MT VOID 06/15/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 50, Whole Number 1445

MT VOID 06/15/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 50, Whole Number 1445


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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/15/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 50, Whole Number 1445

Table of Contents

      El Presidente: Mark Leeper, mleeper@optonline.net The Power Behind El Pres: Evelyn Leeper, eleeper@optonline.net Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper 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 mtvoid-subscribe@yahoogroups.com To unsubscribe, send mail to mtvoid-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com

Ray Bradbury: FAHRENHEIT 451 Misinterpreted:

"Bradbury has decided to make news about the writing of his iconographic work and what he really meant. FAHRENHEIT 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship. Nor was it a response to Senator Joseph McCarthy, whose investigations had already instilled fear and stifled the creativity of thousands. Bradbury, a man living in the creative and industrial center of reality TV and one-hour dramas, says it is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature."

Full story at http://tinyurl.com/2lrl7k.

However, Patrick Nielsen Hayden has posted a "rebuttal" at http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/009076.html#009076.


Audio Hugo Nominees (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

For those who enjoy dramatic readings of science fiction, this year the five nominees for the Hugo for short story are all available in that form. We previously published where they can be found on-line.

"How to Talk to Girls at Parties" by Neil Gaiman (FRAGILE THINGS)

Gaiman himself reads the story at links off of:

"Kin" by Bruce McAllister (Asimov's, February 2006)
"Impossible Dreams" by Timothy Pratt (Asimov's, July 2006)
"Eight Episodes" by Robert Reed (Asimov's, June 2006)
"The House Beyond Your Sky" by Benjamin Rosenbaum
     (Strange Horizons September 2006)

The people who do a weekly audio science fiction story, usually good, at http://escapepod.org/ have also done a reading of each of the other four Hugo nominees which can be found from links off of:

http://escapepod.org/category/podcasts/hugo/

Note: If you are the sort of person who wants to multi-process and enjoy the story when, say, you are driving to and from work, be informed that most police and traffic safety officials recommend the audio version over the text version of these stories. [-mrl]


Mars Has Ponds (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

By the time this gets published it may be old news, but in case you missed it. It has not been verified yet as of June 10, but it appears there are ponds on Mars. This makes life on Mars much more likely.

http://tinyurl.com/2sxezk

[-mrl]


A Way with Words (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

These magazines get sent to my house with ads for local businesses. The magazines have names like "Shopping Spree," "Shop Till You Drop," and my personal favorite "Shop-a-holic." Really. Are there people who really like to think of themselves as being a shop-a-holic? Any day now I expect to see "Daddy's Spoiled Little Princess", "More Money then Sense," or "Spend Money Like Water." [-mrl]


SH20--The Seeds of Destruction (Part 2) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I have been reading several people's predictions for the 21st Century. Some make it seem likely that from many different aspect, the last half of the last century may well have been more comfortable than this half of this century will be. Last week I was talking about SH20 (pronounced S-H-2-O), the second half of the 20th century. These 50 years are FH21. It was in SH20 that the lot of the average American worker may have peaked in that time and may be headed downward. The causes of downward trend may well be just how good things were at that time. Let us look at some other aspects of the changing times.

With the prosperity of SH20 more people had cars. Industries expanded. There was demand for energy. This all dumped a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Now the climate is behaving strangely. Suddenly the environment is doing things that it has not done in tens of thousands of years or maybe a lot more. And I mean suddenly. Climate change is generally slow but it is happening in just a very few short years after big industrial expansions. That may be coincidence, but I do not think that is the way the smart would bet. In any case it is clear that there are large changes in the environment. The weather is behaving is very new ways. We have lost what is currently about half of a major city in the United States to extreme weather and the extreme weather changes may well be just the beginning.

Meanwhile countries all over the world, particularly India and China, want the same sort of prosperity that we have had for the last half-century. Humans will be dumping a lot more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as that happens. This is an area where nobody can with any assurance accurately predict the future, but I suspect we have to be ready for some very nasty environmental shocks. The age of carelessly dumping more carbon dioxide into the air with little consequences may be coming to an end. China and India are industrializing. Within a short time China will be putting more carbon dioxide in the air than the United States is. And China is concerned about environmental changes, but they say that what is happening is the result of years of western industrialization. They are willing to compromise, but the United States has to make sizable cutbacks first. In the last half of the 20th century we reaped the benefits of the industrial society, without thinking much that it would have to be regulated sooner or later.

Another area where things my be past their prime is with travel. In the 1950s and 1960s more people were driving and the Interstate Highways were developed. Traveling by car became a lot faster. But more and more people drove. That meant there were more traffic jams. The travel times are starting to increase again. Much the same has happened with air travel with congestion over cities. The drive time for a trip from Manhattan to Boston really decreased in the second half of the 20th century, but as the amount of traffic increased drive time is rising again.

Air travel in the meantime has gotten either more expensive or less comfortable or both. These days flying coach class, the way the majority of people fly, means being confined to a little, uncomfortable capsule of space. This is because the airlines have to squeeze more profit from a flight in large part because the plane runs on petroleum and there is more competition internationally for petroleum so its price has gone up. To pay for it the airlines have to put more passengers in each plane. Air travel has become much less comfortable. Meanwhile security concerns have made getting on the planes less convenient and more stressful. The pleasure many of us used to feel in flying has turned the flying experience into a trial that many of us just want to get over with.

