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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Vol. 20, No. 8
Table of Contents
Sir Fred Hoyle (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Fred Hoyle, physicist, astronomer, and science fiction author, died August 21 at the age of 86. Best known in astronomy for naming the Big Bang and for being completely opposed to it (supporting instead the Steady State theory), he was also the author of such books as THE BLACK CLOUD and A FOR ANDROMEDA. He later wrote several novels in collaboration with his son Geoffrey. The London Times has a full obituary at http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,60-2001291637,00.html [-ecl]
Atlantis (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
We were watching a documentary from the History Channel about the legends of Atlantis and modern day investigations to try to uncover the truth. What is the basis of the references to this lost culture? There seem to be a lot of extent clues, but they all pull in different directions. Supposedly the lost civilization had very powerful forces, but they were unleashed against themselves explosively in just a very short time. One day the culture was there, the next it was gone. The Atlanteans are associated with the Minoan civilization. The ultimate force of the Minoans is associated with the symbol of the bull. The bull symbolizes their ultimate destructive force. Add to this the archeological finds made on the island of Bimini that seem associated with the Atlantis culture. These all seem like separate and unrelated clues, but they are all parts of the same puzzle. There is a certain inexorable logic to all of this. There are a lot of separate pieces. But they need not all be separate. They all fit together to make a larger whole that explains the Atlantis legends more clearly. Put them together and what have you got? Bimini bomb in a bull!!!
Animal Rights (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Perhaps the most hated philosopher in the world today is Australian-born Peter Singer, currently of Princeton University. One of the issues on which he has received a lot of criticism is his championing of reasonable treatment of animals and his belief than animals deserve some of the same protections under the law as humans. Here is my take on this issue.
Everybody has a circle of people very close to them that they have protected. Most people have loved and protected their families. That instinct is probably a matter of pure biological necessity. Humans have always protected people within their circle and treated living things outside the circle far less mercifully. We slaughter cows for food to feed our families. I suppose that in primitive times our circles of consideration and protection were not much larger than our own families. However, to get along in society we have had to extend the circles to include more people. Today, for most people, protecting our own families at the expense of our communities is considered anti-social behavior. Different people have had different sized circles of protection. In the pre-Civil War South it was quite acceptable to not let into your circle of fair play anyone not of the same race. Even in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, set, I believe, in the 1930s, not only are some people incensed that a white lawyer would defend a black man. Significantly they are even angrier that a black man might feel pity for a white woman. In our day the greatest degree of struggle is still at the racial and religious level, getting people to treat people of other races and religions without barbarity. But Peter Singer is a leading voice in extending the circle to cover some animals also.
Perhaps umbrella would be a better metaphor than circle since an open umbrella is really highest at the center and falls off toward its outer rim. That is how this protection works. Nobody really expects that someone should treat a stranger as well as he would treat his own family. Even so in our society most people would look negatively on someone who would say that it would be reasonable to let ten Germans die to save one member of his own family. HOWEVER, most people would be much more open about saying that it is fair to let ten gorillas die to save one human. In fact I suspect most people would say it would be acceptable to let the entire species of gorilla die to save one human life.
In this age the umbrella of consideration has expanded to the boundaries of our species for most people, but then falls off precipitously. We accept there is value to the life of a Kenyan, a Frenchman, or a Thai that is somehow comparable to the value of a family member. There would be at least social disapproval to someone letting ten Thai people die to save a family member, though I am not sure there are not a lot of people who if it had to be decided on those terms would choose the life of their family member. But few people would be willing to say there is any number of gorillas could balance off the value of a life of a loved one. The criteria should be the degree of self- awareness, the capacity to feel pain, and the degree of determination to avoid pain and continue living. And I think that is what Singer has been arguing. I have to agree with Singer that if a human irretrievably loses the ability to feel pain and to be aware of himself, he has little to lose by death. His life is less valuable than that of a healthy gorilla in the wild. I do not believe the human life is intrinsically of more value just because it is human regardless of how far that life is made useless. This seems to me to be just what Singer is saying.
I will continue this discussion next week. [-mrl]
MIDNIGHT ROBBER by Nalo Hopkinson (copyright 2000, Aspect Science Fiction, $13.95, trade paperback, 329pp, ISBN 0-446-67560-1) (a book review by Joe Karpierz):
I'm not quite sure what to make of Nalo Hopkinson's MIDNIGHT ROBBER. Much has been made of the style in which the novel has been written. Hopkinson wrote it in Creole/Carribean style, which makes for a difficult read at times. But since the idea was not just to throw the language in, but make the culture an integral part of the story, it made for an interesting read at the same time that it was difficult to get through.
The story begins on the planet of Toussaint, which has obviously been settled by people of Caribbean descent. At the same time there is a mirror planet, New Half Way Tree, which serves as a prison/exile planet for those who commit heinous crimes. Additionally, each native of the planet is plugged into a network of sort by having some nanotechnology implanted at birth - they are "connected", if you will. Exile to New Half Way Tree gets you disconnected, a very disconcerting thing, to be sure.
But I get ahead of myself.
Antonio is the local mayor, an unscrupulous power hungry man. His wife is unfaithful to him, and he knows it. It's Carnival time, and Antonio challenges his wife's latest lover to a duel. He commissions a mild poison that is supposed to weaken his opponent, but instead it kills him. Antonio is banished to New Half Way Tree, and takes his daughter Tan Tan with him. The mode of transport is a transdimensional gizmo, near as I can tell, and they arrive on New Half Way Tree disconnected, alone, and with nothing.
They are befriended by Chichibud, one of the locals who resembles a creature from the lore of Toussaint. Chichibud takes them to the nearest human settlement, wherein Antonio reverts to his old ways. And worse.
The remainder of the novel tells the story of Tan Tan and how she adapts and becomes part of the culture and lore of New Half Way Tree. It is at times a fascinating story, as the natives have some surprises up their collective sleeves. It is at times a frustrating story, as the reader trips over the language used to tell the story.
But ultimately, it was unsatisfying. The story really didn't go anywhere in the end. It seemed like a small part of a larger story about Tan Tan, maybe just the beginning. Or maybe it was just that it seemed like it was looking at a part of her life without really resolving anything. To me, a good novel needs a decent climax, a sort of topping to the rest of it. This one didn't have it. This is one novel that I wouldn't have read if it wasn't a Hugo nominee.
So you might guess that I was unsatisfied with the Hugo nominees that I read this year. You'd be right. I read four of the five, and I probably would have only read three of them if I had known ahead of time that THE SKY ROAD was part of a larger series. I also didn't read the George R. R. Martin novel--yet another book in yet another series. I feel this was the weakest field in many, many years. So, how did I vote the four? Here's how:
Two things stand out:
Until next time... [-jak]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Religion is a monumental chapter in the history of human egotism. --William James -
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