MT VOID 09/16/05 -- Vol. 24, No. 12, Whole Number 1300

MT VOID 09/16/05 -- Vol. 24, No. 12, Whole Number 1300

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/016/05 -- Vol. 24, No. 12, Whole Number 1300

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. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Your Horoscope (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

(Due to economy concerns we cannot provide complete horoscopes. Your cooperation is appreciated.)

Capricorn, Virgo, Scorpio, Cancer, and Aries: In an age of diminished expectations it is best if you learn to share with others.

Everyone else: send us your sign and we could be doing your horoscope next issue. One entry will be picked at random and the lucky person will have his sign's fortune published. [-mrl]

On-line Mugging (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

There is a story titled "Student held over online mugging" on the BBC at that I think I am supposed to understand. It begins, " Police in Japan have arrested a Chinese student over the use of a network of software 'bots' to steal items in an online role playing game (RPG). Players were attacked in the game, Lineage II, and their items were then sold for cash on auction sites."

I am afraid I have gotten out of touch with what is happening in the world. Parts of it are understandable, but I think the world has gotten beyond me. I am more out of touch than I thought.

Another version, at, explains a bit more: "A man has been arrested in Japan on suspicion carrying out a virtual mugging spree by using software "bots" to beat up and rob characters in the online computer game Lineage II. The stolen virtual possessions were then exchanged for real cash. ... Several players had their characters beaten and robbed of valuable virtual objects, which could have included the Earring of Wisdom or the Shield of Nightmare. The items were then fenced through a Japanese auction website, according to NCsoft, which makes Lineage II. The assailant was a character controlled by a software bot, rather than a human player, making it unbeatable."

Well, no, maybe it doesn't explain it after all. [-mrl]

Warning: This Article Contains Spoilers (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Reviewing films for me is a game with certain rules. I have my own three laws of reviewing films. (They are, I suppose, yet another set of three laws inspired by Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.)

I. For the viewer who has not seen the film, do not damage his/her enjoyment of seeing the film and where possible improve his enjoyment.

II. Tell the truth about a film except when in conflict with the First Law.

III. Make the review interesting for people who have seen the film will find interesting and entertaining about the film except when in conflict with the First or Second Law.

I have had occasions when the First Law trumped the Second one. It is fair game to lie about a film rather than spoil a film for the reader who has not seen it. I have also had times when the Second Law trumped the Third Law, though I will not go into that. Sometimes that First Law trumps the Third Law, and that is what I will be talking about here. I want to make my writing interesting enough to read without damaging the film experience for those who have not seen it.

I am willing to allow a review to be less interesting than it might be in order to avoid giving too much away. However there are extreme cases when there is little that can be said without really damaging the film. For example, it is a bit of a spoiler for a film like VANILLA SKY to even give away what genre it is in. Knowing the genre gives away a twist that comes in the plot fairly far into the film. I felt I had to say something about the film in my review, so I put in strong spoiler warnings. This is a way I could say something of substance about the film to people who have seen it and I am telling the those who have not to read the review at their own risk.

About the time I reviewed the film I discussed the review with a friend of mine, a film critic of some prominence. I was saying that a film like VANILLA SKY is very hard for me to review because anything I would say of substance would be a spoiler. I was surprised with the vehemence of his response. He told me, "I hope you are not one of those anti-spoiler fascists." I have to say that I think I might just be one of them.

My principle is that regardless of what the reviewer thinks of a film there is an unwritten rule that the reviewer should always increase the reader's enjoyment of the film. Under no circumstances should the reviewer actually decrease that enjoyment. As far as revealing plot twists, I can reveal nothing that the viewer does not know ten minutes into the film. Frequently this turns writing a review into a puzzle. My piece on TERMINATOR 2 was the only review of the film I read that did not reveal that in this outing Arnold Schwarzenegger was the good guy. It is clear from the film itself that this twist is supposed to be a surprise. Yet even the trailer gave the secret away. Every review I saw but my own gave the plot point away. I had to carefully choose my words in ways that probably most people did not notice so that it was left ambiguous in my writing which side Arnold was on. What brings this discussion to mind, in fact, is that I am writing this just after I reviewed the film RED EYE. I left an almost identical ambiguity in that review to avoid spoiling a plot twist that is early in the film but not in the first ten minutes.

