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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/01/10 -- Vol. 29, No. 14, Whole Number 1617
Table of Contents
Ever Notice I (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Somehow "Ever Notice? II" got published September 17 before "Ever Notice? I." (And nobody noticed.) Anyway, have you ever noticed that "Evangelist" is an anagram of "Evil's Agent"? [-mrl]
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for October (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Each month I have been looking at TCM's upcoming films on Turner Classic Movies to see what unusual films are to be shown in the month. I write this list for members of the mailing list of the B-Movie Podcast and also for the MT VOID. I am particularly choosing science fiction/horror/fantasy genre films.
October presents an unusual problem. TCM's line-up is an embarrassment of riches. Presumably in honor of Halloween they have over a hundred films lined up from the genre. They have series of Hammer Films, Val Lewton films, William Castle films, and Roger Corman films. However, looking over the list there are no really obscure films scheduled for October. There are a few semi- obscurities I can list. To see the full TCM science fiction, horror, and fantasy schedule for all of October go to http://leepers.us/TCM_OCT.txt. Just to start you out I will give you the listings for this weekend:
October 1 2:15p Fail Safe (1964) 8p Horror of Dracula (1958) 9:30p Brides Of Dracula, The (1960) 11p Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966) October 2 12:45a Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1969) 2:30a Psychomania (1973) 12p Seven Days In May (1964) 6:15p Land That Time Forgot, The (1975) October 3 12p Wait Until Dark (1967)
It might be useful to just look for films you don't know and give them a try. Okay, so what did I choose as the semi-obscurities?
THE DEVIL'S BRIDE (a.k.a. THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, 1968)
This was a film ahead of its time. Most supernatural films of the time spent almost the entire film establishing that there really is such a thing as the Black Arts. Then having established that, they have a short horror sequence at the end. NIGHT OF THE DEMON is typical. This film starts out basically saying, "In this world Black Magic is real and very dangerous. Get used to it." From there it goes to a coven of modern day witches and before long you are seeing demons from Hell and even the Devil himself. There is some very nice use of color. This film is tense all the way through up to a not quite convincing Deus ex Machina ending. Hammer films produced the film getting Richard Matheson to adapt the first book of Dennis Wheatley's Black Magic series of novels. (Friday, October 8, 9:45 PM)
THE DEVIL COMMANDS (1941)
When studios other than Universal started using Boris Karloff after 1935, mostly he made forgettable melodramas like THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG and BEFORE I HANG. The best of his films for Warner was THE WALKING DEAD. The best of his Columbia films was THE DEVIL COMMANDS. Rather than having Karloff himself returning from the dead, here he is a scientist who is working on interpreting brainwaves. When his wife is tragically killed, he discovers he can still pick up faint brainwaves from her from beyond the grave. With the help of a fake spiritualist who has some very real powers, he tries to perfect his machine that will let him talk to the dead. This is an adaptation of the novel BY THE EDGE OF RUNNING WATER by William Sloane. There are a lot of nicely stylized visuals in the lab that he sets up. Anne Revere, a very interesting actress, plays the spiritualist. (Saturday, October 30, 6:15 AM) (THE WALKING DEAD: Saturday, October 30, 9:15 AM)
DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)
This is the father of all those Amicus anthology films. It was a very successful film made just about as WWII was ending. If you have never seen it ... too bad. You cannot quite appreciate it any more, because too many of the ideas in the film have been plundered by the likes of Rod Serling. But it is still a very good little anthology film. The story of the ghost golfer is a bit off the mark, but most of the rest of the stories are good or great. There has been a lot of discussion about the surrounding story that ties all the short stories together. (Thursday, October 28, 8 PM)
Incidentally they are also showing what I consider the best science fiction film ever made, FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (aka QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, 1968). That is Friday, October 22, 9:30 PM). It is a good month for movies. [-mrl]
Temple Grandin (letter of comment by Wendy Sheridan):
In response to Mark's review of TEMPLE GRANDIN in the 09/24/10 issue of the MT VOID, Wendy Sheridan writes:
Thank you for your review about the Temple Grandin movie. I also greatly enjoyed the Grandin biopic (I caught most of it on HBO when it aired, and I'm planning to rent the DVD now that it's been released). I may have overlooked it entirely had I not previously heard an interview with her on NPR's "Fresh Air" ( http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123383699) and then subsequently read her book about animals, "Animals Make Us Human". I was instantly able to recognize her in Claire Dane's portrayal as the film was running and I channel surfed past it. I wanted to pass the link and book title along, in case you hadn't heard of these. Her discussions of animal behavior and animal husbandry are fascinating.
Mark replies, "I had not seen/heard either of the sources you list. I do find the subject and the person fascinating. Years ago when I reviewed the film RAIN MAN I said in my review that in many ways the character's autism seem like a boon in some ways rather than a disability. A reader became enraged at the thought that I would consider autism as something positive. We ended having several exchanges, with her angrily insisting that autism is a disability. I think Grandin has turned her special abilities into real contributions in ways she would have been unable to do if she were not autistic. Thanks for the information." [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
[This is one of the excerpts from my article on the Borges class that I mentioned last week.]
