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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 07/17/98 -- Vol. 17, 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 2E-537 732-957-6330 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.
URLs of the week: http://www.cs.monash.edu.au/cgi-bin/postmodern. You always wanted to be a literary critic, but never have the time? Now you can use this generator to produce postmoderist essays in half the time it takes the average critic to write one. :-) [-ecl]
Midnight Express: I was asked recently if I was going to talk Turkey in the notice. My Turkey log is online off of my home page, but not everybody wants to slog through that. I might as well bring some of the high points into the notice.
Actually I keep hearing good things about the Turks from unexpected sources. The author of the Lonely Planet Tour Book assumes that most of the negatives we hear about the Turks are pure propaganda. A classic case must be the whole affair of the Midnight Express. Some of you may have seen the film about a man caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into a Turkish prison. There things were so bad when he woke in the morning he would find cockroaches in his mouth. It was not very nice. Eventually he found out about a super-secret escape route dubbed The Midnight Express which he used to get his freedom. At least that is what the book and film said. Supposedly the true story is somewhat at variance.
Even the guy whom the book was about and who really was imprisoned in a Turkish prison says that the account in the book and film, which he did not write, was exaggerated and is unfair to the Turkish government. He was not put in a maximum security prison, it was a minimum security prison. But here comes the kicker. In actual fact it would appear to be a toss-up who is more enthusiastic about having Americans in Turkish prisons, the imprisoned American or the Turkish government. The difference is (or at least was) the Turkish government would actually do something about it.
The title "Midnight Express" sounds like a train. In fact it actually does refer to a train, exactly what it sounds like. The Turkish government did not want the expense and hassle of keeping Americans in their prisons. So they put the Americans in a minimum security prison that had the Midnight Express stopping in its prison yard. Turks and Americans alike could hop the train and escape the prison. But a Turk who escaped by the train would end up an escaped Turkish criminal in Greece without a passport. Take it from me, this is not a good thing to be. You are far better off staying in a Turkish minimum security prison. For Americans it is a different story. They could hop a train and would end up in Turkey without passports. They would be arrested and would have to apply to the United States Consulate for new passports. The next thing they would see would probably be the Statue of Liberty. It was a clever trick on the part of the Turkish government. And if the Americans were too dumb to figure out that there was an escape route, I mean after all they were dumb enough to get caught smuggling drugs in Turkey, it was arranged that the guards would explain the escape route to them, sort of on the sly.
It was an escape route for Americans and was absolutely pointless for a Turk to use. And for the Turks it had the added benefit of making the Americans the responsibility of their good friends, the Greeks.
In this way the Turkish government could look like it was trying to punish the Americans, PLEASING THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, but did not have to be strict. The book and movie MIDNIGHT EXPRESS was really mostly propaganda in America's drug war. At least that is what the author of the Lonely Planet book thinks. People will believe just about anything bad about the Turks. They have their faults, but I found them a friendly and accommodating people, miles better than their reputation.
By the way I am not saying that Turkish prisons are actually pleasure domes. I have no doubt that Turkish prisons are bad. Whether they are as bad as Mexican prisons or Argentinean prisons is a question for experts, I don't know. Any poor country is not going to have very good prisons. The question is who gets put there. And who gets out. [-mrl]
DARWINIA by Robert Charles Wilson (Tor, ISBN 0-312-86038-2, 1998, 320pp, US$22.95) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper):
In S. M. Stirling's ISLAND IN THE SEA OF TIME, the island of Nantucket is hurled back to the Bronze Age via a mysterious "Event." In Greg Bear's DINOSAUR SUMMER, the lost plateau of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's LOST WORLD is real. In Robert Charles Wilson's previous book, MYSTERIUM, our history took a different course and Gnosticism prevailed. DARWINIA seems to be a combination of parts of all four, but ends up very different from all of them.
In 1912, the "Miracle" happens, and Europe as we know (knew) it vanishes, replaced by a primeval continent with virtually identical geography and geology, but different plant and animal life. Apparently it is from a timeline where evolution took a different path. As a result, the history of the world is very different from that point on. (For starters, it's hard to have a World War based in Europe when all the inhabitants of Europe no longer exist.).
Guilford Law signs up with the Finch Expedition to explore the neo-Europe, or Darwinia, as it is called. (This leads to some confusion, as the term "Darwinian evolution" refers specifically to the evolution of the life-forms on Darwinia, not evolution as described by Charles Darwin.) Not only does the expedition run into various dangers (natural and man-made), but several members are haunted by strange dreams that we recognize as being related to their possible lives in our timeline, and Law gradually becomes aware that the struggle is not merely global, but cosmic.
