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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/04/09 -- Vol. 28, No. 10, Whole Number 1561
Table of Contents
Acknowledgement (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
This week's MT VOID is brought to you by the Pre-Owned-Humvee Owners Exchange. Buy a used Humvee today. There are seven billion other people in the world. Let one of them save the planet. [-mrl]
Safe Bet (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I was watching a documentary about a heavily armored dinosaur. A paleontologist said, "It is safe to assume it was a slow runner." I am thinking to myself, "Yeah, it is safe to assume that *now*!" [-mrl]
Seven Essential Fantasy Reads (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
THE NEW YORKER had an article listing their "Seven Essential Fantasy Reads" ( http://tinyurl.com/pwosb5). These were:
Change the Past? No Problem! (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
The universe of physics has changed a great deal in my lifetime. And one of the things that changed a lot is the concept of the universe itself. Now the term is "multiverse". There is not one universe but an infinite number of them and there are universes that are arbitrarily similar to our universe. There are an infinite number of universes and an infinite number of Mark Leepers who are writing this very editorial. It is an interesting idea to think about and play with in the mind.
But I have to say that the whole concept of the multiverse has been an absolute disaster for the time travel story. Since the concept of the multiverse came along, time travel stories have really degraded. The multiverse is a very simple way to get around the Grandfather Paradox.
What is the Grandfather Paradox? It is said that if you could travel back in time, you could kill your grandfather before he had any children. Therefore your parents could have never existed and hence you would never have existed. Hence you could not have killed your grandfather hence you would exist. Hence you could go back in time. Etc. etc. As an aside I am not sure why it was not the "Father Paradox" since the patricide version is just as effective and less complicated.
The Grandfather Paradox is really the heart of the time travel story. They make the time travel a lot more interesting. The Grandfather Paradox seems to imply that it will never be possible to send information back in time and we just do not know why it is not possible at the moment. But time travel stories need the self- discipline of avoiding the paradox.
If you accept the multiverse then the Grandfather Paradox is easily explained away. If I go back and kill my grandfather there is no problem. When I went back in time I went back to a different universe. In that universe I killed my grandfather. So though I have shuttled over to that universe, I will never be born there. It is this universe I was born in.
On Twilight Zone there was a story, "Back There", of a man who goes back in time and tries to prevent the Lincoln assassination. He finds it impossible because Lincoln really was assassinated. The time traveler discovers that history is inviolable. It is explaining the Grandfather Paradox that makes it so.
On the other hand a major multiverse story I remember, one that may even pre-date the concept of multiverse, is the Planet of the Apes series. That starts with a world where apes hold humans in bondage and through time travel spirals around to a future where the apes and humans live together in harmony and mutual respect. The story is a little syrupy, but it has the concept that time travel has actually changed the timeline. That may have been just sloppiness on the part of the writers, but it created the interesting concept that there might be two different universes.
But the discipline of having to live by avoiding the Grandfather Paradox has gone away. Add the concept of the multiverse to the Twilight Zone story and it just dissolves the point. There is no longer any logical reason that Lincoln might not be saved. But what multiverse adds is that there are an infinite number of universes with an infinite number of Lincolns, in some of which he is saved and in some of which he isn't. The whole struggle is to save him in just one of those universes. And since it is a different universe already, there is no way to know if the assassination attempt would have been successful in this universe anyway. Without the concept that Lincoln cannot be saved, he might as well be some unknown fictional character. An interesting science fiction suspense story has been turned into a real ho-hum. And if you do save Lincoln in one universe who cares if you are only changing one of an infinite number?
Too many writers now feel they are free to have stories in which the past can be changed as much as they want it to be. But it better have something to make it interesting if the author is throwing out the rulebook. That seems to just lead to weak writing. It may be justifiable with a multiverse explanation, but it makes the story much less interesting. [-mrl]
Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon (Part 2) (convention report by Evelyn C. Leeper):
This is the second part of my brief report on Anticipation, the Worldcon held in Montreal August 6-10, 2009. My full report will also include panel descriptions, but will probably not appear for some time (though I hope before the next Worldcon!).
Last week I covered our hotel, the convention centre, registration, and publications.
