MT VOID 03/14/03 (Vol. 21, Number 37)

MT VOID 03/14/03 (Vol. 21, Number 37)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
03/14/03 -- Vol. 21, No. 37

Table of Contents

El Presidente: Mark Leeper, The Power Behind El Pres: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Violence Against Equality (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

The Wall Street Journal pointed out this except from an editorial by Colbert King:

"Guess how many reports of violence against women were made to the D.C. police in 2000. I'm talking about domestic violence, sexual assaults, desperate calls for civil protection orders. Ready? More than 22,500. That's right. Violence against women made up about 50 percent of all reported violent crimes to the D.C. police in that year. If those numbers take your breath away, they should."

Wow! Any violence is bad, but I never realized that only half the violence in crime is against men and half is against women. I guess that's pretty bad. In the ideal and fair gender-blind society a much higher proportion of the violence should be against men, right? Isn't that the assumption? Isn't that reasonable?

The truth is that I have always had mixed feelings about the attention that "violence against women" gets. Yes, it is a problem. Nobody disagrees there. If we could end it we should. Any violence against any member of our society is a serious problem. Why do we focus so much on "violence against women" in particular? Still can't see why that bothers me? Let me put it this way. What if the FBI was to make a big thing each year? Every January 15 they would make a major statistical announcement. What are the figures for the previous year of (gasp!) Violence Against White People? Everybody waits with their hearts in their throats. Have white folks been more or less victimized? Overall were white people safer or less safe than they were the previous year? Hey, the number of crimes of violence was up. But the white population was also up. Per capita white people were actually safer than the year before. All right!!! Everybody heaves a sigh of relief and goes back about their business. The country is safe for white people.

I think people would be bothered about all this fuss being made about one race over all the others. Certainly violence against people is bad no matter what race they are. The same should probably be true of gender. We would hardly want a special Violence Against White People Office funded by the tax dollars.

Look up the phrase "violence against women" in the Google Search Engine and you find 458,000 links devoted to this admittedly very serious problem. Look up the phrase "violence against men" and you find 3,290. That is a ratio of better than 139 to 1. That should tell you how much more attention violence against women gets. Pretty much the first site you find is the United States Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office. (There is no such thing as a special Violence Against Men Office.) Domestic violence against either gender is a serious problem, but this office does not find domestic violence within its purview, unless the victim is a woman. I think that a woman need not use this office and can use the name legal channels a man would if she has been victimized, but she has this office as an additional option a man does not because, well, she is a woman. The very name of the office is evidence of sexism in the system.

Inherent in all this is the assumption that women are both weak, frail little things needing exceptional protection and they are special. It says that while violence against the innocent may be bad, that evil is compounded if the victim is a woman. (Considering that less attention and tracking is necessary, perhaps we should even offer a punishment discount if criminals have harmed only males.)

Now you would think that women's equality organizations would be really irritated by this patronizing treatment by the government. It is after all a serious impediment to equal treatment of both genders under the law. To the contrary the National Organization for Women, for example, LOVES it. They don't want to see it go away. They have at their web site the following warning dated March 5, 2003. "Ashcroft Is Downgrading the Office on Violence Against Women. Ask Your Senators and House Member to Oppose This Action! Please take a few minutes to help keep the issue of ENDING violence against women at the top of our nation's policy agenda. This week we need to speak out against Attorney General John Ashcroft's efforts to weaken the status and the mission of the Office on Violence Against Women." See

The fact that women's equality groups acquiesce to and even encourage special attention to be given to crimes in which women are the victims is very indicative of just how serious they are about equality. [-mrl]

SHADOW PUPPETS by Orson Scott Card (TOR, Copyright 2002, ISBN 0-765-30017-6, Science Fiction Book Club Edition) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

In my review of the previous book in this series, SHADOW OF THE HEGEMON, I wrote the following (oh, by the way, I started out the review in much the same manner, so you can guess what's coming):

This is a military novel, a political novel, a novel about diplomacy. Which, I suppose, is all well and good if that's what you're interested in and looking for.

Well, guess what? We get more of the same. Which kind of makes me wonder where Card is going with this series. The other thing I wrote in the last review was that ENDER'S SHADOW, the first book in the series, was only good because it told the same story as Ender's Game from a different point of view, and that the second book was boring. The good news is that this book certainly isn't as boring, and while it's still not as good as the first one, it's much better than the second one.

However, as I said in the last paragraph, but put in a slightly different fashion, I want to know What He's Trying to Say, Why He's Trying to Say It, and Why Should I Care? I don't know how many more books he's planning to write in this series that started off to be three books (although I *think* I read in an interview in Locus that he's now up to five), but this certainly seems like a transition, second-book-in-the-trilogy kind of thing.

Our story begins with the release of Achilles de Flandres from Chinese control by the Hegemon Peter Wiggin, brother of Ender. Peter thinks he can control Achilles and use him for his own purposes. Bean and Petra leave the Hegemon forces at the beginning of the novel after Bean is not allowed to go on the "rescue" mission and they find out what Peter is planning. Peter takes Achilles into the Hegemon compound and gives him power and authority. Peter eventually has to be rescued by his parents - and resents every minute of it, even though he knows they're right.