In some cases I have declined to write a review because I could not do it without spoiling a major plot twist. LADYHAWKE is nearly impossible to review by my principles since the main premise is not revealed until well into the film. My principle is that it is better to sacrifice the quality of a review or to not write it at all than to diminish the viewers' pleasure on seeing the film. I took notes on that film and had every intention to write a review, but I could not find a way to describe the basic situation without giving away the nature of the curse. (P.S. Okay, it is twenty years late, but I will say what I thought of the film. I think the rock score really spoiled the nice historical feel that the production designer gave the film. The final sequence is also too far drawn out. The situation of the two lovers is, however, poignant. I would give LADYHAWKE a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. There, that is out of the way at last.) I guess taken to its extreme, I could not even reveal if in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL Klaatu is a good alien or a bad alien. If you look at the film, the director clearly wanted to frighten the audience and leave Klaatu's nature unknown until he arrives at the boarding house. And the advertising campaign tried to make the film look to be horrific.

It was not uncommon in 1950s science fiction films to create suspense using ambiguities to be dissolved later in the film. THEM! tries for the entire first act to pass for a police procedural crime drama. Here, however, the advertising campaign was not so discreet.

The call of what to reveal about a film may depend on many things. I think the writer has to consider the intention of the script. Then I follow the ten minute rule. If someone does not want to hear about a plot twist from the first ten minutes, he should not be reading reviews. However, after the first ten minutes of the story anything spoiled by the reviewer is the reviewer's fault.

Ironically the film distributors' interests are at odds with the film viewers. The distributor might want the reviewer to give away jokes from a Woody Allen comedy, for example, because the reader might find them funny and will want to see the film. It is a free sample. But revealing a joke may decrease the viewers' enjoyment of the film experience itself. The distributor wants to sell tickets and is willing to give a sample that to sell the film. Frequently a trailer will give much too much away. THE ISLAND is a recent example. A reviewer given special showings by the distributor might feel he owes something to the distributor to help in that process. I do not feel that way. I personally don't feel I feel I owe anything to the distributor and do not want to reveal too much just to help sell the film. I have to keep in mind my first principles of reviewing as expressed in those laws at the beginning of this column. [-mrl]

Harry Potter (letter of comment from Daniel Kimmel):

Dan Kimmel writes, "Let's see if I can answer Joe Karpierz without giving anything away:

Yes, the death of So-and-so at the hands of Mumble-mumble seems strange. It doesn't quite ring true. There are unanswered questions not only about the death but about their relationship. And I suspect that's exactly the point. I got through that scene and saw that she had no intention of resolving the mystery in this book, leaving me convinced that the missing pieces will be revealed in the final volume. Why did it happen, and where are Mumble-mumble's real loyalties? Was So-and-so a fool, or was he/she absolutely right?

It's going to be a long two or three years (let's hope no more) until we find out." [-dk]

SHADOW OF THE GIANT by Orson Scott Card (TOR, copyright 2005, ISBN 0-312-85758-6, 363pp, $25.95) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

I think I got it. By Card, I think I finally got it. I've been going on and on in the last couple of reviews in this series about wanting to know what Card is going on about, and I think I got it now. But more of that later.

It appears that with this book Card finally brings the "Shadow" series of books to a close, but not without an escape hatch for more books in the Ender universe if he wants to write them. Quite frankly, as nicely as this thing finished up, I think it's time to put Ender and his friends to rest and move on to other things.

The story is still about things that the last two "Shadow" books have been about: politics, diplomacy, and war. But added to that are the human elements of family and love--and it's these last two elements that make the book good. But it's just that--good, but not great.