However, this is not so much an alternate history as an analysis of what might cause an alternate history, because in addition to everything else, this is connected somehow with the Archive, a record of all history created by the far future. Wilson uses interludes to try to explain this, but it is such a departure from the main action (at least at the beginning) that it feels very jarring--which is probably the idea. Even though the basic situation is mysterious, the reader *thinks* she understands somewhat what is going on and then Wilson pulls the rug out.
John Clute seems to feel that DARWINIA (along with Wilson's other work) expresses Wilson's feeling of "apartness" that comes from Wilson's being Canadian. While there is a sense of apartness and isolation, I think it is more universal than Clute perceives it as being. There is also a thread reminiscent of Harry Turtledove's BETWEEN THE RIVERS and its echoes of Jaynes's bicameral mind. I realize at this point that it sounds as though DARWINIA is a real hodge-podge, but it isn't. Wilson has taken several themes that have appeared elsewhere recently, but woven them into a tapestry all his own. I definitely recommend DARWINIA. [-ecl]
ANTARCTICA by Kim Stanley Robinson (Bantam, ISBN 0-553-10063-7, 1998, 508pp, US$24.95) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Robinson is certainly best known for his "Mars" series (RE MARS, GREEN MARS, BLUE MARS). ANTARTICA reads like WHITE MARS. It has what seemed like even more expository lumps, nay, expository *mountains*, about geology et al. And the only hint that this attempt to get us all to live a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle might not be paradisical is a passing reference to three attempts at single- child families in China, a plan that sounds good in theory but has turned out to be quite otherwise in practice. (Robinson's character who refers to this seems to think it was a good thing; Robinson's opinion is of course unknown.)
If Robinson is not the leading "ecological science fiction" writer these days, I must be really out of touch with the field. But even though I agree with his goals (or what I think his goals are), I am starting to find his didacticism wearing. To be fair, he does not draw obvious villains, intent on killing all the whales or some such and hang the consequences. But the parade of scientists and just plain folks who get to stand up and "speechify" about their philosophies is not what I am looking for in a novel.
The most interesting part of ANTARTICA, in fact, was the recounting of the early exploration of the continent and the people involved in that. Here Robinson's long expository passages didn't bother me, maybe because the explorers had more personality than mountains and glaciers. At least with them I felt I was reading a story rather than a textbook.
If you liked the "Mars" trilogy, you will almost definitely like ANTARTICA. But if you preferred the sparser, earlier Robinson, and were hoping for a return to that style, this will be a disappointment.
[Though the copyright date listed in the book is 1998, the book was actually published in Britain in 1997.] [-ecl]
COOL RESEARCH -- Bell Labs scientists have a warm spot in their hearts for one of the coldest regions on earth, Antarctica, and they've had it for decades. Bell Labs scientists have been conducting upper atmosphere research in Antarctica with test magnetometers since the early 1970s.
Louis Lanzerotti is one Bell Labs researcher familiar with ongoing experiments there, and is particularly interested in rapid changes in the Earth's magnetic fields. The research provides information on changes in the space environment around Earth and on how these changes can affect radio frequency and satellite communications.
As a distinguished member of technical staff in the Physical Science and Engineering Division at Bell Labs, his pioneering work has earned him acclaim and a unique honor -- a mountain has been named for him. Although Lanzerotti has visited the icy plains of Antarctica, he confesses that he has never seen his mountain, which rises more than 5,000 feet above a region known as Ellsworth Land.
The latest research effort involves the use of Bell Labs instrumentation to measure changes in Earth's magnetic fields at six automatic geophysical observatories, a collaborative effort with five U.S. universities and the Tohoku University in Japan. Other Bell Labs research, led by Gregory Wright, is focused on understanding star formation using the Antarctic Submillimeter Telescope and Remote Observatory to map gaseous carbon in our galaxy. He has been involved in designing the telescope, and on other projects related to measuring cosmic microwave background radiation.
Lucent's connections to the South Polar regions go beyond research; we're also doing business there. Lucent's Argentina Team recently sold and installed telecommunications equipment in Antarctica, including a DEFINITY system to one customer and cellular telephony devices, to CTI Movil, which will be used by the Marambio Air Force Base. While forging new developments in other countries around the world, Lucent is continuing its ongoing attachment to the cold continent. ["Lucent Technologies Today," 10 July 1998, Greg Schwab]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 email@example.com
Quote of the Week:
A tremendous number of people in America have to work very hard at something that bores them. Even a rich man thinks he has to go down to the office every day, not because he likes it but because he can't think of anything else to do. -- W. H. Auden