The restaurant guide was almost useless. Admittedly there are so many restaurants in downtown Montreal that they cannot all be listed, but the ones that were had insufficient information. There were no hours listed, so the fact that that all the cheaper restaurants on Rue de Notre Dame closed by 6PM came as a surprise after we walked over there. Nor was there any indication of which served breakfast, or when. And though addresses and a map were given, the restaurants were not located on the map. You might know that a restaurant was on Rue de Notre Dame, but you had no idea which block it was in.
They also did not list the food court in the nearby Complex de Desjardins at all, and probably missed a few others I was unaware of.
The one saving point of all this was that Chinatown was literally just outside the convention centre and one could rely on getting good food there--even breakfast at a couple of places! And one could always find fans wandering this area looking for food (and dinner companions--one morning we had breakfast with Jean Lorrah and talking about our respective trips to India).
(Tip for choosing the best Chinese restaurants: they are the ones with primarily Chinese patrons, or those where the tables are preset with chopsticks rather than forks.)
Ever since the Minicon Restaurant Guide got nominated for a Hugo a few years ago, people seem to have decided to get creative with their convention's restaurant guide. This is a mistake. Yes, there are those who will enjoy the clever writing and the descriptions of distant, expensive restaurants. But most fans, I think, prefer a straightforward list of the restaurants closest to the convention centers and hotels with the categories, price range, hours, and special details (wheelchair-accessible, serves family- style, or whatever). If possible a short list of breakfast places and late-night places is useful (though the hours should help there). Any restaurants further away that are listed should be there for a reason (kosher, best in town for smoked meat, serves its meals in a ferris wheel, etc.).
These are not new complaints. In 2000, I wrote that the Chicon "Dining Guide", while a good restaurant guide for someone visiting Chicago, was not as good for people attending a science fiction convention in Chicago. The restaurants included were too widely distributed geographically, and more heavily weighted towards more expensive restaurants. And the main flaw in the guide was the lack of geography, or map.
The next year, Millennium Philcon did such a good job that I used the guide for several years following. But then in 2002, at ConJose the restaurant guide was a triumph of style over substance. Oh, the descriptions were fine, but there were no hours listed for restaurants, and NO MAP!! Yes, they had addresses, but you couldn't figure out *where* on West San Carlos number 140 was. (We think, alas, it was actually in a site then under construction.)
What ConJose overlooked was that the primary purpose of a restaurant guide should be to give people useful, complete, current information on where they can eat during the convention rather than a fancy book with cover art by the Guest of Honor and great write- ups of restaurants no longer there or three thousand miles away. (I'm not making this up.)
For example, ConJose listed only three restaurants as both "short walk" and "breakfast." This included the aforementioned defunct restaurant, but did not include Express Deli (listed as lunch and dinner but no breakfast) or McDonald's (not listed at all, though you passed it one block before the Jack-in-the-Box that was listed).
Let me re-iterate my main point: The purpose of a convention restaurant guide is to guide people to restaurants. Anything that gets in the way of doing this, or supersedes it, is a bad thing.
Or most specifically, here are my requirements for a convention restaurant guide:
Regardless of how long, detailed, or elaborate the full guide is, there must be a single sheet (two sides) that has a list of all restaurants nearest the hotel or convention center (two blocks, three blocks, whatever radius fits) with description of what they serve, price range (in typical cost, such as "entrees $15-$20," not "$" to "$$$$$$"), and hours. The hours should be the hours for the weekend of the convention--this is critical for conventions over holiday weekends. It should include all fast-food restaurants and grocery stores. And there should be a map with all the restaurants on it. People who want to go farther afield can use the full guide, which should also have a map for the closest ones, directions for the rest, and distances for all.
This was smaller than usual for a Worldcon, perhaps because crossing the border and dealing with customs was a real hassle for United States dealers--so hardly any came. An additional complication was the bilingual nature of the convention. The result was while half of the dealers were selling books, half of them were selling books in French. Ironically, everyone I talked to about the lack of English-language used books in the Dealers Room said the same thing: "Just as well, because the last thing I need is more books."
The art show was similarly small, probably for the same reason. In Europe, the show is small but at least one sees a wide variety of cultural influences. (I still remember some of the Czech and Dutch artwork from ConFiction in The Hague.) Here there were mostly the same artists, or at least styles, that one always sees.