Bean and Petra go off on their own. Without going into too many details, reluctantly Bean comes to realize that he loves Petra (after she figuratively hits him over the head with the notion that she loves him and wants to bear his children), and marries her. He is, of course, reluctant to have children because he has Anton's Key, which is what made him what he is and will kill him by the time he's thirty or so. This sets off a set of events in which Petra is implanted with one of several embryos "tested" negatively for Anton's Key (I'll let you read about that) so that the child will live a full life, unlike Bean.

Then there's the brewing war involving China, India, Thailand, etc. - that whole thing out there that makes me wonder what Card is trying to say. Oh, I know that the war is the result of all the nations trying to exert independence after having to band together for the Formic Wars, and we all know that Asia and the Middle East are volatile, but why did he choose there. Well, yes, there's a new Caliph now (you can read about that too), so he needs to work that in, but by his own admission this was difficult because of the current tensions in that region. He needed to "get it right".

All in all, there is much resolved, and much left hanging. Some of the resolution seemed a little too contrived for me, as if Card had to finish the book in a certain number of pages. And one of the particular resolutions, while in my opinion a nice one to have done, leaves me wondering where the conflict will come from in the next book.

As I said, I liked the book better than the previous one, but to me, the series is in danger of ending up like Card's "Homecoming" series - five books about nothing.

As a side bar, this means I've actually liked two books now that are in Locus's recommended reading list for 2002 - this one and Brin's KILN PEOPLE. The world is coming to and end. :-) [-jak]

TOGETHER (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: China brings us a very personal story of a young violin virtuoso who goes from his village to Beijing to make the most of his art. Much of the story concentrates on his father, an honored chef at home who takes a job as a restaurant delivery boy in Beijing to be near the son he so loves. The music is great, the story is great, and the film is just excellent in all regards. Rating: 8 (0 to 10), low +3 (-4 to +4).

One of the surprises of the Toronto Fest this year was the world public premiere of the latest film by Chen Kaige, HE NI ZAI YI QI (TOGETHER or I AM WITH YOU). Kaige is known for previous films TEMPTRESS MOON, FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE, and the underrated THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN. These do not make him a director from whom we would expect so personal and poignant a film, but TOGETHER is consistently surprising.

Based on a true story, it is the narrative of the close father- son relationship between thirteen-year-old violin prodigy Xiaochun (Tang Yun) and his father Liu Cheng (Liu Peiqi). Liu is a popular and successful chef, but his dream is that his son will become a great and famous violinist. Liu decides to take Xiaochun to Beijing for a national music competition and to stay there to further his son's career. The chef takes a job as a restaurant delivery body to support his son in Beijing. Xiaochun takes only fifth place at the competition, but finds a teacher who knows he deserved better and who wants to take him on. Xiaochun has several close and engaging relationships: with his father, with his teacher, and with his attractive neighbor Lily. (Chen Hong, Chen Kaige's wife who also produced the film.) Lily at first looks down on Xiaochun and later sees him as a valuable friend. Lily is really the first woman that Xiaochun has known well. He never knew his mother and was brought up by his father. Just as his father enriches Xiaochun's life, the boy enriches the lives of his teacher and of his neighbor. Throughout runs the theme of what is the proper use of talent. However in China there films have a much greater message of the individual's responsibility to society and so Chen's take is perhaps a little different than it would be in a Western film.

There are, perhaps, unintended messages in this film for a Western audience. We see Lily's apartment. By the film's dialog she supposedly lives fairly well, but the apartment walls are just ugly poured concrete with rough edges. Xiaochun has two teachers in the course of the film. One lives in squalor; the other, somewhat more mercenary, lives in opulence. That affluent teacher, incidentally, is played by director Chen Kaige. The message of over-commercialization of great music is a comment on negative influences of Western society.

Throughout the film we hear the beautiful music that Xiaochun, his teachers, and others play. The Chinese seem to have taken to Western classical music much more than the West has taken to Eastern music. For many the orchestration will be a real drawing card, much as it was with the films SHINE and HILARY AND JACKIE. TOGETHER is a very unusual Chinese film. It has been picked up for distribution by MGM and is scheduled for May release. I rate TOGETHER an 8 on the 0 to 10 scale and a low +3 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

I've finished both Christopher Priest's THE SEPARATION and Elizabeth Moon's THE SPEED OF DARK, but want to devote full reviews to them. So what else have I read?

Well, there's THE TURK: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE FAMOUS EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY CHESS-PLAYING MACHINE by Tom Standage, which is the story of "The Turk," the famous . . . . Standage doesn't reveal the secret of "The Turk" until almost the end of the book, but I suspect most readers will either be familiar with it, or guess the secret. What's interesting is the career of "The Turk," including playing against Napoleon at one point.

As part of my alternate history reading I read CRIMSON SKIES, a tie-in to the game. It's three novellas (or perhaps novelettes) rather than a single novel, and the first and third stories are at least entertaining, if not great literature. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the 
           blood of the martyr.
                                          -- Muhammad

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