Here's the setup: Peter Wiggin, Ender's brother and the Hegemon of Earth, is trying to unite the planet under one government. Unfortunately for him, he's running into severe obstacles in the form of former students back at the Battle School: Han Tzu, now Emperor of China; Virlomi, now goddess of India, and Alai, the Caliph of the Muslim people. Bean, the Giant of the title, and his wife Petra are expecting their first child by normal means, and have eight more elsewhere in the world due to Vorlescu's experiments with Anton's Key that originally brought Bean into this world. The eight embryos have been implanted in unsuspecting women across the globe, and there is a frantic effort to find them all before Bean dies from his condition. And Graff and Mazer Rackham are still working behind the scenes, pulling all the strings--or at least trying to.

But while the story is about the efforts of Peter Wiggin (he of the Locke-Demosthenes essays, and now of the Lincoln-Martel essays) to unify the planet in a peaceful fashion, this story, and eventually all the rest of it, is about family and how a family, in whatever form, will hold things together and make it all work out. We have the Bean/Petra family, with their love and devotion for each other and their children, all nine of them, and how all their actions are driven by that love. We have the Battle School graduate, and in particular the members of Ender's Jeesh, who we find out are driven to become leaders of people because of their particular skills that brought them to the Battle School in the first place. And we have the parents, if you will, of those same graduates--Graff and Rackham--who look out for those Battle School graduates as if they were their own children. In a sense they are. And we have the family of Petra, concerned about her, Bean, and their children. And they play a nice role in the end.

So really, it's all about family. And yeah, it's a little corny, because in trying to unify the planet Peter is trying to make everyone one big happy family. But for me, it works--just enough. But this isn't a science fiction novel, no more than the last two were. It has the trappings of SF, but it really isn't SF, no matter what Card's website says it is.

In the end, I had a feeling of sadness and melancholy about it. I also had that feeling as I was reading the novel, in part because I realized that this was the end, and in part because I was still resentful that Card went down this road and, in my mind, cheapened the original Ender books by continuing with a story that up until I got hit over the head with a lead brick I was convinced had no point at all. I thought that what the Ender universe had come down to was very sad. However, when it was all said and done, it came out all right.

Card did end this series in a very proper fashion. And while many might think that the final conversations between Peter and Ender were unnecessary (as was the reference to Card's second Hugo winning novel in the series, SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD), once again I say that this was about family. It was about two family members, in a sense, reconciling after a bitter childhood. I thought it was a nice touch, and made the ending complete, because I do feel it was necessary to bring Ender back just one more time to close things off.

Again, it doesn't have to be over. Readers will see for themselves what the escape hatch is, and realize that there's a whole bunch more that can be written. But no more Ender books should be written. It should end right here, while I'm still feeling good about it, and before the series is cheapened even more. [-jak]

TRILOGY: THE WEEPING MEADOW (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

[This review originally ran in the 11/19/04 issue of the MT VOID, but is being re-run since the film is opening this week.]

CAPSULE: The first of a trilogy of films by Greek director Theo Angelopoulos tells the story of thirty tragic years in a woman's life. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

This film is the first film of Greek director Theo Angelopoulos's trilogy of films simply called TRILOGY. TRILOGY: THE WEEPING MEADOW covers the life of one woman from 1919 to the late 1940s. During this period the Greeks flee from Odessa, are involved conflicts between the government and trade unions, enter World War II, and have a civil war between fascists and communists. The film runs almost three hours in length and uses an appreciable chunk of Greek history as a backdrop.

Eleni (Alexandra Aidini) is adopted as a refugee from Odessa when the revolution comes. In the family that adopts her there is a boy her own age. As the boy grows up he shows musical talent and Eleni is attracted to him, in spite of having been raised essentially as his sister. But when Eleni comes of age, it is the father of the family, Spyros (Vasilis Kolovos), who arranges to marry her. On the wedding day Eleni runs away from the ceremony where she would marry the father and runs off with the son. The two become fugitives from Spyros.

