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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/13/09 -- Vol. 28, No. 20, Whole Number 1571
Table of Contents
Correction (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
The emailed version of the MT VOID that went out last week was not a draft version (as the Subject line indicated), but the actual issue. [-ecl]
Correction 2 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
In the 02/15/08 issue of the MT VOID I talked about Kiva as a way to lend (not contribute but lend) money to small businesses in the developing countries. Kiva promoted itself as being contributors giving low-interest loans to deserving small businesses.
It recently it has come to light that there is a middle man that is a microfinance company. Kiva is still a very good institution, but it is not exactly how it promoted itself.
The New York Times published the story November 8.
In the interest of honesty I just wanted you to know. [-mrl]
Science Fiction Discussion Groups:
November 19: THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM (note that this is the *third* Thursday This month, rather than the fourth) December 10: TBD, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, film at 5:30PM, discussion of film and book after film
Who Me? Celebrity of the Month? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Occasionally one is really surprised by the reach of the Internet. I review films and post the reviews in public, but rarely think about just how public that is. A website from Puna in Gujarat, India has a monthly Celebrity of the Month. I had never heard of the Okiedoks site when they approached me and asked me to be a Celebrity of the Month. Well, November is my month and I am its celebrity. I am still honored and shocked. You can see the site at . http://okiedoks.com/viewarticleslist.aspx?catid=4.
Aw, shucks. Just my luck that November has only 30 days. [-mrl]
Was I Too Subtle? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I think my joke may have been overly subtle a couple of issues back. I got a question from a reader who did not recognize that it was a joke. After claiming that I slept only four hours a night and saying my mathematics abilities were returning, I listed a schedule of four two-hour naps per day. That would not be four hours of sleep but eight. Oh, well. [-mrl]
The Impossible Dream (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
They were asking on the Planet Money Podcast if you could have anybody's healthcare system anywhere in the world, whose would you choose. The answer that comes to mind for me is that of Shangri-La. [-mrl]
The Roquefort Files (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
People really do not learn from the past. They make the same mistakes over and over.
I understand that people from the Champagne region in the northeast of France have a complaint. They sell Champagne sparkling white wine. Their white wine is world-famous as the right wine for celebrating all sorts of occasions like weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, the birth of children, winning pennants, etc. etc. etc. This creates a real demand for Champagne, the wine. And what you get is other places that make their own sparkling white wines also call their wines Champagne. Now that makes the grape growers of Champagne region angry. It is cutting into their sales. They insist that Champagne is not a generic name for sparkling white wine, it is their own wine and no other. No I don't have a strong feeling about this. As Dracula says in the movie, "I never drink... wine." But still this complaint has a familiar ring.
I was ordering lunch in a restaurant.
The waitress asked, "What kind dressing on the salad?"
"Do you have Roquefort?"
"No. I never heard of it."
"Do you have blue cheese dressing?"
"Sure, that we have."
"Roquefort is blue cheese dressing."
"Never heard that."
"Do you know where Roquefort is?"
"It's a place? Canada, I guess."
There was a time that when you wanted blue cheese dressing you called it "Roquefort". That was what you called blue cheese dressing. The only really authentic Roquefort dressing was made with blue cheese from Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the South of France. Other people made Roquefort dressing, but it was not made with real Roquefort blue cheese. The people who made Roquefort blue cheese protested. The only true Roquefort salad dressing uses real blue cheese from Roquefort. The others are frauds. So people stopped calling Blue Cheese Dressing by the name Roquefort dressing and instead just called it "blue cheese dressing". It was a more descriptive name, anyway. Roquefort-sur-Soulzon still makes a blue cheese that has some recognition among cheese connoisseurs. But if you are under twenty-five you probably have never heard of Roquefort, the place. It is not a good thing when your product's name becomes the generic name for all things similar to your product. But it is probably even worse to claim you own the name and no one else can use it. That is betting that you can keep your name in front of the public and that they will remember it.
It may not seem like the same thing could ever happen to Champagne. After all Champagne is famous. It is the name that people look for in a sparkling white wine. But there was also a time that a lot of people knew the name Roquefort.
The cheese makers of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon might have done well to remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It also can be good business. The Champagne grape growers might do better to let some other wines be called Champagne and take it as a compliment. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Incidentally, Roquefort cheese's problems are not entirely of their own making. The cheese was the center or perhaps victim of a diplomatic crisis the first half of this year that might have nearly removed the cheese from this country altogether. In recent years all of the United States purchased only about 45% of the Roquefort cheese Spain alone was purchasing. Here Roquefort cheese just has a tiny market, in part because of poor name recognition. Part of this is not the fault of the Roquefort-sur-Soulzon cheese industry.
Inspired by the fears of Mad Cow disease and hormone treated cattle the French government put restrictions on American beef. The Bush administration favored the cattle interests (always), and early this year that Administration announced that the tariff on Roquefort cheese would be raised to a whopping 300%. This is way out of line with other United States tariffs on French goods. That would probably have raised the price of the cheese to $100 a pound, but it was a visible sign of the government's displeasure with the French restrictions on beef. Why the Roquefort cheese was selected out by the Bush administration I don't know, but perhaps they thought it was still respected by the French and most Americans had forgotten about it so it was vulnerable. Imposing the tariff was basically the administration saying that the United States would no longer be a market for Roquefort cheese. In May the new Obama administration removed the new punitive tariff. [-mrl]
Time-Travel Books (letter of comment by Dan Kimmel):
In response to Linda Buckley-Archer's list of favorite time-travel books in the 11/06/09 issue of the MT VOID, Dan Kimmel writes:
As with any list, it's the personal picks at a given time, and not the final word on the subject.