More to follow next week. [-ecl]
PONYO (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: A magical "goldfish" turns herself human to learn about the real humans. A five-year-old adopts her, and the two find they love each other. But dark forces from the sea bring a natural disaster in vengeance for her misbehavior and the boy and the girl- fish have to go find the boy's mother. This film is really aimed at young children. Hayao Miyazaki is off his game with this film that has weaker art and animation than his usual films and a script that needed another draft or two. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most respected makers of animated films in the world. His Studio Ghibli has given us classic films like MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, PRINCESS MONONOKE, and SPIRITED AWAY. (A treasured memory was sitting across the aisle from him at the North American premiere of SPIRITED AWAY.) Sadly, I think his PONYO is several steps backward for him. That is not entirely his fault. The animation of PONYO is flat and dull, but part of that is that he does not obviously use computer animation and he is competing with animators like Pixar. I can accept that he does not have the detail that Pixar has in their images, but PONYO animation looks primitive compared to previous Miyazaki films such as SPIRITED AWAY. Near the opening of the film is a flood of jellyfish filling the screen. It seems intended to convey an awe of the wonder and beauty of sea life. But as a hand drawing it loses the edge of realism that would have made it look believable. It ends up falling short of the desired effect. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO also had simple animation, but that film is now sixteen years old and standards have changed.
Ponyo (voiced by Noah Cyrus) is a goldfish living in the ocean. But she has a driving curiosity about the humans who rule the land. To see land people, and without the permission of her human-shaped sea-magician father (Liam Neeson), she goes to take a look at what life is like on land. This gets her trapped in a small jar and a human has to smash the jar to get her out, luckily unharmed. The human is the five-year-old Sosuke (Frankie Jonas). It is love at first sight between her and the boy. Later the magical Ponyo takes a form of a human. The love of a boy for his fish/girl becomes like the love he would have for another person. The two have different backgrounds but build a firm relationship on both liking ham. Trouble comes when Sosuke's mother Lisa is angry that Sosuke's father is taking too many overtime shifts fishing for the company he works for. And she has good reason to worry. Ponyo's father is arranging a tsunami in punishment for this daughter's disobedience.
I doubt that anybody at Disney, the company that released PONYO in the United States, would tell someone of Miyazaki's stature that he should have changed his storyline, but there is much in PONYO that probably would have been unacceptable in an American-written script. Some touches just seem strange. This is in large part a romance between two five-year-olds, though they act a good deal more mature. At one point Sosuke just wanders away from his school, which is probably against the rules and quite dangerous, but either nobody notices or the results seem to be left as a loose end. Later Lisa is driving up a wet, twisty, and dangerous road and takes her attention off the road to lick an ice cream cone. Eventually she goes off in a disaster and leaves the two children untended. She seems like a terrible mother. There are portions of this film that make no sense. Non-magical people under water seem to have the power to breathe, talk, and walk. (This may have been intended to be inside a bubble, but that is never made clear. There is a lot of unexplained magic going on. Even if they were in a bubble they do not seem to be very ruffled by their situation.)
Way too much of PONYO seems ill-considered and rushed. I know this film is getting really good critical response, but it really is a pale shadow of the best films Miyazaki has made. I rate PONYO a disappointing low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Note: In a time-honored tradition of Disney films the assumption is made that squid swim with their tentacles ahead of them. It is thought real squid are capable of some movement like that, but they swim almost exclusively in the other direction with the tentacles trailing. Also goldfish do not spit and they live only in fresh water. Ponyo's magical origins might explain the inaccuracies, but somebody should have noticed that Ponyo was like no other goldfish. The Japanese version may have made Ponyo another kind of fish.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0876563
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ponyo
WWW:WAKE by Robert J. Sawyer (copyright 2009, Ace, $24.95, 356pp, ISBN 97800-441-01679-2) (book review by Joe Karpierz):
After reading the complex doorstop that is ANATHEM, I needed a *story*; one that would be interesting, contain a lot of ideas, be thought provoking, well written, and a page turner. It turns out that the latest Robert J. Sawyer novel was sitting on my to read stack, and his novels usually, for me, fit the bill quite nicely. So, I snarfed it off the snack and got to work.
Caitlin Decter is a blind teenage girl whose family has just moved from Texas to Waterloo, Ontario, a center of technological activity. Caitlin's father got a job there, and so the whole family moved up north of the border. Caitlin's pretty much a normal fifteen-year-old-girl, with the same emotions and activities that any other fifteen-year old girl has--except that she's blind (I happened to like her immediately because she's a hockey fan). She's also really good at math (her LiveJournal name is "Calculass"), and while other blind folks seem to have one of their other senses heightened, Caitlin is able to surf the web better and faster than anyone else.
