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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/08/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 49, Whole Number 1444
Table of Contents
Pacific Northwest Logs:
The logs for our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest may be found at http://www.geocities/evelynleeper/seattle.htm and http://www.geocities.com/markleeper/norwest.htm.
Science Fiction Book Club Update (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY reports, "After news of major cuts at Bookspan, three people have been named to new editorial positions. ... Rome Quezada, arriving from William Morrow, where he was an associate editor, has been named editor of the Science Fiction Book Club, replacing Ellen Asher, who retired after 30 years with the company."
So it appears that the SFBC will continue, though for how long or in what form remains to be seen. [-ecl]
FRANKENSTEIN (1910) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
People interested in the history of the horror film will be interested to know that the Edison Company 1910 version of FRANKENSTEIN with Charles Ogle as the monster is viewable at:
This is a film long thought to be lost. It was rediscovered several years ago, but has kept from the public for a long time. A version showed up on the Internet briefly a few years back and I was able to review the film.
This is a much clearer transfer. It lasts twelve minutes and forty seconds. Thanks go to Dan Kimmel for pointing this link out. [-mrl]
Land of the Lost??? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I admit that I have seen only the first episode of LOST, but I know a lot of science fiction fans who seem to like it. One thing that has struck me about the premise is that it reminds me a lot of a children's television show of the 1970s that seems to have a similar premise. That show was about a father and two children who find themselves in a strange land that has very strange properties. The sort of thing was that they would climb a mountain to see what was in the distance and what they would see was an identical mountain with them at the top. My guess is that LOST is much like an adult version of LAND OF THE LOST. But I have not seen enough of either program to make that statement confidently. Is there anyone out there who has seen both programs and can comment? [-mrl]
Subculture (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I have been reading a little about the fascinating subculture of street artists. I guess when you get to know them you just can't help being drawn by them. [-mrl]
SH20--The Seeds of Destruction (Part 1) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I frequently claim that I have what I call "Luck of Leeper." At one point I said that this was just very bad luck. And I really have had some amazing runs of chance events going against me. They are sort of in the nature of vacations ruined because when I visited Spain it had the worst rains and flooding in fifty years. More recently I have been saying that Luck of Leeper is worse than one would expect on small things and much better than one would expect on the big things. The big things include on my first date finding someone whose interests are so close to mine that I did not have to look any further. I had no breaking up, no broken hearts, not even an old girlfriend I can complain about. Bingo! Right the first time.
Of late I have been thinking that there is another very important thing that I just lucked into. The shank of my life was lived in the second half of the 20th Century. I used to think that I was born earlier than I would have liked and that there is a great future like in the best sense of the science fiction I read. Of late I have been thinking that the second half of the 20th century (I call it SH20, pronounced "S-H-2-O") may well prove to be a sort of high point for humanity. Conditions for living got considerably better in the 20th century, particularly the second half. But the improvements in so many areas could not last because what made the good times good actually brought about their end. The "Golden Age" bore the seeds of its own destruction. In one area after another the second half of the 20th Century was the best time. Maybe people who have lived at many eras in history think of their own time as the best. But I would like to look at some of the many fields in which I think the time from the 1950s to the year 2000 were the best time.
A good example is antibiotics. I was born into the Age of Antibiotics. Tuberculosis appeared to have largely been defeated. Polio was on its way out. For a while it seemed that these diseases were a thing of the past. But while the treatment for Tuberculosis killed off almost all of the disease, it left behind the drug resistant strains and a big vulnerable population for them to attack. It looks like TB is coming back. It was just in the news that a tubercular patient with a drug-resistant strain was allowed to fly across the United States. Antibiotics tend to be only temporary solutions. By killing off organisms susceptible to their killing power they leave behind organisms that are immune. Antibiotics effectively breed for strains of bacteria that are resistant to them. A given antibiotic's efficacy is then limited in time. It gives a window of time that is a respite from the organisms it kills. During SH20 we used antibiotics fairly freely--as many as we could find as soon as we found them. Some are nearing the end of the time of their efficacy. The old enemy diseases they fought are coming back.
Polio may be coming back for a different reason--a political reason. In parts of the world it is becoming a religious rallying cry that polio vaccination is a plot by the dastardly Americans. There are very prevalent conspiracy theories that polio vaccination is the weapon in a plot to make Muslims sterile. The faithful are refusing to be inoculated. Places like Pakistan are becoming breeding grounds for polio because the conspiracy theories manipulate the faithful. So polio also may be making a comeback after having been kept at bay during SH20.
