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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/20/11 -- Vol. 29, No. 47, Whole Number 1650
Table of Contents
SF Authors Pick the Best SF:
The True Inventor of a Science Fictional Time Machine?:
Enrique Gaspar wrote EL ANACRONOPETE (THE TIME SHIP: A CHRONONAUTICAL JOURNEY) in 1887, seven years before H. G Wells's THE TIME MACHINE. For details, see:
Riddle (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Q: How was Carl Denham like Disney Corporation?
A: Neither bothered to read the story of "Beauty and the Beast."
One More Day! (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
In case you were unaware of it, you have one more day. That is, if you are reading this issue the day it comes out, you have only until May 21. Tomorrow the balloon goes up. Tomorrow is the end of it all. Tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is the Rapture.
It is the current custom to consider all religions equally valid and one is saying that May 21 is The Rapture. Some group calling themselves Family Radio has sent me a religious tract telling me that the End is nigh. In fact, it is nigher than anyone thought. It is tomorrow. I have been given privileged information by a religious group from Oakland, California. Where did they get my name? Apparently out of the phone book. The address had the same typo that the phone book entry has for my name. (I've got to fix that some time. But for now it gives me useful information when someone writes or calls me looking for the name as it is in the phone book.) Actually I kind of like the idea that if they know the world is coming to an end they just pick people out of the phonebook to tell. If you had incontrovertible proof that the world was coming to an end, whom would you tell? Even if Family Radio is a bunch of howling loonies, at least they are thoughtful howling loonies.
Anyway the title of this tract is "GOD GIVES *ANOTHER INFALLIBLE PROOF* THAT ASSURES THE RAPTURE WILL OCCUR MAY 21, 2011." The tract starts out "God in His great mercy has given a marvelous proof that the year 2011 is the year of the Rapture which coincides with Judgment Day and the end of the world." I immediately start wondering why it is so merciful to give a proof that the end of the world is coming? Nobody is in pain for not knowing, and some people probably would be in pain to know that it is true. But I guess if for years you wanted bop your boss in the snoot, it is useful to know that the window of time you could take such an action is soon slamming shut.
Of course I have to admit that I would be inclined to be skeptical about such claims, but they do say the predictions comes with an "INFALLIBLE PROOF." Well the mathematician in me is intrigued by what non-mathematicians consider "infallible" proofs.
If I may quote (and there is no sign of copyright on the tract), "Years ago we learned from the Bible that the flood occurred in the year 4990 B.C." [Hmmmm. That can't be the inclusive "we."] "More recently we learned that Judgment Day is to occur in the year 2011 A.D. The year 2011 A.D. is exactly 7000 years after the year 4990 B.C. Just before the flood Noah was instructed by God that in seven days the flood would begin." But the tract also points out that in Peter it says, "one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day." So apparently God did not mean the flood was coming in a week, but in 7000 years. That little cataclysm that came in a week was not what He was talking about. God just forgot to adjust for the time differential. He supposedly was off by a factor of about 365242. Of course, if one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day He might actually have been saying the flood is actually coming in 1.656 seconds. Boy, how can one argue with an "infallible" proof like that? Somewhere they forgot about the May 21 part, but they hold that part off for a later proof. I will not quote all the proofs for lack of space, but they have the same high degree of logic.
The tract concludes, "Indeed, in the face of all this incredible information [and I have to agree it is incredible], how can anyone dare to dispute with the Bible concerning the absolute truth that the beginning of the Day of Judgment together with the Rapture will occur on May 21, 2011." Well, we will all know by Sunday, May 22.
Incidentally the same tract, which came to my house less than two weeks before the Rapture date has a list of radio stations on which Family Radio has regular broadcasts. Which leads me to wonder how long that list could be useful if the balloon goes up tomorrow.
Apparently Harold Camping of the same Family Radio Christian Network (mentioned above) made the prediction. Whatever else you can say about him, he seems to believe strongly enough to face the public derision he will face on May 22 if his prediction is wrong.
Wikipedia covers it at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_end_times_prediction
Anyway, good luck.
