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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 07/04/97 -- Vol. 16, No. 1
Table of Contents
MT Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 email@example.com HO Chair: John Jetzt MT 2E-530 732-957-5087 firstname.lastname@example.org HO Librarian: Nick Sauer HO 4F-427 732-949-7076 email@example.com Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell MT 2D-536 732-957-6330 firstname.lastname@example.org Factotum: Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-2070 email@example.com Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/~ecl. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
URL of the week:
http://www.locusmag.com/. LOCUS magazine. [- ecl]
News on BABYLON 5:
BABYLON 5 has been renewed, but the fifth season will run on TNT, not on the PTEN network stations. (In New York, this means it will not be on WWOR.)
On 4 January 1998, the new BABYLON 5 movie, IN THE BEGINNING, will be broadcast on TNT at 8PM EST, followed by a broadcast of the BABYLON 5 pilot, THE GATHERING, at 10PM. They will be rebroadcast immediately following at 12M and 2AM Sunday.
The next day, TNT will start running the first four seasons every weekday night at either 6PM or 7PM EST.
The fifth season will start Monday, 19 January, and the episodes will be broadcast Mondays at 10PM EST and Saturdays at either 6PM or 7PM EST.
There will also be a "Making of" show sometime in January. [-ecl]
Comments on Mike Tyson:
It is not often that I write about sports in this column. Generally I tend to avoid sports on TV, in movies, and just about anyplace else that avoiding sports is feasible. If I cannot avoid sports I will do the next best thing, which is to root against the home team. If the home team wins, it will only encourage them. Everything else being equal, I want to live in a place far from the nearest team. If I cannot do that, I want to have losers playing on any local team. For me baseball on TV is what preempts the science fiction film scheduled to follow it. I lost my first viewing of WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE that way. They weren't even playing. The game was over but they were doing a post-game analysis for those who sat through the game but were too dumb to understand what they saw. And it wasn't like it moved too fast to follow, it was, after all, baseball.
So I usually ignore sports, but then it is not often that sports as funny as it was this week makes national news. I am talking, of course, about the usually staid and contemplative Mike Tyson biting each of Evander Holyfield's ears in a fight last Saturday, in one case actually biting a piece off so that reconstructive plastic surgery is called for. I think that prize-fighting makes baseball look like an intelligent game. Tyson was angry at Holyfield for a headbutt--headbutt is a particularly apt juxtaposition of words for the boxing game I think--and he decided to take revenge on those ears. Tyson initially was going to claim that the ears were just hanging there in front of him, looking big and tempting, and hence that constitutes entrapment. I mean, a man as erudite as Tyson would never think of chomping on somebody's aural appendages on his own; he had to have been seduced. Tyson was going to fight his punishment legally in court until he was informed by his lawyer that it would be a virtual legal impossibility to reassemble the Simpson jury. Tyson, as you may remember, was convicted of rape a few years back but is now trying to rehabilitate himself and be a productive member of society by beating up other people without biting or eye-gouging. He just had a momentary lapse.
By ear-biting Tyson may have blown any reputation he might have had as a deep thinker. So now he is taking a more conciliatory stance, saying basically "oops" and that biting this big sweaty ear hanging in front of him was the kind of mistake anybody could have made. Of course, this incident may have caused an unintentional but precipitous drop in the stock price for Tyson Foods. It looks like Tyson may lose his license to box. Instead he will probably try for the role of Turiddu in the opera CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. (And I bet there won't be many people who get THAT joke.) [-mrl]
by Elizabeth Moon (339pp, hardcover ISBN 0-671-87718-6; there is also a paperback edition) (a book review by Joseph A. Karpierz):
I didn't know much about Elizabeth Moon when I picked up REMNANT POPULATION, other than the fact that my wife read a lot of her books. I was actually quite surprised to see a book by Moon on the Hugo nominations list, probably mostly because I have this preconceived notion of the type of book she writes that certainly doesn't fit my description of Hugo material. While I enjoyed reading REMNANT POPULATION, it did nothing to change my opinion. Now before the Moon fans out there get all up in arms, I didn't say that she couldn't develop into that kind of writer; I'm just saying that right now, I have no reason to believe that she is that kind of writer.
