@@@@@ @ @ @@@@@ @ @ @@@@@@@ @ @ @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @@@@@ @@@@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @@@@@ @ @ @ @ @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/09/09 -- Vol. 27, No. 28, Whole Number 1527
Table of Contents
And Another (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
We seem to have a healthy debate going about TWILIGHT in both book and film versions. I wonder if we need to title our letter column "The TWILIGHT Zone."
Actually it is nice to have some controversy going where I am a non-combatant. [-mrl]
Edd Cartier Has Died (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I see we have lost another link with the Golden Age of science fiction. Edd Cartier died Christmas Day. While I cannot claim he was my favorite artist, his art was very commonly seen in the good days.
If you don't remember him you will probably recognize his style.
RELIGULOUS Online (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Late October I reviewed Bill Mahar's RELIGULOUS. I was asked by some people about the approach.
Apparently RELIGULOUS is already available online for free Viewing:
The Mouse and I (part 1) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I live in a Levitt ranch-style house on a street called Lakeridge. When I was buying the house the name "Lakeridge" did not set off any alarms in my head. It was like any other street name. I grew up on Osceola. My wife lived on Jacob. These names mean very little. They are just people's names. I suppose I thought that there was somebody named George Lakeridge or something. It did not occur to me that the name was a warning. My street was named Lakeridge because it was on a ridge by a lake. Well, even that was not really honest. I think the ridge has worn away and we are really on the margin of the lake. Much of the year my backyard is more marsh than dry land. Before I realized that you have to fight the humidity we must have been letting it get fairly high. I would guess it was like 70 or 80%. That made mildew a frequent problem.
The wetness caused all sorts of other problems. I used to claim that in the spring there were 'gators and tsetse flies in the back. It is true that, like the House of Usher, my house was doomed to a terrible fate. The swamp was reclaiming the land by just swallowing up all the man-things. Occasionally I stretched the truth just a bit by telling visitors that it used to be a two-story house and we put in a door when the second floor had sunk to ground level and the first story was taken back by the Old Gods under the ground. We had found eight recipes for ichor, which we had not grown but still could harvest.
The wetness brings all sorts of little creatures. The greatest number in the house was spiders. The house has lots of spiders. Getting rid of them is a special problem for me. It isn't bad enough that we have the invaders; I have to make it worse by bringing morals into it and also principles. My own belief for myself is that I have no right to kill for simple convenience or for hatred. Killing is justified only for self-preservation.
Does this mean that I am a vegetarian? Vegetarians kill plants to live. That is a form of killing. I think it is worse to kill an animal than to kill a plant, but I am still OK with killing animals for food. In very cold climates, not my current climate, they can be killed for their pelts to prevent hypothermia. But killing for any motive but self-preservation is wrong. So do I kill ants and termites? Well, yes, but I don't claim it is moral to do so. I immorally kill certain animals to protect my food supply. I really would not think much of someone who lives by all of their principles. That means they are setting the bar too low. I would like to be the sort of person whose moral convictions would actually prevent him from killing ants. I kill ants with my conscience giving me dirty looks.
But ants are a different kingdom altogether. And ants are the most warlike animals on Earth. So my conscience is not strong enough to stop me from killing ants. At least usually the invaders of my house are arthropods. I suppose I do not get emotionally tied to them. But on at least three occasions the invaders have been field mice. Now a field mouse is a mammal like I am. I see in a field mouse some of my ancestors around the time of the dinosaurs. We all are just sort of modified rodents the way I see it. The noble mouse was a lot like my ancestors who raided dinosaur nests and it ate dinosaur eggs. (Yes, believe it or not I have ancestors going back that far.) And dinosaurs could do little to stop them because they were up against something fairly smart. Now there were smart dinosaurs also, almost certainly, but this sort of rodent fights a guerilla war. You (assuming you are a dinosaur) cannot guard your nest 24/7. (Actually in those days it was not 24 but 23 and a fraction. The Earth has slowed in its spinning. I am not really sure about the 7.) And the rodent won against dinosaurs and survived whatever killed most of the dinosaurs off.
Yes, a mouse is cute and furry. But they also can do a great deal of damage. They contaminate food, leave bodily wastes, and can chew electrical cords and cables. A mouse is a rodent and a rodent is a digger. A mouse can dig right through concrete. Then again they have faces. But making them worse, a mouse is a reasoning animal. A mouse can be a very smart opponent. A human has the upper hand, but not by as wide a margin as you might imagine. And that means that no battle against mice is final. If you do not kill mice, and even if you do, victories are only temporary. There is an intelligent being out there trying to outsmart your defenses. What is more: generations of mice can be thinking about the problem of how to get around your defenses. With a mouse problem you win rounds, not games. And living on Lakeridge a mouse problem comes with the territory.
Next week I will tell you about some of the battles I have had with mice. [-mrl]
If You Read Only One Book in 2009, You Should Read ... (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Okay, here are the rules:
And my choices:
If you read only one classic book this year, you should read THE GILDED AGE by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. (Runner-up: NORTHANGER ABBEY by Jane Austen)
If you read only one 20th century book this year, you should read Jorge Luis Borges's COLLECTED FICTIONS. Runner-up: Edmund Wilson's PATRIOTIC GORE.