Back in Texas Caitlin underwent numerous procedures to attempt to cure her blindness, all of which failed. So, when she is contacted by a Japanese researcher with yet another way of attempting to cure her blindness, she, and her mother (especially her mother) are skeptical. Why should this time be any different? But, with the support of her father (whom we later learn is autistic), Caitlin heads off to Japan for the procedure. A device is inserted behind her eyeball (one eye at a time), and she must carry around a device (which she calls an eyePod) that will aid in transmitting the signal necessary for her to see.
But when the device is turned on and tweaked a bit, she doesn't see normally--she sees the World Wide Web, with circles representing websites, and lines representing links. And she sees something else--something that at the same time disturbs her and excites her.
As with any other Sawyer novel, there's always more than one story going on. There's the story of the outbreak of the bird flu in China, what that country does to deal with the problem, and how one man attempts to break the silence imposed by the Chinese government. There's the story of the chimp (who really isn't a chimp, but that's part of the subplot :-)), who paints human profiles. And there is the story of Caitlin's autistic father, struggling with his inability to communicate with and show his love to his wife and daughter.
I think most people know by now that the main advertised story line for this novel is the awakening of the World Wide Web, but the Wake in this title refers to more than just that awakening: Caitlin's sight (which she finally does get, and, as an added bonus, she can shift between real sight and websight at will), the chimp who can paint, Caitlin's father struggling to communicate without the stress that comes with it for an autistic person (he finally breaks through near the end of the novel), and I wouldn't be surprised if the whole Chinese bird flu storyline expands out with a similar theme in the next book of the trilogy.
Wake has all the things you look for and expect in a novel from Sawyer--a ton of ideas (I'm especially enamored of the Jagster search site technology as well as where I think he may be headed with just how the Web gained consciousness), very real human stories and characters, and the affect that near future or current technology has on his characters. As I've said before, the best SF deals with real characters and the effect technology has on those characters and their lives, and I believe that Sawyer hits it right on the head again.
The other wonderful thing about this Sawyer novel (well, all of his novels, actually) is that it is well written and extremely readable. I do get so tired of books that make me work to read them. I certainly don't mind books that make think, but reading is supposed to be enjoyable, and Sawyer's books are always an enjoyable read. Go out and pick up a copy of WWW:WAKE. You'll be glad you did. [-jak]
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Christoph Waltz shines and the patented Tarantino dialog does not in Quentin Tarantino's WWII action war fantasy/comedy/drama INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Brad Pitt's character organizes a team of nasty, homicidal Jews to strike terror in the Nazis occupying France. The story is very original, if nearly totally impossible, but it is like nothing you have seen before. Sadly, the film starts to drag with excess dialog, too often gratuitous and annoying, and it goes on for 153 minutes. Rating: high +0 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
Quentin Tarantino is like the Andy Warhol of film (even more than Andy Warhol was when he was involved in film). Warhol would borrow the label from Campbell's Soup and turn it into Pop Art. Tarantino's style is to find the gaps in his own film and borrow from other films--maybe pieces of many different styles of film-- and to piece them together to make his film. He slams this bunch of ill-fitting elements together into a revenge fantasy about the war with little respect for the events or the hair fashions of the time. He works hard to create the proper look in the background, but the people look wrong in the foreground.
The primary story features Lt. Aldo Raine (the name sounds like an allusion to the actor Aldo Ray; Raine is played by Brad Pitt struggling hard to look tough by jutting out his lower jaw). Lt. Raine has put together a team of the toughest, dirtiest, meanest, ugliest Jews he can find in the Army to go into occupied France and beat the hell out of the Nazis, spreading terror by scalping their prisoners. If we can have blaxploitation films, Tarantino is trying to make, at least in part, a jewploitation film. Tarantino pits his nasty Jews against the upper echelons of the Third Reich in general, but specifically against S.S. Col. Hans Landa (played by Christoph Waltz). If nothing else works in the film, and there certainly is plenty that does not work, Waltz makes up for a lot. Waltz is a tremendously hypnotic and evil Nazi. He plays wonderful extended cat-and-mouse games with the people who fall into his clutches. His manner is almost winning up until the moment he goes in for the kill. Raine and Landa each spread terror in occupied Paris during the war, each against very different sorts of people. Caught in the middle is Shosanna (Melanie Laurent), who is secretly a Jew whose family was murdered by Landa. Eventually all the threads will knit together into the story of one night with the world premiere of a German propaganda film being shown in the Paris movie theater owned by Shosanna.