The novel begins just before the evacuation of a colony on an unnamed planet by a corporation that, as we find out a later in the book, didn't do a very good job in choosing a location for the colony--the weather is just not conducive to long term settlement. The central character of the story, Ofelia, is an old woman who is deemed expendable by the corporation as nonproductive and too expensive to take along, although by law they have to. So when she decides to stay behind anyway because she prefers her solitude to the life and family she had, it turns out not to be a bad deal--she doesn't get on the last shuttle, and they don't look for her. Everybody is happy.
Ofelia attempts to make a life for herself, and does quite well at it. She learns how to use the colony control center, which contains all the hardware for support, such as power, to help keep herself alive. She uses the weather satellite communications device to keep track of the storms, the freezer there to store food, etc. One day on the communications console she hears that another colony is getting set to land, only to be destroyed by some strange creatures that no one knew was there.
From there, the story falls to the usual trappings of this kind of tale: Ofelia meets the creatures, befriends them, becomes accepted by them, and has to deal with authorities coming to check out what happened to the destroyed ship.
There is really nothing new here; it's been done so many times before that we should be used to it by now. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy reading the book. I think that the story is well told, and Moon's style is very straightforward, which I enjoyed encountering directly after reading BLUE MARS. It's a good, light summer read for a day at the beach, or while you're curled up in a chair next to a fireplace in the wintertime, but it really isn't much more than that. But that's okay, because we need books like that anyway. So enjoy it. [-jak]
MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING:
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: Julia Roberts plays a manipulative woman determined to win back the love of her former lover and best friend when he announces he is going to marry someone else. Five minutes into the film the whole plot becomes obvious, though there is some fun in seeing the details filled in. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4), 5 (0 to 10) [Spoiler warning: I will reveal no more than was in the trailer of MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING, but that has a large spoiler.]
New York Critics: 10 positive, 4 negative, 9 mixed
It is not clear what the rules of spoilers are. It may be a spoiler just to say that a film is predictable. But there is only one way MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING can go once the premise is known. And even the trailer tells what the premise is. A conniving woman, played by Julia Roberts, once had a steamy relationship with a man who has since remained her best friend. Now he intends to marry someone else. Roberts determines she will break up the plans and marry the man herself. The plans are made even more difficult when she discovers that the wife-to-be is a very sweet woman and would be a perfect mate. There is only one non-bizarre plot that can come from that premise and it is obvious ten minutes into the film. The style of the film, however, is all in the details.
Julia Roberts plays Julianne Potter, a food critic whose has a long history with now sports writer Michael O'Neal (played by Dermot Mulroney) as a close friend, confidant, and one-time ardent lover. Each has held the other as a sort of ideal of the opposite sex. The two have made a pact that they would marry by the age of 26 if neither has found someone better. Now at age 26, Michael suddenly wants to talk to Julianne. She is terrified that she may have to make good on her pledge. Her fear, however, turns to rage when she discovers that Michael has found the perfect bride and it is not her. Kimmy Wallace (Cameron Diaz) could have been computer- designed to be impossible competition for Michael's affections. She is beautiful, she is heir to lots and lots of money, and worst of all she is incredibly nice--especially to Julianne. She also has the one quality that Julianne could never for herself to have, she is romantic and Julianne's inability to be romantic is what broke up her affair with Michael. Now she is desperate to break up the marriage and snag Michael for herself.
Julianne has another male confidant, her handsome and worldly publisher George (Rupert Everett). In fact George would also seem to be a perfect mate for Julianne but for the fact he is gay. With George's reluctant counseling Julianne sets off to discredit Kimmy by foul means or fouler. The campaign starts in a karaoke bar where Julianne contrives to have non-singer Kimmy embarrassed by having to perform in front of the entire bar. Predictably the plot backfires as Kimmy more than makes up in style for what she lacks in voice. Julianne's devices to discredit Kimmy get more and more desperate and more and more devious, as she is determined not to have herself defeated by a woman who is merely sweet, sincere, and romantic.