Let us look at economics. It was during that half century that the lot of the average worker was the best in history. In World War II when there was a freeze on worker salaries. Corporations still competed for the best employees of the limited pool that was available. What could they offer besides salary? They could offer security. This was when the benefits package became a major part of the compensation. Corporations would take care of their own. And corporations that did not give good benefits packages could not compete for employees. But in the years that followed medical care both got better and more expensive--a lot more expensive. Doctors could raise their rates without too much opposition. There was little sales resistance from most employees because the corporation was picking up the tab. Eventually the price ballooned to the point that corporations were taking a heavy hit. They had to withdraw the umbrella of employee support. It looks like most workers are going to be on their own to provide for themselves. With medical and drug prices very inflated suddenly the American worker is less secure, not more.
Next week I look at how SH20 may have been the calm before the storm of environmental changes. [-mrl]
GYPSY CARAVAN (WHEN THE ROAD BENDS: TALES OF A GYPSY CARAVAN) (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Five Gypsy musical bands cross America in a documentary and a different sort of concert film. Featuring many kinds of Gypsy music from India, Macedonia, Spain, and Romania, this film tells of the lives of the players, their family, and a little of the history of the Roma people. Featured on the tour is famous singer/songwriter Esma Redzepova. The Roma are seen through the camera eye of cinematographer Albert Maysles whose work includes GIMME SHELTER and GREY GARDENS. Jasmaine Dellal directs. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
In 2006 five Roma (Gypsy) bands put together one concert show and took it on tour across the United States. Jasmaine Dellal documents the tour on and off stage as well as showing the Gypsies in their home countries. The bands were Maharaja from Rajasthan, India; Antonio El Pipa and his flamenco ensemble from Spain; Esma Redzepova from Macedonia; Fanfare Ciocarlia from Romania; and Taraf De Ha´douks also from Romania. One premise of the film is that all Gypsy music has influenced music of their individual countries and that all Gypsy music is one. The former assertion is probably easier to believe than the latter. The differences in the styles of music are more obvious than the similarities. Indian Gypsy music sounds a lot like classical Indian music. The Spanish Gypsy music is flamenco. Romanian Gypsies make music sounding most like what one thinks of as the Gypsy flare, with lots of strings. And Esma's Macedonian music is a powerful lament. It is four different styles that may not obviously have the unity that the players claim, but each is interesting in its own way. They have contributed to the music of their individual countries, but the influence seems to have gone both ways. In some ways even the players are as strange to each other as they are to us. In one sequence a European Gypsy tries Indian Gypsy food and finds it too spicy. Even the bread is spicy.
But for the style of the music and the performers this is not an unusual sort of concert film. We follow the performers from city to city and, of course, see the performances. We see them on- stage; we see them back-stage preparing. The camera follows them as they sightsee and we see them in the lands of their origin. There are discussions of the prejudice against Gypsies that may be somewhat undercut by the sold-out performances in every city they visit. GYPSY CARAVAN celebrates the music that is the soul of the Roma people. The camera returns repeatedly to two major figures in Gypsy music. One is the Romanian Nicolae Neascu, the founder of the band Taraf De Ha´douks (literally Band of Brigands). He is their maestro, a man of eighty who always wears a hat in public in the style of the Eastern European Gypsies. He is taciturn and with a hollow frown that speaks of missing teeth. But he is a different man when he is playing vibrant music on his violin. He has modified the violin to have one loose string that he uses effectively for special music effects.
The diva of the show is the Macedonian Esma Redzepova, almost the exact opposite of Neascu. Where he is thin and angular in a modest jacket and hat, she is fleshy and dresses in traditional costumes of bright red. She talks of a past of forty years of singing and of unofficial title as "Queen of the Gypsies." She and her husband could not have children so adopted 47, some of whom play in her band. Her band has played over 150 concerts, but the most impressive musical instrument in the band is her voice singing songs that are joyful or songs that are laments.
Along the road there is time for some fun sightseeing. They pose for pictures near Niagara Falls. And the film shows us something of how the musicians live in each of their homelands. There is a bit of drama when there is a tragic turn toward the end of the tour. One instantly recognizable celebrity (who chooses to have his name omitted from publicity for the film) talks of his time spent living with the Taraf De Ha´douks band in making previous films and of the situation of Gypsies.
For those who like a melange of music with an international flare, GYPSY CARAVAN is a pleasure. I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
In the interviews one Gypsy complains that Gypsies are always portrayed as bad in films. No specific film is mentioned. I question the truth of the assertion. In films I have seen Gypsies can be portrayed as exotic and frequently as a people wielding supernatural powers or prey to supernatural curses. I would be curious to know what films have presented them as being unjust or dishonest. I do not deny that there is a great deal of prejudice against them in the real world. But I am curious what films they think reflect that prejudice.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0412796/
The Future, AWAY FROM HER, Poetic Writing, and H. G. Wells (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to various articles in the 06/01/07 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
Your musings about seeing into the future are quite lucid, but I really can't see where you are going with this argument.