That said, I see several serious oversights. I'll mention three. In terms of novels, Jack Finney's TIME AND AGAIN is one of the great time travel stories. As for short stories, there are two that are on opposite ends of the spectrum but are absolutely crucial to understanding the sub-genre. One is Ray Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder", where stepping on a butterfly in prehistoric times can completely change the world of the future. The other is Alfred Bester's "The Men Who Murdered Mohammad", where mass murder in the past doesn't change the present--except for the narrator--at all.
I'd say these are among the essential time travel stories, and wonder if Ms. Buckley-Archer had a different agenda in making her selections. [-dk]
Digital Conventions (letter of comment by Morris Keesan):
In response to Mark's comments on digital science fiction conventions in the 10/16/09 issue of the MT VOID, Morris Keesan writes, "Regarding the recent suggestion for holding conventions on line: the mystery fans have gotten there before us: http://ppwebcon.com/. I found out about this (after the fact, alas) from the website of mystery (and occasional SF) writer Laurie R. King. I was amused to see her quoting fellow panel member Lee Child's assertion that "crime fiction is the boat, and literary writers are but the barnacles on the boat's sides, along for the ride," because of similar claims I've heard about SF." [-mk]
Mark replies, "But that is always the way. Mass appeal brings in more money than art. Too often the boat decides that the barnacles are too much of a drag." [-mrl]
The Twilight Zone (letter of comment by Kip Williams):
In response to Mark's comments on "The Twilight Zone" in the 11/06/09 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:
For me, "Twilight Zone" was less of a media program than written fiction, because at the time I was interested in it, the show just wasn't available, and I learned many of the stories from reading the paperback versions. Then a local station started showing a somewhat limited (it seems in retrospect) subset of episodes in rotation.
I don't know how I'd feel now--I do see some episodes from time to time, but not regularly--but I may have preferred the text versions at that point, though I was glad to see at least some of my favorites on the screen at last.
I wouldn't mind if those book versions were made available again.
For that matter, another "book version of a TV show" I'd like to see again would be the stories Robert Arthur wrote on behalf of Alfred Hitchcock in the collections intended for somewhat intermediate audiences, not quite young adult. They were of a whimsical fantasy bent and were often standouts in their volumes. Arthur's work on the "Three Investigators" also stood out over later hands who continued the series after the first few books. [-kw]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
GASLIGHT GRIMOIRE: FANTASTIC TALES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES edited by J. R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec (ISBN-13 978-1-894063-17-3, ISBN-10 1-894063-17-1) is yet another collection of supernatural Sherlock Holmes stories. I have to admit that I was put off by the Foreword, in which David Stuart Davies lists several earlier volumes of this sort, such as SHADOWS OVER BAKER STREET, GHOSTS OF BAKER STREET, and THE ITALIAN SECRETARY (by Caleb Carr). But then he pooh-poohs these, by saying, "However in general these stories were penned by writers who, for want of a better expression, were having a go at a Holmes tale unlike the authors featured in this volume who are very well-versed in the world of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson and so can effectively blend the world of Baker Street with the world of the unknown." Well, la-di-dah.
Well-versed in Holmsiana they may be (and I am not convinced of that), but the fact is that the stories in SHADOWS OVER BAKER STREET and GHOSTS OF BAKER STREET are better (or at least more enjoyable) stories. Interestingly, Smith does not mention that the majority of the stories in GHOSTS OF BAKER STREET actually have rational explanations.
One problem with this volume is that so many of the stories depend on familiarity with other works of fiction. In GASLIGHT GRIMOIRE we have "The Lost Boy" by Barbara Hambly, which is somewhat dependent on a familiarity with (and interest in) "Peter Pan". "The Things That Shall Come upon Them" by Barbara Roden depends on M. R. James's "Casting the Runes" as well as a whole raft of works with other famous detectives. (And though Roden may be well-versed in Sherlock Holmes she seems to confuse Baroness Orczy's "Man in the Corner" with Ernest Bramah's blind detective Max Carrados.) "Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World" by Martin Powell draws on another series by Doyle. "The Grantchester Grimoire" by Chico Kidd and Rick Kennett involves Carnacki. And "Red Sunset" by Bob Madison assumes knowledge of Raymond Chandler works, both Philip Marlowe and the Continental Op. While it is true that other supernatural Holmes stories draw on other literary characters, they are usually better-known ones such as Dracula. (He shows up here too.)
One reference I did enjoy (but again, was a bit obscure) was one to Jorge Luis Borges's "Funes, His Memory" (a.k.a. "Funes, the Memorious") in "Merridew of Abominable Memory" by Chris Roberson. This pastiche centers around the idea of memory, and in it, Watson tells Holmes of an obituary notice: "It is an obituary notice of an Argentinean who, if the story is to be believed, was rather remarkable. Ireneo Funes, dead at the age of twenty-one, is said to have had a memory of such singular character that he could recall anything to which it was exposed. Witnesses are quoted as saying that he could recall each day of his life in such detail that the recollection itself took an entire day simply to process."
My recommendation: the earlier "supernatural Holmes" anthologies are better; stick with them. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: Old friends, like old wines, don't lose their flavor. -- Yiddish proverb
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