Speaking of security, I am sure there will be some people who will remember SH20 as a time of fears about the atomic bomb. We lived in fear of what the Soviets might do. Perhaps that is true, but the Soviets were a less threatening enemy for us than our current ones. While there might have been some in the USSR who were hawks, the real truth was that all along the Soviet Union was something of a paper tiger. They were constantly covering up the fact that they just did not have the economy to oppose us effectively. And they had to fight a constant two- front war. They were opposing the West and at the same time opposing their own people who were desperate to leave a totalitarian system that was rotting from within. The Berlin Wall was intended not to keep others out but to keep their own people in. There was barbed wire across Eastern Europe for the same reason. They had the resources to be scary, but not to be effective. And at heart they really did not want a nuclear war.

In 1945 nuclear energy saved the United States from having to invade Japan. It probably saved literally millions of lives. Ironically it probably meant fewer Japanese died in the long run. As the years passed it allowed both the American and Soviet military to have much smaller armies because they could enforce their will without large standing armies.

But what sustains our power also sustains the power of our enemies. We are probably in more danger of having a nuclear confrontation than ever were in the second half of the 20th Century.

Today we are fighting more determined enemies in what is at heart a religious war. There are Islamic fundamentalists who believe that if there is a nuclear war they automatically win and very possibly are willing to demonstrate that belief. The principle is that God will take the faithful to Paradise and will punish the dead of the other side. The philosophy in the late 20th century of Mutually Assured Destruction, really the most powerful nuclear deterrent of the Cold War, is now broken at a time when it is not just a tiny handful of countries that have nuclear weapons but a large number. If we thought we were close to having a nuclear conflict in the Cold War most signs say we are much closer right now.

I will conclude this discussion of the shape of things to come next week. [-mrl]


OCEAN'S THIRTEEN (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Danny Ocean is back and masterminding literally dozens of scams to help a friend who has lost his casino to a double- crossing partner. The script is fun and breezy and not meant to be taken very seriously. The film is full of little "aha!" moments as pieces of the scam come together. The whole scheme would probably never work in real life, but this isn't real life by a long stretch. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

The pleasure of a heist film like this, much like that of the old "Mission Impossible" television program, is in seeing an impossible task broken down into a myriad of pieces, all seemingly unlikely, and to see each accomplished. This is not so much a single story but a dramatization of many little scams that fit into a master plan. That is probably how the film has to be done. The title scheme requires that there have to be thirteen conspirators. There are a lot of under-handed sub-tasks and so the scriptwriters could just apportion them out to the various members of the team so everybody gets to do something. If they had wanted to roll it back to OCEAN'S EIGHT or SEVEN it probably would have worked as well. Personally, I thought that the Clooney OCEAN'S ELEVEN was a cop-out on the ambitious Sinatra version in which the five major casinos--the Sahara, the Flamingo, the Riviera, the Sands, and the Desert Inn--were all robbed at the same time on New Year's Eve. However, OCEAN'S THIRTEEN is not a remake of anything so has no responsibilities to any film but itself. It is just a sequel and probably one that improves on the original (if a remake can be called the original). It has a breezy but still engaging story.

The story centers around revenge on the heavy, Willie Bank (played by an Al Pacino who somehow just does not look like a Willie). Bank double-crosses his business partner Reuben Tishkoff (Eliot Gould). He essentially steals Tishkoff's casino and renames it after himself. Tishkoff was one of the great lions of the old Vegas, a mythical figure and one who did lots of favors for lots of people. And many of those people think if him like a favorite uncle. Now the double-cross by Bank has left Tishkoff with nothing to show for his old position but a coronary and a few remaining friends. But one of the friends is, of course, Danny Ocean (George Clooney), the affable crook who leads a gang of crooks, all loyal to Ocean and to Tishkoff. Ocean hatches a plot to have hundreds of unsuspecting bystanders playing different games all win fabulous in the same three minutes of time.

Bank's Girl Friday, Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin), runs the new Bank Casino for Bank and she does much of the dirty work like firing servers who have gained a little weight. Ocean may be a crook, but the audience knows who to side with. From the beginning we know that Bank and Sponder are both going down, but the question is how will Ocean arrange it all.

Steven Soderberg (who started out with the minimalist independent film SEX, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE) has directed all three OCEAN'S 10+N films and is getting used to handling a huge cast in luxurious locations. It cannot be an easy task handling so many major actors.

In our fourth film this summer that is the third film of a series it is nice to see a film that does not spend most of its budget on CGI. The characters are not deep, but at least the film concentrates on characters rather than bits and bytes. I would give OCEAN'S THIRTEEN a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0496806/

[-mrl]


SH20 and LOST (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek):

In response to Mark's article on the second half of the twentieth century in the 06/08/07 issue of the MT VOID, Andre Kuzniarek writes, "Oil is the primary engine of all things great and good in SH20, and that's going fast. Just ponder how much of everything in our modern lives traces back to the availability of cheap oil, and it's easy to see how beak the future might be without it. It seems to unlikely that there will be anything to replace it in terms of extraction to application energy/price ratios, but I sure hope the Peak Oil crowd are just stuck in schadenfreude and that unexpected alternatives will appear to keep our modern lives afloat."

