth. Poole is revived, and discovers that he has been frozen nearly 1000 years; it is very near the Fourth Millenium.

The first three quarters of the book is taken up with Poole acclimating himself with life in near the year 3000. We as readers learn all about the technological advances that have occurred over 1000 years: Braincaps, the space elevators, the habitat ring around the planet, and all sorts of technological predictions that Clarke likes to make. We get some indication of his reacclimation to relationships with females as well.

The last portion of the book deals with Poole encountering Halman, a sort of amalgamation of Dave Bowman and HAL 9000, stored within the Monolith on Europa, and the actions that the people of Earth take to combat the revelations that come as a result of that encounter.

I hesitate to give away anymore than I already have, but that's mostly because there isn't much more. Oh, there is a climax, of sorts, but it isn't very exciting or satisfying at all. It is the 1990s, and we're all used to fat books with small print, small margins, and tons of description and characterization. This book has none of those characteristics, although it could be argued that there is nothing necessarily wrong with large print and big margins. I found myself wanting more detail concerning Poole's reacclimation to life 1000 years after the Discovery disaster. I found myself wanting more detail concerning the resolution to the problem that purports to be the central point of the book. I found myself wishing for more details concerning humanity's reaction to the Monolith's reaction to the solution to the problem. I found myself wishing for ... uh, Gentry Lee (or somebody) to fill out the details (well, maybe not). The book was very lightweight (in more ways than one), and it suffered for it.

Clarke spent 2010 and 2061 giving us more and more details about the Monoliths, and then spent 3001 trying to put the mystery back into them. It left me with a very unsatisfied feeling because in my opinion he failed at that task.

The most interesting portions of the book are contained in the afterword, whereing he tells us about all the current advances and discoveries that made his predictions possible. He even goes on to tell us which portions of this book were lifted from other Odyssey books, albeit with heavy editing. I wonder how much effort Clarke really put into this one. I seem to remember reading in LOCUS that he turned it out very rapidly. It shows.

Having said all those bad things, I would say to everyone who has read the other three books to read this one. It does put a sort of closure onto the story, although I can see the possibilities for yet another book.

Here's hoping that the next one is better. [-jak]


(a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: Okay, so the film is about a mentally retarded murderer who killed his own mother. This is a film of comedy and pathos as well as horror. Billy Bob Thornton, co-writer of ONE FALSE MOVE, writes, directs, and stars in one terrific film. The plot may be a bit straightforward but the film is an audience- pleaser. It is a well-observed film about life in an Arkansas town. Expect to enjoy this one. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4)
New York Critics: 15 positive, 2 negative, 1 mixed

Very little seen but central to the film TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is the figure of Boo Radley, played by Robert Duvall in his theatrical cinema debut. For years Radley has been his town's legendary monster stemming from an act of seemingly senseless violence against his own family. Radley is, in reality, a simple and likable man who redeems himself by another act of violence, a revolt against the hatred of others. Radley is not responsible for his own violence, but focuses the callousness and evil around him, redirecting it back at its origin. A nearly identical character-- right down to having his shirt sleeves too long--is Karl Childers, the center of an enigmatic black comedy that is at times horrifying and at others amiable. SLING BLADE was written by, directed by, and stars Billy Bob Thornton. It is an expansion of the short film "Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade," directed by George Hickenlooper but also written by and directed by Thornton. In both films he plays Karl Childers a patient in an Arkansas state mental institution. Life there would not be bad if he did not have to be immersed in the sadistic sexual recountings of another patient, a predator played superbly by J. T. Walsh.

Karl is given a chance to tell his own story to a visiting reporter and though presented in a horrifying manner we begin to see Karl as a victim, yet somehow one without an ounce of self-pity. If we blame Karl's parents for his condition, it is our decision and not Karl's. Karl remains completely dispassionate about his past and his ability to do so makes his even more disturbing. Maintaining through the film a stone-like face with jutting lower lip he never shows any emotion. We are never sure what is happening behind that face and indeed when one of the characters probes later in the film we find it is either nothing or more likely it is well-hidden. Reportedly up to Karl telling his own story was all there was to Hickenlooper's original short film, but Thornton was apparently intrigued by the character he had written and played. SLING BLADE continues the story with Karl being released into what is for him a bewildering world.

Karl is out for just a few hours when he befriends a boy about twelve, Frank (Lucas Black) with roughly Karl's own mental capacity. Karl and the unquestioning Frank become fast friends and he is accepted almost as a family member in Frank's distressed family. That Frank's mother Linda (Natalie Canderday) accepts Karl seems almost more believable than her acceptance of her own abusive boy friend Doyle (Dwight Yoakam). Doyle is a bad ol' boy who verbally savages Karl, Frank, and Vaughan (John Ritter), Linda's gay boss.

The plot from this point follows a predictable path, but the story is not as important as the style and the textured look at life in a small Arkansas town. One can tell when a script is respected by the people who agree to be in small roles in the film. In SLING BLADE one spots several familiar faces in tiny roles including Jim Jarmusch as an ice cream stand boy and Robert Duvall in a tiny part as Karl's father, perhaps as an allusion to his own Boo Radley role. The photography is usually a bit straightforward and not as interesting as it could be, but as a first-time director Thornton has a sure hand. And he writes a script that is by turns sad, horrifying, and funny. If the ending is a little too neat, it also is clever and ironic.

The subject matter may not be to everybody's taste but the film is a winner on just about all counts. Rate this one a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 908-957-5619