Post Script: This whole prediction of the Rapture on May 21 has gone further than I had thought. There appear to be a least three businesses set up like insurance. You can pay for someone to take care of your pets after the Rapture. It works like insurance so that there will be someone to take care of your pets when you have been taken up to heaven. In the event that God cannot get it together enough to hold a Rapture on May 21, or that you are not one of the chosen ones, you would forfeit the expense, but then again how likely is that? We are talking about God, aren't we?
THOR (film review by Dale Skran, Jr.):
I just got back from THOR and decided there was more to it than met the eye. I'm not going to try to do a general summation of the film--others have gotten there first. Instead, I'll hit a few highlights, some of which are counterpoint to Mark's review.
Mark expressed confusion about just exactly what powers Thor is supposed to have, at one point saying that he seemed to have the strength of ten men. I'm not sure where this idea came from, but Thor is one of the Marvel Universe's most powerful heroes, and I thought the movie did a good job of showing off Thor whupping on the bad guys. It is possible Mark confused Thor's strength *when he has no powers at all* which he exhibits fighting a few dozen SHIELD agents with his actual strength. As the SHIELD lead agent says, he throws them around like they were mall rent-a-cops, but this is not in any way a demonstration of Thor's actual strength.
In the Marvel Universe Thor has "Class 100" strength, meaning that simply by the power of his muscles, without any magic belts, hammers, or whatever, he can lift 100 tons or 2,000 lbs/ton * 100 tons = 200,000 lbs. An M1 Battle tank weighs 60 tons, so Thor can easily lift up and throw a battle tank. This strength is well exhibited in his battle with the Frost Giants in the early part of the film. Keep in mind that the Frost Giants are themselves both giant AND super-strong, yet he handles them in large numbers without much effort. On the other hand, Thor's strength is not unlimited, so he cannot lift a Boeing 747 (600,000 lbs without fuel, 900,000 with fuel), something Superman does all the time!
As an Asgardian, Thor has all the characteristics of his people, i.e., super-strength, a high degree of invulnerability including dense and strong bones and skin, a super-human ability to heal and resist disease, and a very long, although not unlimited lifespan. Thor thus resembles the Phillip Wylie proto-superman in GLADIATOR more so than DC Comic's Superman.
I do agree with Mark that the powers of the hammer can be confusing, and there was a tendency in the comic to add in new powers whenever needed. There certainly isn't any kind of consistent theory of operation presented for the hammer in the movie or the comic that I am aware of. It apparently does whatever Odin wants it to.
I really liked Asgard and the other Norse gods--by and large they are spot on, and I agree with Mark that the set design was wonderful. In many cases, i.e. the Rainbow Bridge, the movie greatly exceeds the comic in portraying Asgard. There are some significant deviations from the canonical Thor comic origin story, and Jane Foster is a much different character than in the comic, but the points made are all the same--Thor needs to learn humility, and he does. There are a lot of good touches everywhere, and the scene with people cooking hot dogs while they try their hand at lifting the hammer is a wonderful set piece of Americana that creates a feeling of realism missing in the comic.
There is one significant change from the comic to the movie that greatly alters the meaning of the film, and I think to the better, although this is ground well trodden by Roger Zelazny in CREATURES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS and also in "Stargate" the TV series. In the comic the Norse gods, including Thor, are presented as god-like beings from another dimension, of which the Marvel Universe seems to have great numbers and many types. As near as I can tell, their powers are fundamentally magical, and it is worth keeping in mind that magic works in the Marvel Universe, i.e. there are vampires. Dr. Strange, etc.
The movie takes a different route, and with reference to Arthur C. Clarke, boldly states that since advanced science seems like magic, that is all that is afoot here. As Thor says, "In Asgard magic and science are as one." The rainbow bridge looks and acts more like a stargate than a magical gizmo. This creates a much better fit with the other Marvel characters like Iron Man, who are clearly creatures of science, albeit magical science.
I found parallels between THOR and Dan Simmon's OLYMPOS series where post-humans have taken on the roles of the Greek gods and transformed the Earth into something beyond comprehension. THOR's Asgardians can be viewed as very advanced post-humans, what we might become after thousands of years of technological advance-- long-lived, healthy, super-humanly strong, and possessed of many of extremely powerful devices. The Asgardians age, but slowly, and can be wounded--Odin loses an eye--and they can die--someday, but most likely not this century. The devil-may-care lust for life exhibited by Thor and his friends is consistent with the behavior of powerful post-humans seeking distraction in a fully mature culture.