If you read only one 21st century book this year, you should read Ted Chiang's STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS. Runner-up: Mark Haddon's THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME.
If you read only one 2008 book this year, you should read Dan Ariely's PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL: THE HIDDEN FORCES THAT SHAPE OUR DECISIONS. (It's psychology, not conspiracy theory.)
Let the recommendations begin! [-ecl]
TWILIGHT (letter of comment by Raven Stern):
In response to recent comments on TWILIGHT, college freshman Raven Stern writes:
The thing I find funny about the reviews of the "Twilight" series I've read is that the author of the review inevitably goes into the process expecting good literature, or expecting to be disgusted by the lack thereof. This amuses me because when *we* (and when I say we, I mean my age group, those of us who started reading them at the right age when they first came out and still read them), the target, read TWILIGHT, good literature is exactly what we *don't* want.
Now, obviously, there are a lot of very popular books that are very poorly written (even for adults!), and that's all a lot of these kids will ever read. But there are also a lot of teens who read books like TWILIGHT (and other things like it) *because* we read good literature. When I have three to six hundred pages of reading almost every day or two, it's incredibly nice to take a break every now and then and pick up something delightfully trashy. And for a lot of people my age, TWILIGHT is more relatable (angsty teenager in love) than the novels we read for class. This doesn't mean we don't love TOM JONES, it just means variety is nice. And for the rest? At least they're reading. My sister would rather watch TV or play video games than pick up a book, but she devoured TWILIGHT, and as a result will read almost anything with a vampire in it. Now she's moving on to Anne Rice. My point is simply that TWILIGHT's lack of sophistication is part of its charm. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is one of my favorite novels, right up there with [H. G. Wells's] THE TIME MACHINE. Loving good literature doesn't make me value TWILIGHT(for all its trashy gooiness) any less. Sometimes it's just nice to have a break, and reading something trashy is still a step up from watching television for hours. [-rs]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Two weeks ago, in the 12/19/08 issue of the MT VOID, I wrote about COUNTERKNOWLEDGE by Damian Thompson, and in particular his discussion of pseudo-history. Well, MICHELANGELO'S NOTEBOOK by Paul Christopher (ISBN-13 978-0-451-41186-0, ISBN-10 0-451-41186-2) is another example of this proliferation of pseudo-history. The copyright page of MICHELANGELO'S NOTEBOOK has the usual disclaimer: "This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are use fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is totally coincidental. But at the end is an "Author's Note" which says that certain relationships in the story are "true" and "known". So far as I can tell, this is not the case, and the "Author's Note", while having some true facts in it, is as fictional as the rest of the book. (I am avoiding being too specific in case you decide to read the book, though frankly, the "revelation" is predictable and the book is not that good.) While I am no great admirer of the person in question, this claim about what is "true" is really uncalled for. One would think that a mystery/thriller about missing and stolen art works would be sufficiently exciting, but ever since THE DA VINCI CODE, authors have apparently decided that they must include some long-running conspiracy--preferably involving the Catholic Church--by a secret society to conceal the truth about something or other. With a few additions and the right marketing, Michael Flynn could have a runaway best seller with his 1990 novel IN THE COUNTRY OF THE BLIND. Interestingly, when I reviewed that book twenty years ago, I mentioned Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln's HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL (upon which THE DA VINCI CODE was based) in the review.
But Flynn was honest about his book. He did not pretend in an author's note that his speculations were actual facts, Christopher (and others) seem to think that doing so makes their books better, but it just serves to degrade the public's intelligence. For the people who believe it, it makes them believe things such as that there really is a secret society working to maintain Jesus's bloodline. And for the people who realize that these "Author's Notes" are as fictional as the rest of the book, it makes them suspicious of everything they read. This may not seem so bad, but what it means is that it is impossible to convince them of anything, because any facts they don't like, they can dismiss as mere fabrications.
There's apparently a sequel to this (THE AZTEC CONSPIRACY), exposing some other conspiracy, probably also with an "Author's Note". With novels this makes some sense, I suppose, but one wonders why people are not more skeptical of the various claims made by many "non-fiction" writers. Don't people find it peculiar that the same person can manage to uncover hidden secrets in so many diverse areas of history? It's as if in science the same person who formulated relativity than went on to discover DNA.
(It could be that the Coen Brothers need to take some blame here, for saying at the beginning of their 1996 film FARGO as "This is a true story." Certainly many people believed it was.)
[This is more serious than it sounds. One woman died as a result. See http://tinyurl.com/fargo-death. -mrl]
And in the 12/12/08 issue, I talked about buying a dozen "old" mysteries (from the 1930s and 1940s) re-printed by Rue Morgue Press in nice trade paperbacks. I read the first one (for me, anyway), WHO KILLED THE CURATE? by Joan Coggin (ISBN-13 978-0-815230-44-0, ISBN-10 0-815230-44-5). It was fine *except* for the main character, Lady Lupin, who is a society flibbertygibbet married to a vicar. The back blurb compares her to Gracie Allen, and an apt comparison it is--she is full of apparent non sequuntur (*), and as the back blurb says, "she literally doesn't know Jews from Jesuits." I never found this type of character either believable or funny, so it was hard for me to enjoy the novel, even though the mystery and supporting players were fine.
(*) Yes, that's the plural of "non sequitur"! [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are. -- The Talmud