There is much that Tarantino gets right, but he is also going wrong by abusing his own trademark. Tarantino's films have always sported off-the-wall dialog that usually is almost as captivating as the action of the film. This has worked well for him up until his last film, DEATH PROOF. In that film, dialog had lost its charming spark and instead just felt like irrelevant padding. In INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS the plot seems to just slow to a stop when the characters go off into long tracts of dialog, usually subtitled from German or French into English. It stretches the film to a tiresome 153 minutes in a film with not enough plot to fill a 90-minute film. At one point the whole film grinds to a halt as characters play a silly children's guessing game--in subtitled French yet.
One would think that a film like this would be aimed at an older audience who see films about World War II and about the Holocaust, but Tarantino is really writing for a younger generation who have fewer expectations about what a film on those subjects would be like. The score is a patchwork of music from other films that may carry very wrong connotations for those who have seen more film. He opens the film playing "The Green Leaves of Summer", which is a likable piece of music. I am not sure it fits even this film. But for audience members old enough it conjures up images of John Wayne's story of THE ALAMO. It feels all wrong here. Tarantino's World War II film has borrowings from 1970s blaxploitation films, style from Spaghetti Westerns, music from Ennio Morricone scores and films like CAT PEOPLE (1982), plots of other WWII thrillers ... and the list goes on. Perhaps part of the point is that the film intentionally forces in its strange style choices, or perhaps Tarantino is saying he does not care.
The publicity for this film makes it look like it is mostly a film like THE DIRTY DOZEN. Brad Pitt and his team of killer-soldiers is ne thread of the film, but by no means most of the film. It is a piece of the film, but there is just as much about Shosanna working against the Germans in Paris. The Brad Pitt segments are a major thread, but no more than that.
Comedies about the Holocaust usually feel out of kilter and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is no exception. But then this is not entirely a comedy. It is more a concoction of mismatched film styles. Some of it is good; much of it is preposterous. In trying to meld comedy and tragedy it entertains fitfully and requires more patience than most Tarantino films do. I rate it a high 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. I did like the reference to Italian horror director Antonio Margheriti.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0361748/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/inglourious_basterds/
Stereoscopic Effects (letter of comment by Morris Keesan):
In response to Kip Williams's letter of comment on 3D in the 08/21/09 issue of the MT VOID, Morris Keesan writes, "The one-darkened-lens 3D effect mentioned by Kip Williams is known as the "Pulfrich effect", and as Mark suspects, it's not very good. Some information about it is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulfrich_effect and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stereoscopy#Pulfrich_effects." [-mk]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Our discussion chose THE BEST OF FREDERIK POHL (ISBN-13 978-0-345-24507-6, ISBN-10 0-345-24507-5) for the August meeting. This book was published in 1975, but as someone observed, if a "Best of Frederik Pohl" were published today, it would still have most of the same stories.
I don't normally comment on every story in a collection, but doing so will help me remember my impressions for the discussion, so here goes.
"The Tunnel Under the World": Classic Pohl story that everyone remembers--"Buy a Feckle Freezer!" It seems to have been the precursor to several films and stories: DARK CITY, GROUNDHOG DAY, perhaps even BLADERUNNER in part. (Someone at the meeting mentioned THE TRUMAN SHOW, an even better parallel.) Pohl had worked in the advertising field, so the basic premise probably came from that. The structure is interesting--you follow the protagonist through some very confusing events, wondering what is going on. Then you find out the big secret. Then you find out that is not the big secret, something else is. No, wait, there's an even bigger secret. No, wait, .... through five revelations.
"Punch": This seems very similar to another story with a time traveler who arrives right before an atomic war in which everyone is going to die, or one in which it turns out that the time traveler has destroyed the world when he jumps back in time (because of the energy use)--and he's jumped back from five minutes in the future. The traveler here isn't a time traveler, though.
"Three Portraits and a Prayer": This made no impression on me; I have no idea why not.
"Day Million": At the time (forty years ago) it was daring. Now it is topical. In another forty years it will be quaint, relegated to the same museum as "South Pacific" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner".
"Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus": If "Day Million" seems to have a lot of its ideas fixed in the past, "Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus" seems depressingly prescient, with the commercialization of Christmas gone amuck. All those people who keep telling us that everyone should have the Christmas spirit and *love* all the store decorations et al should read this. I mentioned this a few years ago in conjunction with China Miéville's "'Tis the Season". In the latter, I wrote, "The worst fears of the Religious Right have come to pass, and the celebration of Christmas is prohibited. No parties, no holly, no mistletoe, no trees, .... But it is not political correctness gone wild. And it has nothing to do with the First Amendment and the separation of church and state (in part because Miéville is British, writing for a British audience). No, it's because all of these things have been trademarked and so you can't have a Christmas tree, you must have a Christmas Tree(tm) and pay a license fee for it. The same with Holly(tm), Mistletoe(tm), and so on. 'It felt so forlorn, putting my newspaper-wrapped presents next to the aspidistra, but ever since YuleCo bought the right to coloured paper and under-tree storage, the inspectors had clamped down on Subarboreal Giftery.' Frankly, Miéville's 'nightmare future' seems far more likely to me than the nightmare future of Christmas being forbidden because of political correctness. After all, one cannot now sing 'Happy Birthday to You' in public without owing royalties on it! The Miéville and the Pohl get added to 'Newton's Mass' by Timothy Esaias in my mental list of stories that *I* would put in a Christmas anthology, were I ever to undertake such an unlikely task.
"We Never Mention Aunt Nora": This reads like a typical "Twilight Zone" story, though written a year before that show went on the air.
"Father of the Stars": Is this 1964 story the first instance of the idea that technology overtakes itself? In this case, the interstellar colonists who went out in cold sleep and relativistic speeds are met near the end of their voyage by earthmen in a faster-than-light ship that had been invented after they left. We actually live this now in a way--many people put off buying a new electronic gadget because in six months there will be a better, cheaper one.
"The Day the Martians Came": It may be true that supposed antagonists will unite against a common threat, but whether that would apply to aliens who are not threats is unclear. Then again, as someone says in LONE STAR, "It's always heartwarming to see a prejudice defeated by a deeper prejudice."
"The Midas Plague": It is a clever idea and all, but of course it makes no sense. I cannot help but feel, though, that it at least somewhat the inspiration for David Brin's THE PRACTICE EFFECT. And both of them seem to have their roots in the notion that we must have an ever-increasing gross product, that the only way to maintain a healthy economy is to produce more and more, to build more houses, to manufacture more cars. The "Planet Money" podcast had a show about the problems of the car manufacturers, and one problem is that there are about a third more cars being manufactured worldwide than are actually needed. So either people have to keep buying new cars when they do not need them, or the automobile companies have to close a quarter of their factories.
(According to the notes by Pohl at the end, this idea was suggested by Horace Gold, it is Pohl's most reprinted piece of short fiction, and it has even shown up in economics courses.)
"The Snowmen": I suppose that this is interesting in the context of global climate change, but it spends too much time on characters that seem very outdated and not enough time on the idea. There's something about these stock characters of the era--the gold-digging night-club-singer type, the small-time con-artist, and so on--that make so many stories or movies from the 1950s and earlier seem very dated. (Consider the Phil Foster character and his girlfriend in THE CONQUEST OF SPACE.)
"How to Count on Your Fingers": This is an article, not a story, and included primarily because Lester Del Rey (the editor of the book) wanted to give an example of Pohl's science writing.
"Grandy Devil": Okay, it did not quite go where I thought it was going, but it ending was one of those surprise endings that seems utterly predictable after you hear it.
"Speed Trap": "I honestly think we can do four times as much work as we do. And I honestly think that this means we can land on Mars in five years instead of twenty, cure leukemia in twelve years instead of fifty, and so on." Yeah, and have a baby in a little over two months instead of nine.
"The Richest Man in Levittown": This is one of those humorous science fiction stories that were popular in the 1950s. The characters have the same sort of mannerisms that make them seem dated as the ones in "The Snowmen". It is not that it couldn't be written with a more current feel, but it does seem as though humor often relies on stereotypes for the jokes, and stereotypes are more prone to becoming outdated.
Okay, I lied. I ran out of steam and either did not read, or had nothing to say about "The Day the Icicle Works Closed", "The Hated" (close-quarters space travel), "The Martian in the Attic", "The Census Takers", or "The Children of Night". [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Don't judge a man by the words of his mother, listen to the comments of his neighbors. -- Yiddish proverb
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