The net result is a big fun, big screen movie that looks good in 3D. THOR is a treat for eyes, and quite pleasing as it retells the timeless story of the man who learned better/the boy who grows up/the man who falls in love. I rate this one a solid +2 on the Leeper scale, and would place it among the better of the Marvel superhero movies. The casting is good to excellent, and the Australian hunk plays Thor perhaps not canonically (he seems a bit too fluent in the idioms of Midgard for my taste) but very well indeed. Without going too much into the details, THOR has a lot of appeal to women, and neatly reverses traditional Hollywood cheesecake scenes to good effect, or at least so I am told.
You can bring the kids to this one, but adults will enjoy the sheer wonder of the world created on the screen. The summer is off to a great start!! [-dls]
I just wanted to give some comments on your review, which is in some respects a comment on my review.
You and I see THOR in very different contexts. You see it as an episode in the comic book series. I see it (and should see it) as a standalone film. How the film serves the comic book series is not something I can judge. I am writing for the viewer who knows nothing of the Marvel comic universe and just wants to know if the film is worth the price of a ticket. Even if I wanted to present the film in your context I would not be able to, since I have not followed the comic book as I explained in my review. I perhaps do know a bit more about whether the film is consistent with Norse myth. But that is in everybody's common heritage.
You ask about the estimate that Thor has the strength of ten men. OK, I am talking about in the main body of the film. Perhaps at the beginning and end he had more strength. I was seeing him mostly after he had been divested of his super powers. My estimate, that he had the strength of ten men was really based on the hospital scene. Thor fights off some orderlies and rather handily beats them. His strength is greater than that of five orderlies, so he has some powers. But if he were as strong as Superman he would not have to fight them off at all. Superman would have the strength to ignore the orderlies like they were no more than gnats. Thor had to fight but easily won. He had the strength of more than five men and less than, well, a real deity. I estimated it might be about ten. It was just a guess and it was about Thor during the New Mexico sojourn that is the main body of the film.
I am not sure that I would say the gods of Asgard were spot on. As I said in my review they just did not look Scandinavian. Also I find out afterward that Heimdallr in the myths--called "the whitest god of them all--lost the "r" at the end of his name and was played by a black actor. But, yes, Asgard visually was a knockout.
I kind of like the idea that the Norse gods are given a science fiction explanation. I guess I like the idea that there is a scientific explanation for what appears to be magical. That is the premise behind QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, a favorite film of mine. But in popular series, fantasy magic and science are often mixed indiscriminately. For most of the old Universal horror films Dracula was essentially a supernatural being while the Frankenstein monster has a scientific origin. (There was an attempt to say the Wolf Man and Dracula had a scientific basis in HOUSE OF DRACULA.) The Toho universe mixes the science-based Godzilla with the supernatural Mothra.
The Io9 site, incidentally, lists some works that seem like fantasy but are at base science fiction:
In any case I appreciate that you can say something about the film as seen from the viewpoint of the comic book series. [-mrl]
SCHISM by Catherine Asaro (copyright 2005; audiobook copyright 2009; 13 hours, 57 minutes, narrated by Suzanne Weintraub) (audiobook review by Joe Karpierz):
Catherine Asaro's "Skolian Empire" novels are starting to grow on me. There are a lot of them, and like Bujold's "Vorkosigan" series the books aren't written in internal chronological order. There doesn't seem to be a lot of information regarding that issue, but according to everyone's favorite accurate source (Wikipedia), the next book for me to read (or in this case, listen to) is SCHISM, the first book in a duology called "Triad".
The time is twenty-plus years after the events of SKYFALL. Roca Skolia and Eldrinson Valdoria have a boatload of kids from a long and happy marriage. The novel spends most of its time following three of those children: Althor, Sauscony, and Shannon. The novel does not give short shrift to Roca and Eldrinson; indeed, their parts in the story are important, especially Eldrinson.