Angelopoulos's trademark are his very long takes, perhaps no shorter than those by Tarkovsky or Amos Gitai, but considerably more detailed and interesting. He will pan across showing an entire Greek village with its work and other activities. In another scene he gives us a visual essay of a Greek funeral on water. In this film water is always associated with pain and death. Since the usual connection is with the life cycle he may be saying that pain and death are just natural functions of life. They certainly are for Eleni. Angelopoulos says he wants his film to be a study of the human condition running with deep emotions and sincerity. Certainly the predominant emotion we see in this film is pain. It is a moving document, but not likely to get a wide release in the United States, where killing and dying are endemic in films but pain is a rarity.

I believe the next two parts of the trilogy will continue the story of Eleni's life, though it is hard to believe with all the experience and anguish in this film that she still has two-thirds of her story to go. [-mrl]

THE LIBERTINE (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

[This review originally ran in the 04/15/05 issue of the MT VOID, but is being re-run since the film is opening this week.]

CAPSULE: Johnny Depp plays a role unlike any he has played before. (Doesn't he always?) This film about a great rake in Restoration England is a literate morality tale. The writing is good, but the presentation is indifferent. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

"Anyone can oppose. It's fun being against things. But there comes a time when one must be for things." This is the advice that Charles II (played by John Malkovich) gives supreme cynic John Wilmot (Johnny Depp) in the film THE LIBERTINE, directed by Laurence Dunmore from a literate and intelligent screenplay by Stephen Jeffreys based on his play.

During the English Restoration period the John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester, is one of the great minds of England as well as one of its most shameless rakes. (Historically the two capacities do seem to go hand in hand.) His father saved the life of King Charles II and Charles admires Rochester's talent for words, but Rochester just wants to be the worst bad boy he can arrange to be and to squander every advantage he has. On a bet Rochester adopts a very bad stage actress and tutors her on his own ideas about acting. Though he really has no credentials he manages to turn her into a very fine actress. Requested to write a major literary work for Charles to use as a status symbol for his country, Rochester decides to write an extreme embarrassment for Charles. Perhaps a story that dwells so long on one man's decadence is not the highest aspiration the film could wish for, but the Depp performance certainly makes the film worthwhile by itself.

In stark contrast to Michael Hoffman's RESTORATION, set in the same period and making it look magnificent, Dunmore gives us images of painted dandies and fops walking in streets of running mud, muck, and sewage. The photography and language are murky and smoky. Depp really stretches his range in the sort of role that at one time might have gone to John Hurt. The film shows the degradation of the character from handsome fop to . . ., well, to a much lower state. Depp may well be the finest actor of his generation. Certainly he is frequently claimed to be. And this could well be regarded as one of his best roles, if the film will get a release. I saw it at a film festival where it was called a work in progress. It is not clear what the producers want from the film. It could be it needs more technical enhancement, as the photography seemed so dark. If there were dramatic problems or production problems like editing they were not evident. I rate the version I saw of THE LIBERTINE a high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10. [-mrl]

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

Donald Westlake is known primarily as a crime writer, tending toward the farcical. He has also written a series of humorous science fiction stories, published in "Playboy" and available at (I reviewed these in the 01/16/04 issue of the MT VOID.) However, ANARCHAOS (ISBN 0-7278-6096-8) is anything but humorous. (It was actually written in 1967, under the pseudonym Curt Clark.) Rolf Malone, the protagonist of the novel (one hesitates to call him a hero), goes to a planet to find out what happened to his brother. This eponymous planet is politically an anarchy, and driven in large part by corporate greed. Malone begins his stay there by murdering the taxi driver he hires and stealing his taxi. This behavior is perfectly legal (or at least not illegal). This novel is political science fiction, and somewhat more realistic than a lot of that genre, though I am still not convinced that such a total anarchy would survive. Then again, I suspect it is not all that different from the West before the Army and the lawmen moved in. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           I like long walks, especially when they 
           are taken by people who annoy me. 
                                          -- Noel Coward

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