[I am not sure I was going anywhere specifically, other than to say the way it is dramatized in film is not the way I think it would be in the real world. -mrl]
Actually, all punning aside, seeing into the future is an intriguing concept, but I really don't think it is scientifically, or even metaphysically, possible. To me, it falls under the realm of the paranormal--deja vu', as they say--along with mediums and other fakirs of that ilk. I am a healthy skeptic of this sort of behavior; until I see it or experience it myself, I cannot believe in its existence.
[I think that it leads to paradoxes that make it seem unlikely that it is possible. I don't think it is possible to send information backward in time. -mrl]
Personally, I think seeing into the future--or time-traveling into the future--cannot be done because it is impossible based on the principles of probability.
[Sorry, if you had said "time-traveling into the past" I would have agreed with you. You would be carrying information into the past, which is probably impossible. Travel into the future at rates greater than 1 sec/sec is an accomplished fact, though only modestly. Supposedly when the astronauts went to the moon they also moved some small fraction of a second into the future. I remember news stories that mentioned that fact. Every time you accelerate you travel a little bit into the future. That is really what the "Twin Paradox" is all about. Forward time travel is just speeding up time, and Relativity Theory tells you how to do that. -mrl]
Unless, as you argue, there is only one possible projected time- line, it is unlikely to "see" forward along such a time-line. The future has always been fascinating to SF fans and writers because of all the "possibilities" that exist; this explains why SF also uses the term "speculative fiction" alongside "science fiction." These stories are fictional speculations about what might become, as opposed to history, which is what has been. Big distinction. This is why I don't believe in "seeing into the future" as a sub- genre of science fiction; it is more fantasy to me.
[We may have a different view of what science fiction is. I would say that looking at how things might be different if water contracted rather than expanded as if freezes would qualify. That is a serious scientific question. But it does not and cannot happen. I would still call that science fiction and not fantasy. A good example of science fiction written about how universes would be different with one modest change here or there is the book EINSTEIN'S DREAMS by Alan Lightman (). http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=einstein's+dreamsEach dream is a different world if the nature of time were modified in some way. -mrl]
I am reminded of George Carlin's description of the concept of Vuja de': that I feel like I have never been here before!
That film AWAY FROM HER sounds like the kind of science fiction that I enjoy the most: people's reactions to being in some technological/ medical/sociological/whatever situation(s) and exploring the ramifications of it/them. I have heard of the story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice Munro, but never read it. This movie sounds fascinating, and your quoted and paraphrased lines from the movie are extraordinarily poetic and evocative. Thank you for reviewing it; this is now down on my "must rent" DVD list.
[Recognize that most people would not see this film and think science fiction. It just covers some changes in behavior as the memory is lost in a way similar to how science fiction would. It is make one particular change in a person and seeing how the personality changes. It is a lot like what we were talking about above. -mrl]
Speaking of poetic writing, Evelyn touches on some Russell Hoban stories that likewise sound very evocative. I am a sucker for poetic writing, especially if it contains philosophical comments that ring of underlying truth that requires a moment to digest what has been said in the story. I may have to check these books out. Evelyn's review reminded me why I enjoyed reading SOPHIE'S WORLD [by Jostein Gaarder] and THE POISONWOOD BIBLE [by Barbara Kingsolver]. Those books stayed with me for a long time after I had finished reading them.
I like the later writings of H. G. Wells, too. Have you ever read THE CROQUET PLAYER? It is a very bleak, slim volume that is even more politically philosophical than much of his earlier writings; if I remember correctly, it was published in 1942. An interesting story, one that I read about thirty years ago, so I don't remember much about it other than it was very different from the classic works produced during his 1895-1915 period.
[I was familiar only with the title, but the description on Amazon (http://tinyurl.com/yq8y4a) makes it sound very interesting. My library system does not have a copy. The text is available (free but perhaps illegally) at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks05/0500411h.html -mrl]
Thanks for sending this issue my way, and I hope you and Evelyn have a great summer. Hopefully it won't be as miserably hot and humid in New Jersey as it always gets down here in SouthCentralEastern Texas. [-jp]
[What is New Jersey like right now? Here is how to find out. Get a large dog. Run his three times around the block. Then when he is exhausted and panting put your face right up to his mouth. That is what New Jersey is like right now. However, it does not smell that badly except for certain places on the turnpike. -mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
This is the first time in over twenty years that I am not voting on the Hugos, so instead of reviewing the short fiction, I will talk about some of the Hugo "goofs" over that time. By "goofs", I mean all the problems, intentional and accidental, that have befallen the Hugo Awards in the last twenty years. This is undoubtedly not an exhaustive list, just the ones I know about.
