MT VOID 08/29/97 (Vol. 16, Number 9)

MT VOID 08/29/97 (Vol. 16, Number 9)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 08/29/97 -- Vol. 16, No. 9

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  732-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  732-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  732-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
              Rob Mitchell  MT 2D-536  732-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  732-957-2070
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URL of the week: Harry Turtledove web site. [-ecl]


Ever play with an Etch-a-sketch? It is a rather interesting toy. This is a device with a horrible human interface and that is really the attraction. Basically you have two knobs to control a cursor. One controls the horizontal movement, the other the vertical. Any lines other than horizontal or vertical will be almost impossible to do right. Further whatever picture you make has to be done with one continuous line. This makes the think fit to draw urban skylines and not much else. And it is not that it draws anything well, it is just amazing when you can draw anything at all. A decent picture on an Etch-a-sketch represents a victory of productivity over a miserably bad human interface with horrendous human factors. Yet people seem to love the toy. And why? Because you meet it on its own terms. You have to pay your dues. Somewhere I read that in Japan there is a place where you can buy a $1 cup of coffee and a $200 cup of coffee. The $1 cup you just drink and it id over. The $200 cup is one you can really enjoy the subtlety of the flavor, the aroma. In both cases it is the same cup of coffee, but what make the $200 cup worth the price is what you pay for it. If you pay $200 for a cup of coffee, you pay attention to that cup of coffee.

I think the same principle applies to film. Evelyn was never really very interested in film until she met me. Her high school years she saw maybe one film a month, including what she saw on television. She read books like a demon, but saw very few films. Now me, some of the most memorable moments of my childhood was when I first saw this film or that. She said she was better off because books are better than film, but I am not so sure. The problem with books is that they are too much under the reader's control. You tell a book when to start. You tell it when to pause. The kitty comes into the room and it's "hello, Kitty" while the story remains patiently paused, ready to start again at your command. The classical film experience, or the classical theatrical experience is much less convenient. The movie starts at a pre- ordained time and you better be in your seat if you don't want to miss it. You want to be there ten minutes early and you have to wait. Once the story starts it is going to keep going until it is over (unless there is an intermission, of course). The viewer gives up all control. If you miss a scene it will not come back, just like in life. There is an immediacy to the theatrical experience and almost as much of one to the cinematic experience. Cable and broadcast TV have it to a lessor extent and if you watch a film on a VCR, you have almost as much control as reading a book. I don't know how many films I let pass as just a background to reading a magazine because I could always stop and rewind. Then later I was sorry because it was a film I had been really anxious to see. But then I have done the same thing with books I have read. Well, perhaps not the part about the magazine, but I have willingly let myself stop a major sequence and gone and then done something unrelated. For me horror works very poorly on the printed page. Evelyn says she actually jumped in one scene of the book THE SHINING. I just can't do that. I have too much control when I read a horror story and control the pace. But a scene in the film might make me jump. On the other hand, a book lets the reader conjure up his own visual images. Perhaps the best of both worlds is radio horror. That leave the reader's imagination free to picture the scenes but the reader has no power to stop the action.

But one reason I enjoy film that I miss with the written word is that I have to give up control and go with the flow. That is a lot like life. The interface is demanding and that makes the end more valuable. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

     If you talk to God, you are praying;
     if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.
                                   -- Thomas Szasz