[I am not sure I am entirely convinced of the Peak Oil crisis. Frankly I just don't know if we are really that close to running out or not. (It may come as a surprise after these editorials that I am not so pessimistic about everything. I am trying to be more selective in my pessimism.) But if the Peak Oil situation turns out to be real it will be just one more case where short-sighted policies in SH20 and into the present were the seeds of the problems to come. A current assessment of the problem I was just reading yesterday is at http://news.independent.co.uk/sci_tech/article2656034.ece. -mrl]

And in response to Mark's question about "Land of the Lost" in the same issue, Andre writes, "'Lost' vs. 'Land of the Lost'--I'm very familiar with both, and have certainly considered this comparison. The thing about 'Lost' is that it makes reference to all sorts of comparable stories/ideas, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes not, but it's so much of a potpourri that you can make the case for just about any slightly similar concept, even 'Gilligan's Island'. Also, 'Lost' is so so vague and moves so slowly in terms of addressing mysteries that it's all too much up in the air right now, there's not enough concrete exposition related to any of the SF/fantasy elements to really make honest comparisons with. Best coverage of the show and its relation to other concepts is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lostpedia." [-ak]


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

An observation about authors (though not a new one): Authors and other artists can be poor judges of their own work, and contemporary critics are often no better. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was sure he would be remembered for his historical novels such as the THE WHITE COMPANY and SIR NIGEL, while his Sherlock Holmes stories were just fluff. Sir Arthur Sullivan felt his great work was his one true opera, "Ivanhoe", while he looked down on his collaborations with W. S. Gilbert. And Mark Twain's literary executor Albert Bigelow Paine was sure that time would judge JOAN OF ARC to be Twain's greatest and most enduring work.

Last month our science fiction book group read BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley (ISBN-10 0-060-77609-9, ISBN-13 978-0-060-77609-1). A lot has been said about this, so I will comment just on a few aspects. First are the names Huxley used. Most of the names he chose he took from prominent and famous at the time of his writing. The following is a list of all the names in the book, with sources for the ones (I think) I know: Ford and Freud are well-known and commented on, but we also find Bokanovsky, Podsnap (OUR MUTUAL FRIEND), Foster, Mustapha Mond, Lenina (Lenin-- a political philosopher), Fanny, Marx (a political philosopher), Pfitzner (a composer and anti-modernist), Kawaguchi, Edzel (Edsel-- an industrialist), Benito (a politician) Hoover (a politician), Helmholtz (a physician and physicist) Watson (a child psychologist), Stopes (a family planning advocate), Rothschild (a financier), Sarojini (a woman's emancipationist) Engels (a political philosopher), Bradlaugh (an atheist), Diesel (an inventor), Deterding (the chairman of Royal Dutch Petroleum in Huxley's time), Bakunin (a political philosopher), Tomakin, Dr. Shaw (socialist), Gaffney, Keate, Primo (a dictator) Mellon (a banker), Darwin (a scientist), Bonaparte (a politician). Some of those seem obscure but were not at the time the book was written (1932). For example, Miguel Primo de Rivera was the dictator of Spain from 1923 to 1930. (The few I have not annotated I could not find any well-known real-life person of the time with that name.)

The racism of the book is also worth noting, not just the entire portrayal of the Zuni as unhygienic fanatics, but also the comments about the fertility of different races, etc.

And finally, was Huxley being slyly sarcastic when he wrote, "[And] on khaki paper and in words exclusively of one syllable, 'The Delta Mirror'"

BLOOD ON THE SADDLE by Rafael Reig (translated by Paul Hammond) (ISBN-10 1-852-42870-8, ISBN-13 978-1-852-42870-9) is a hard- boiled detective novel set in a near-future Madrid. Actually, it is even more specifically a Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe) pastiche. (One of the missing persons the detective is looking for is a character from a novel, so there may be a dash of Jasper Fforde here as well.) I'm not sure the genre feeling survives the transition in both time (from the 1940s and 1950s to the 21st century) and space (from Los Angeles to Madrid). And having to further be interpreted into Spanish by Reig and then translated back into English (by Hammond) may be more stress than this very stylistic genre can bear.

This is not to say that the book does not have its moments. On listening to some literary critics, our narrator Carlos Clot says, "These were penitential readers. The value they attributed to a book was in direct proportion to the effort it had cost them to finish it." (page 102)

Because this was translated for British publication, Britishisms such as suspenders (for garters) and Inland Revenue and British spellings occur throughout. This seems very odd in a book that is clearly a Raymond Chandler pastiche. One quibble: Walter Benjamin's "Passagen-Werk", which the character Penuelas dismisses as "a work about shopping arcades . . . a work without too much interest, not to say a pure clinker" (pg. 89) is actually much more than that and is considered a major work in 20th Century studies. [-ecl]



                                          Mark Leeper
                                          mleeper@optonline.net


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