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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 07/18/97 -- Vol. 16, No. 3
Table of Contents
MT Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org HO Chair: John Jetzt MT 2E-530 732-957-5087 email@example.com HO Librarian: Nick Sauer HO 4F-427 732-949-7076 firstname.lastname@example.org Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell MT 2D-536 732-957-6330 email@example.com Factotum: Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-2070 firstname.lastname@example.org Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/~ecl. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
URL of the week:
http://www.SF3.org/Tiptree/index.html. Information about the James Tiptree, Jr. Award and a list of this year's short list and winners. [-ecl]
Wings of Death:
Last week I was talking about how I came to find a restaurant that had chicken wings of legendary hotness called The Wings of Death. As soon as I heard of them I knew I was going to have to challenge them. So in spite of momentary setbacks I find the restaurant.
Well, in we went and there appeared to be no The Wings of Death under the appetizers. Perhaps they were not considered to be all that appetizing. No they had a separate panel on the side. And yes, if you could eat them in all their intensity, Gimpi's foots the bill. They warn on the menu that they have a sauce that is 100 times hotter than jalapeno peppers. The don't say if they are the classic jalapenos or US jalapenos. Mexican jalapenos turned out to be too hot for US restaurant patrons so a kinder, gentler and more boring jalapeno was developed for the US. Now why would they want a mild jalapeno for the US? I wonder. But did I want to risk a dish so spicy that if I could finish it I got it free? Sure, what the heck.
Now it turns out that if you order The Wings of Death you have to sign a waiver freeing the restaurant of legal responsibility if you have a negative side effect. Like if you die. And they list all the things that could happen: do not attempt if you have heart trouble, that sort of thing. Just trying to make the wings sound more scary, I thought. So I signed it. And I waited. The server eventually brought the wings. Two chicken wings on a bed of lettuce. Each wing is two pieces, of course, one shaped like a small drumstick, one more wing-like. So I just had to eat four pieces. A server asked if I would like some bread with the wings. Sure, I said. If you eat something too hot, bread usually helps to cool it down.
I took a bite of a wing and it was just an extra-hot Buffalo wing. With a couple of bites I had the first piece down, but had to admit they were darn hot. Not bad enough that I thought I could not finish them, but it was not going to be a pleasant culinary experience.
The other server told us we could buy more of the sauce if we really wanted it. Apparently the owner of the restaurant bottles his own hot sauce and sells it professionally. When we got home we looked up the sauce in our Mo Hotta Mo Betta Catalog. Mo Hotta Mo Betta is a mail order house dealing in human misery in the form of bottled sauces. They used to be indispensable, but these days you can find suitable fiery sauces in grocery stores if you really look. But we still get their catalog from the old days and it is a good guide to what sauces are out there. They list on their "Scarrry [sic] Hot Sauces" page AFTER DEATH SAUCE. "After Death Sauce was developed at Gimpi's, a trendy restaurant in New Jersey, locally famous for their chicken from pepper extract and they warn that it has a 'heat level a few points south of Purgatory! [Rating:] TOO DARN HOT."
Finally the bread came. And I needed it by then. Just to put up a good front I smiled at the server and said "tangy!" "You're welcome," she replied. Sprightly conversation wasn't going to get far. Particularly because it was obvious just about ever gland in my body was secreting all at once. I was sweating, my nose was running, the works. It could be that my use of my tongue was not at its best either.
I had finished three of the four pieces when the main course arrived. I had ordered a catfish sandwich with fries. By this point my tongue felt like I had burned off the outside and most of the center. The sandwich would probably have been good, but I was not tasting all of the flavor. In moderation hot foods seem to make my taste more sensitive, but the spicing here was not so much moderate as punitive for having the audacity to not want to pay for the wings. Eating the last wing together with the sandwich I managed to finish the four pieces of chicken. Victory was mine. And I was feeling only a little pain. A server came up and ask if I wanted her to take away the dish with the chicken bones. Well, I really didn't want to see them again, but at the same time I would have liked them to stay there and visible. I told the server that she was a witness that I had eaten the whole order. There is a certain pride there and with mixed emotions I watched as they took away my trophy of four chicken bones.
I had met the enemy and defeated it. So the story is over. Or is it? Actually the worst was to come. And will come next week. [-mrl]
FREEDOM & NECESSITY by Steven Brust & Emma Bull (Tor, ISBN 0- 312-85974-0, 1997, 444pp, US$25.95) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I have mixed feelings about FREEDOM & NECESSITY. On the one hand, it captures very well the feel of the nineteenth century epistolary novel (or first-person narration in general). On the other, it is slow- moving and hard-to-follow, in part because the various characters who are narrating are either concealing information from each other, or are simply mistaken about what is happening.
The story is set in England of the mid-nineteenth century. Although several reviews have hinted that this is some sort of alternate history, it really seems at most a secret history, if that. Yes, there are real historical figures interacting with the main (fictional) characters, but that does not an alternate history make. So in this historical England, we discover that James Cobham, whom his family thought drowned --in fact, saw drowned--is in fact alive, though without any memory of what has happened in the months between his "death" and his re-appearance. Though he doesn't actually re-appear in a flourish, but only in secret and to his closest friends.
In addition to trying to solve the mystery of James's absence, and avoid a more permanent demise, the characters also discuss Kant and Hegel and the British class system.
One might ask at this point why this book is being promoted a s science fiction (or perhaps more accurately, fantasy). The answer is--I don't know. It seems more because Brust and Bull are known as SF authors than because of any inherent SF aspect to the novel. (I suppose that in itself may constitute a bit of a spoiler.) There are certainly goings on that have fantastical origins, meanings, or referents, but they are (so far as one can tell) completely mundane in actuality.
And while there were aspects of the plot that held my interest, the resolution is too pat, too dependent on people acting in seemingly irrational ways, too dependent on people *depending* on people acting in irrational ways. Or, strangely enough, on people acting rationally when one would expect them to act irrationally.
Ultimately, I think my problem with FREEDOM & NECESSITY is that it imitates the nineteenth century style without completing achieving its content or characterization. I like authors such as the Brontes and George Eliot, but while FREEDOM & NECESSITY captures some of their style, it doesn't quite capture their essence for me. (I realize that some might say that complaining that Brust & Bull are no George Eliot is an unfair comparison, but there you have it.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 email@example.com
Quote of the Week:
Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relatively to other matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first is unpleasant and ill-paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid. -- Bertrand Russell