As the film follows its trajectory, the story is fleshed out by scenes, some of which make sense and some of which that just do not work. The most enjoyable show Julianne's close friendship with George. Ronald Bass's screenplay goes in for extremes and makes George just a wonderful man. His advice is always right on the mark, but he willingly lets himself be embroiled in one of Julianne's schemes. One of the scenes that definitely does not work and even takes a turn for the surreal has George getting an entire restaurant singing "I Say a Little Prayer for You." (Also somewhat unbelievable is a mishap at a pre-wedding brunch that certainly appears to be a physical impossibility.)
Julia Roberts generally plays women with aggressive personalities and is well-cast here. Cameron Diaz has too few scenes where she has to be more than Miss Perfect. She gets a better scene or two later in the film, but like the Cheshire cat what sticks with us is her smile and the rest fades from memory. Dermot Mulroney plays the McGuffin--both sides are fighting for him and it is never really clear why. During the opening credits, while an incredibly pink girl group sings "Wishing and Hoping," the one optimistic note was to see that M. Emmet Walsh was in the film. Sadly while the film gets better, it never really uses Walsh to any advantage.
MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING is a serviceable romantic comedy, for those who are not fond of surprises. I rate it a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
BATMAN AND ROBIN:
[Sentences in this review were accidentally truncated last week. here is the corrected version.]
Capsule: BATMAN AND ROBIN combines the pacing of a Hong Kong action film with the plot depth of a Hong Kong action film. The current chapter has some interesting visuals if it would ever slow down enough to let the audience appreciate them, but the writing is the worst of any of the series. Rating: low -1 (-4 to +4), 2 (0 to 10)
New York Critics: 2 positive, 10 negative, 12 mixed
Someone decided it was time for another Batman film. Note that this is not the same thing as saying that somebody had a good idea for a Batman story that they wanted to film. I did not say that someone was really excited about the possibilities for the Batman character and the peripheral people in Batman's life. But time has definitely passed and the cash cow was ready for another squeeze. Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O'Donnell) battle Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) a villain who wants to freeze the world and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) who can make people love her, has a poison kiss, and wants to make the world safe for plants. Batman's butler Alfred (Michael Gough) is dying. Batman and Robin have a falling out over Ivy. Alfred's British niece (Alicia Silverstone) becomes Batgirl. And this plot is just one minor feature of the new BATMAN AND ROBIN! If I seem not to consider the plot very important, you should see the treatment it gets from director Joel Schumacher. The script was not ready to film and Schumacher should have rejected it. Clearly there are better things to do with the villains than to have them call the title characters "Batface and Birdbrain." Ivy was turned into a monster by being buried with some poisons for a few minutes. She comes back to life and immediately says various parts of her have been replaced by chemicals and her lips are now poison. How would she know? One sparkling line in the film has a scientist claiming to have drilled "three concentric circles" into somebody's skull.
Top-billed as Mr. Freeze is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who may be able to bench press a Buick but finds it beyond his ability to push a performance out through thick layers of blue makeup and plastic suit. The concept of a villain who fell into a freezing vat and now wants to freeze the world left me cold, and Schwarzenegger's performance is an absolute zero with none of his natural wit and far too many lamely unfunny one-liners. Physically, George Clooney looks the most like the comic book Bruce Wayne of the three actors who have played him so far, or put another way, this is the first one who looked at all the part. The problem is that Clooney is not a very exciting or even interesting actor. And if you cannot be exciting as Batman, you may just not be destined to be exciting at all. Chris O'Donnell plays Robin, the Boy Wonder who in my days of reading the comic was eternally about fourteen years old. Unfortunately it is hard to find a fourteen-year-old with marquee value. Putting O'Donnell in the role becomes an increasingly silly piece of casting each time he shows up. This leaves the BATMAN AND ROBIN wide open to be stolen by the fourth-billed Uma Thurman. Uma Thurman! How bad do three actors have to be for a decorative but dull Uma Thurman to turn in the most interesting performance? Next comes Alicia Silverstone as Barbara Wilson, soon to be Batgirl. Silverstone is a cute blonde who gets most of her personality by making funny expressions with her mouth: biting her lower lip, pouting, so forth. The script apparently calls for her to be British, but she made no attempt to sound British and nobody cared. Michael Gough, who has been in ALL FOUR Batman films turns in the most touching performance and may well be the best actor in the film.