Macedonio Fernández (known simply as Macedonio) was one of Jorge Luis Borges's most important and influential mentors, and a fascinating author. In the introduction to his SELECTED WRITINGS IN TRANSLATION, Jo Anne Engelbert says, "A mischievous destiny caused him to be born a congenital Idealist inside a Materialist stronghold, the Buenos Aires of 1874, where, as in most parts of the Western world, believes in a solid world out-there controlled not only metaphysics, the libraries and the press, but psychology, language and art. He was dismayed at the hallucinations of his contemporaries, who were obsessed by a belief in a world composed of matter ..."
As an example of the conflict between Idealism and Materialism, Engelbert writes of Macedonio's "perplexity ... at unaccountably finding himself the owner of a body that occupied space, collided with bodies, felt pain. His feeling toward his body seemed to be that of a person who finds himself holding on a leash a giant ostrich which whom he has only a nodding acquaintance."
But it is not just Idealism that sets Macedonio apart. He seems to have cultivated a very playful (or perhaps convoluted) approach to language, making translation difficult and the diagramming of sentences well nigh impossible. He was particularly fond of parenthetical phrases, often nested and sometimes used to introduce totally unrelated and unconnected ideas. As Engelbert describes it, Macedonio develops his style "through the simple expedient of allowing each linguistic node to branch, and each branch to continue to bifurcate...." This style may have inspired Borges's "The Garden of the Forking Paths", with its many bifurcations and with its notion of a book as labyrinth.
And indeed I am getting side-tracked in SELECTED WRITINGS. Once I got the book, I figured I would read it all (it's only 124 pages). and I kept finding gems, such as this from "Toward a Theory of Humor": "Although 'rationality' has a positive affective resonance, that is, a pleasurable connotation, because it seems to be synonymous with our general security of life and conduct, nevertheless, as soon as it is experienced as an inexorable, universal law, it limits the richness of the possibilities of life."
Macedonio also made up words ("un almismo ayoico" apparently means something like "psychic manifestation"). In this he was not unlike Lewis Carroll or James Joyce, but it makes translation difficult.
In a review of Macedonio's first book, Borges wrote, "In the complex kind of plotting practised by Wells and company, the quotidianity of life is exact, and hallucination is achieved by introducing some absurd contingency which ... is sufficient to topple the previously rigid edifice. ... Generalizing ..., I should like to suggest that the imaginative novel is nothing more than the doggedly logical exploitation of a single whim. I know of only one exception. In the digression of Macedonio Fernández I seem to see an imagination in constant exercise: an activity that buoyantly goes on designing universes, not codified or fatal like a chess problem, but spontaneous and irreverent like a good game of truco...."
This can be summarized (I think) as saying that most science fiction relies on changing just one thing and seeing what develops from that (an idea in fact first expressed by Wells), but Macedonio does not restrain himself that way.
Macedonio writes, "I wanted a constant fantasy for my pages, and realizing how hard it is to avoid the hallucination of reality, the blemish of art, I have created the only character born to date which consistent fantasy can guarantee a solid unreality in this undegradeable-to-real novel: the character who isn't there, whose existence in the novel makes him fantastic with respect to the novel itself, in the same way that the world, being, seems real to us because there are dreams. I trust him to save the fantasy here if all else fails: he is the Traveler, who in life itself may not exist at all--I don't believe in Travelers: the two attributes that define the high quality traveler are the faculty and wish to forget and the faculty and wish to be forgotten." ["Museum of the Novel of Eterna--The First Good Novel"] Is this going to connect to Italo Calvino's IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELER? It is true that one does occasionally see the non-existent character in stories (at least one Agatha Christie novel used this device, and probably more) or in real life (consider "The Man Who Never Lived" in World War II).
And then Macedonio proposes something that other writers have implemented as best they can--the conflation of reader and character:
"I leave an open book: perhaps it will be the first 'open book' in literary history, that is, the author, wishing it were better, or at least good, and convinced that its mutilated structure is a dreadful discourtesy to the reader, but also convinced that the book is rich in suggestions, hereby authorizes any future writer whose temperament and circumstances favor intense labor to correct and edit it freely, with or without mentioning my name. The task will not be small. Delete, amend, change, but, if possible, let something remain. At this point I insist that my theory of the novel could best be executed in a novel in which several persons had gathered to read a novel together, so that they, the reader- characters--readers of the other novel and characters of this one-- would constantly stand out as real persons because of the contrast between themselves and the figures and images they were reading about. Such a plot, made up of some characters who were both reading and being read and others who were merely being read, were it systematically developed, would comply with the demands of the theory."
This idea is sometimes manifested as a second person point-of-view. Howard J. Blumenthal's THE COMPLETE TIME TRAVELER is probably the first instance I ran across of this, but obviously there are others of a more literary nature. Paul Auster's inclusion of himself as a character other than the narrator in THE NEW YORK TRILOGY ("Ghosts", "City of Glass" and "The Locked Room") is another variation of this. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: As I would not be a slave, so I will not be a master. -- Abraham Lincoln
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