Eldrinson is still old-fashioned and somewhat sexist. He wants all of his children to stay on Lyshriol, with the men becoming farmers or warriors, and the women staying home to, well, do "traditional" women things, not the least of which is settling down and raising a large family of happy children. Things aren't going his way, however. Many of his children have left the planet; some are going to get an education at an off-world university, while others, Althor in particular, go off to DMA, a military academy, to become specialized fighters in an upcoming war against the Aristos. Eldrinson is not happy about this, but he accepts it.
Things begin to unravel when Althor comes home with an accompanying admissions officer from DMA. It seems that Sauscony, or Soz (not only easier to say, but easier to type), has been training without her father's permission and has studied for and taken preliminary exams for entry into DMA. The officer is here to inform her that the standard procedure for entering the academy is being waived for her--her scores are way off the charts--and she wants Soz to come to the academy immediately. This is, of course, against her father's wishes, and he forbids it. As these things go, of course, Soz goes anyway. This causes a tremendous rift, er, schism, between Eldrinson and both Soz and Althor.
Meanwhile, Shannon is overhearing the departing lecture from his father, and believes what he hears was caused by him. Shannon really doesn't fit in--he just doesn't belong. He has Blue Dale Archer blood in him (think elves and you'll be fine), so he leaves to go in search of the mysterious Archers, who are believed to have disappeared decades before.
Eldrinson finds himself in a quandary. He regrets what he said to Althor and Soz, but refuses to take it back. Then, Shannon is discovered to be missing, and Eldrinson leads a team to go look for him. As these things go, bad things happen during the search, for which once again Shannon blames himself. I spend a lot of time thinking that Shannon needed a good smack upside the head for blaming himself for everything--it's no wonder he didn't fit in.
The rest of the novel deals with Soz's life at DMA, Shannon's adventure, and the ordeal that Eldrinson goes through when one of the worst things imaginable happens while he's looking for Shannon. What it's really dealing with is change and people maturing, growing up, and changing.
The more I think about this novel, the more I come to find that I'm liking what I hear (read, whatever). It's a space opera, with spaceships, battles, wars. But it's got plenty of great characters who change for the better. It's got adventure, drama, and emotion. It's well-written--clear, concise, and fast moving. I highly recommend SCHISM.
However, as with Skyfall, the reading is atrocious. The number of mispronounced words is appalling. Two that come to mind are behemoth and neutrino. There are others as well, but these two really got on my nerves. It was also clear that the editor was asleep at the wheel on this one in another way. At one point, later in the story, Weintraub stumbles on what she's reading and restarts the sentence. That should have been edited out, but wasn't for some reason. The reading does detract from the story.
So, score one for the story, and take one away from the narrator. Still, SCHISM is good stuff. [-jak]
HELLO LONESOME (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: With HELLO LONESOME writer, director, producer, and cinematographer Adam Reid tells three stories of love, dependence, and tragedy. In each story two people meet and form an unpredictable relationship. Reid wears a lot of hats in making his first feature film and can wear them proudly to see the result. He gives us a broad range of emotion in a small film. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Adam Reid writes, directs, produces, and even films this movie with three stories of relationships (two romantic, one just friendship). The three stories are nearly but not entirely unconnected, and in the fashion of INTOLERANCE the stories are told in parallel with the climaxes all at about the same time.
Bill (played by Harry Chase) is a voiceover artist who is recently separated from his wife and now lives by himself. He is barely connected with anyone. What hurts him the most is that he cannot connect any more with his daughter. He verbally jousts with his courier, Omar (Kamel Boutros) but eventually tries to build a friendship.
Gary (James Urbaniak) is a copy editor who lends a helping hand to a neighbor, two years a widow, old enough to be his grandmother Eleanor (Lynn Cohen). Eleanor has faltering vision and now has to give up her last love, her car and with it her freedom. Gary offers to help her get around and becomes friends with her in spite of his communication problems. Slow-speaking and awkward, he is embarrassed to talk to her and it is not improved by his penchant for saying the wrong thing, an ironic fault for someone who edits words for a living. But for Eleanor he may be the last bond she will form with anyone, and she needs to hold fast to him.
Meanwhile young love is represented by Gordon and Debbie (Nate Smith and Sabrina Lloyd) who meet on the Internet and get together for what they expect to be a quick, casual sexual relationship. As with the other stories, this one will take the two someplace they really do not expect to go.