With each new Batman film Gotham City becomes more deeply engulfed by the inevitable and all-consuming advance of Art Nouveau. The art style appears to be chewing up all the more normal-looking buildings and spitting out titanic geometric formations and baroque reliefs and statues of colossal human figures. Gotham seems unable to stem the tide, but apparently Batman has not been called. The city has gone from resembling Helsinki in the first film to being an incredible architectural nightmare in BATMAN AND ROBIN. Perhaps the one saving grace of the film is that it does bring this abstract art-form to the masses. But this combines with Stephen Goldblatt's dark photography and Dennis Virkler's fast editing. The result is a film that might be entertaining to look at if it were just a little more sparse and if the pace were cut down just a bit. But there were many scenes in which I had to ask myself what it was that I just saw.
BATMAN AND ROBIN is a sloppy and slapdash film that gets a low -1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
by Russell Hoban (Jonathan Cape, ISBN 0-224-04370-6, 1996, 184pp, L14.99) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper):
In the 21st century (a very different 21st century than that of Greg Egan's DISTRESS, though they take place in only three years apart), Fremder Gorn is found floating in space sans space suit, sans helmet, sans everything--everything but life that is. This is considered strange, even in Gorn's universe of spaceports with robot sweepers under noctolux lamps cleaning up under signs saying "Mikhail's Quiksnak" and "Q-Bo Sleep." Fremder Gorn's quest to find out how he came to be floating in space also involves finding out what happened to his mother, a famous inventor, and the almost predictable interaction with mysterious government agencies et al.
But Hoban is not so much a novelist as a poet. His classic RIDDLEY WALKER proves he has an eye for language and sounds rarely found in science fiction, and even his narratives written in more standard language (KLEINZEIT, THE LION OF BOAZ-JACHIN AND JACHIN-BOAZ, THE MEDUSA FREQUENCY, PILGERMANN, and TURTLE DIARY are the ones I know of) are more novel-length free verse than prose. I'm sure some lit-crit major will explain that there are strict rules for free verse that this doesn't meet. But to my untutored ear, a sentence like "I've always considered sleep after lovemaking more intimate than the lovemaking: getting through the night together, lying embraced until an arm becomes numb, then lying together like two spoons until sleep doesn't come that way, then turning backs and reverting to aloneness together and the snores, farts, and sleep seemed to have no rest: she mumbled laughed, cursed, quoted from the Bible, sometimes in a voice that seemed different from her own." This is a book that cries out for a reading by the author.
Anyone who has read any of Russell Hoban's works will immediately want to know how to get a copy of this, his latest and perhaps most traditional science fiction book. (This is not to say that it is traditional by any normal definition of the term, of course.) Unfortunately for us USans, this is available only in a British edition, and it will probably be a while before it crosses the Atlantic--assuming it ever does. (Why do I latch on to authors who are impossible to find here?) Of his other works I mentioned, only RIDDLEY WALKER (a post-holocaust novel) and PILGERMANN (a first- person story by a Jew during the Crusades, perhaps best described as magical realism) have been published in the United States, where Hoban is known primarily as an author of children's books. His others--KLEINZEIT (an eventful and mysterious day in the life of its eponymous hero), THE LION OF BOAZ-JACHIN AND JACHIN-BOAZ (a quest for lions in a country that *seems* to be modern England), THE MEDUSA FREQUENCY (involving the talking head of Orpheus and a Vermeer portrait), and TURTLE DIARY are the ones I know of--seem to be available only in British editions from Picador.
(And now that I've pulled his other books off the shelf to refer to them, I want to go back and re-read them all.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org
Quote of the Week:
Man is a dog's ideal of what God should be. -- Holbrook Jackson