ConFederation (1986): This is not so much a goof as a philosophical issue. Judy Lynn Del Rey was awarded the Hugo for Best Professional Editor, but because it was awarded posthumously, her husband Lester Del Rey refused it at the ceremony. This led to the policy of asking all nominees ahead of time if they accepted the nomination.
Noreascon III (1989): This seems to be the beginning of the "Hugo goofs". There were doubtless problems before this, but I was unaware of them, and I suspect that a lot were never revealed. But as there was more and more openness in the nomination and voting process, it was inevitable that problems would become more visible.
In the announcement of the nominees, the committee said that the novel THE GUARDSMAN by P. J. Beese and Todd Hamilton had enough nominations to make the ballot, as did Hamilton for Professional Artist. However, irregularities in the nominating ballots led to their exclusion. These irregularities, as it turned out, included the nominating ballots coming from all new members, and accompanied by sequentially number money orders from a post office in Brooklyn. (Indeed, the phrase "sequentially number money orders from a post office in Brooklyn" has become a fannish catch-phrase.) In addition, when several of the "nominators" were contacted, they knew nothing about their memberships or nomination forms. Beese and Hamilton were never implicated, and eventually totally exonerated when the details became known.
(The full press release from Noreascon III can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2svov8 and <http://tinyurl.com/2rkwkn; it is in two parts.)
Chicon V (1991): A misinterpretation of the 5% rule led the Hugo Administrator to produce an initial Hugo ballot where many of the categories had only the top three nominees, rather than the top five. Although the claim was made that this was never released by the committee, LOCUS managed to print this partial list, because LOCUS was being used to validate word counts, etc. (The 5% rule says that a nominee must be nominated on at least 5% of the ballots with nominations in that category. It was misread as saying that a nominee needed to get 5% of the nominations made.)
MagiCon (1992): MagiCon managed to miss any problems in the nomination process, but made up for it big time when they announced the wrong winner for the Best Fanzine category! The explanation never quite made sense: the claim was that the wrong name was put in the envelope, because cards were printed up for all the names. At least the award was engraved correctly, and George Laskowski managed to acquit himself gracefully when he was told to go up and accept "his" award until they could correct it.
Conadian (1994): The WSFS Constitution permits the Hugo Administrator to move a story from one fiction category to another if the difference from the destination category is within the lesser of 5000 words or 20% of the destination category's word limits. Generally, this is not done, but this year, the Administrator moved several stories in order to put stories with more nominations on the ballot. For example, if there were seven novellas with more than 20 nominations each, but the novelette category had only three with more than 20 nominations, moving two novellas to the novelette category might seem reasonable. However, the result was that short stories were competing with novelettes, and novelettes with novellas, and the longer pieces in the categories had an advantage of considerably more space to work in. And so the people who had their short stories nominated felt that competing with a novelette was not fair. The rule remains, but Hugo Administrators are considerably more cautious about wholesale movement of stories. (For example, in 2003 Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" might arguably have been moved to the novel category, but it was left in the novella category, where its word count technically put it. Rob Sawyer, who won the Hugo for novel that year, thanked the Hugo administrators for declaring "Coraline" as a novella. As he put it, "I was never so thrilled by a word-count statistic in my life.")
Chicon 2000: Again, they managed the nomination process well, but the ceremony was fraught with problems. The program had several misspellings, the nominees could not sit with their partners, and all the winners' names were flashed on the scene ahead of time when someone hit the "thumbnails" button on the slide show presentation.
Torcon III (2003): The story "A Gift of Verse" by John L. Flynn appeared on the initial ballot. However, several people raised the objection that this story was actually published two years earlier. There was much debate back and forth, with Flynn saying that although it was in a book with an earlier copyright (2000), it had not really been for sale until 2002. However, it was then revealed that it had received several nominations in 2001 (though not quite enough to make the ballot). This seemed to convince the committee that it had in fact been available two years earlier and so was not eligible, and it was dropped from the ballot, and replaced by "Lambing Season" by Molly Gloss.
Nippon 2007: The details are still not totally revealed, but apparently a computer problem caused a mistake in the Dramatic Presentation (Long Form), and the initial ballot included PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST instead of PAN'S LABYRINTH. In fact, it was only spirited discussion on a fannish mailing list of the omission of PAN'S LABYRINTH that led the Hugo Administrator to recheck the ballots by hand and realize the error. (It is to her credit that she actually bothered to do this, and to make sure the correction went out as soon and as widely as possible.)
Well, I'm sure I've missed some, but these are the major ones I remember. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Always question the why; don't be satisfied with only knowing the how. -- Catherine Pulsifer
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