Reid's concept of the film is, I would guess by the title, to give us portraits of six lonely people. He gave us three engrossing stories, but if his aim was to show us six lonely people that part is open to interpretation. Gary and Eleanor do seem to be lonely, though Eleanor seems to miss her car as much as any human contact. Omar, Gordon, and Debbie may not even be solitary. Debbie has an active social life. Omar is frustrated that he cannot use his talents, but we know little of his personal life. It is hardest to feel much sympathy for Bill, who likes playing the bad boy. He is boorish and likes to embarrass Omar by coming to the door naked but for gaudy briefs. Bill is newly solitary, but not necessarily lonely. In the end Bill's relationship to Omar matters the least. It will be more practical than emotional and Bill may be very little different at the end of his story than at the beginning. While Reid gives the most attention to Bill, in the end it is the story of Gordon and Debbie that is the most affecting.
As an unusual reversal though the film is a United States production shot in the United States, but the stories seem set in Canada. I rate HELLO LONESOME a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. HELLO LONESOME opens May 27, 2011 at Cinema Village, New York.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1258201/
THOR (letter of comment by Evelyn C. Leeper):
In response to Mark's review of THOR in the 05/13/11 issue of the MT VOID, Evelyn writes, "The set design was great, but the CGI was annoying. I realize it's hard to assemble thousands of real Frost Giants, but there's something about the fact that when Richard Attenborough filmed 300,000 extras at Gandhi's funeral, he actually filmed 300,000 extras." [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Okay, I know I said I usually leave the Hugo reviews to Joe Karprierz, but I have just a few things to say about FEED by Mira Grant (ISBN 978-0-316-08105-4), none of which address the actual plot, characterization, or style of the book.
First, it's one of those "premium" mass-market paperbacks: taller (7.5" tall) than the traditional size (6.75" tall), and more expensive ($9.99 rather than $7.99, which I think is the current standard price). I'm sure that in 1967 when Ace Books paperbacks jumped from the old smaller size (6.375" tall) to the size of the last fifty years there was as much complaining about how they no longer fit on the shelves. That doesn't mean I'm happy about this time.
But to return to FEED:
Nor am I happy about the copy-editing, nor rather the lack thereof. The narrator talks about "the highest viewer numbers since Cruise versus Gore in 2018" (page 120), which contextually must be a Presidential race, but of course there would not be one in 2018. (The Presidential campaign in the novel is in 2040 so it is not as if somehow it made a shift because of the Rising.)
There are references to RadioShack (page 183) and Starbucks (page 192). Will both these last another thirty years? In particular, the much more "agoraphobic" society depicted in the book seems unlikely to support places like Starbucks. RadioShack, I will grant, could transition to more of an on-line store, though given the rate at which retailers are failing these days, it still seems questionable whether even that will survive that long. The same is true of "Microsoft Windows VirtuParty" (page 315)--as strong as Microsoft is now, thirty years and a zombie apocalypse can affect a lot of things.
One character talks about "someone who thinks Edgar Allen Poe is socially relevant" (page 238). This is just plain sloppy--it's Edgar *Allan* Poe. But more than sloppy, it seems to indicate that no one in the whole line of writer and editors knows this.
Oh, and if you'd like the "club-you-over-the-head-with-the message" paragraph, here it is, from the first person narrator talking to the reader (page 186):
"Fear makes people stupid, and Kellis-Amberlee has had people scared for the last twenty years. There comes a point when you need to get over the fear and get on with your life, and a lot of people don't seem to be capable of that anymore. From Blood tests to gated communities, we have embraced the cult of fear, and we don't seem to know how to put it back where it belongs."
Well, gee, you could be a little *less* subtle than that, but it would involve 42-pt Bold Algerian font to do it. However, just to sure you got the message, Grant has it re-iterated in blog quotes on pages 346 and 428.
And just in passing, it really helps you understand one constant reference if you know who Steve Irwin is. (The name Irwin rang no bells with me.)
We just watched THE NUN'S STORY, which is so full of details about the Catholic Church and nuns that it practically cries out for a commentary track. Alas, there is none, nor can I find any article discussing the Catholicism in the film in detail. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows. --David T. Wolf
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