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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/06/12 -- Vol. 30, No. 28, Whole Number 1683
Table of Contents
Low Overhead (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I was looking at a dinosaur exhibit and they started a section by asking a rhetorical question, "What flew over the heads of the dinosaurs?" I think they were using it as an introduction to flying reptiles, but the answer that came to me was, "Sarcasm." [-mrl]
My Top Ten Films of 2011 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Some years there is not a whole lot of variation in what film reviewers choose as the best films of the year. One can pick out two or three films and be fairly sure that the Academy Award for Best Picture will go to one of them. This year there is much more variation in lists. There is much less consensus. It was a very creative year for filmmaking and some very different films are people's favorites. That may be a good sign. We are getting fewer formula films. But I remember few years when it was so hard to recommend films. I do not remember when so many of the choices for top ten films were so controversial. Well, I like arguing films and the diversity of popular films is one of the few good signs is a year that most people found the way the outside world was going was disappointing. Maybe after a long nap, the art of filmmaking is waking up and being creative again. So what films did the most for me this last year?
There is a phantom haunting the Paris Train Station. Twelve-year- old Hugo lives in the walls of the station and maintains all the mechanical clocks. This film is about him, but also about a lot more. It is much more than a children's film about a little boy. Beautifully filmed in 3D it, turns into an education for the viewer on a subject near and dear to director Martin Scorsese's heart. This may be more Scorsese's film than even GOODFELLAS or CASINO was. He has made a beautiful tribute to his favorite art form. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
2. THE LAST CIRCUS
This is a sensational surreal horror/comedy fairy tale co-written and directed by Basque auteur Alex de la Iglesia (THE OXFORD MURDERS). It has to be the weirdest and one of the funniest films I have seen in quite a while. As time goes on, everything in THE LAST CIRCUS becomes more grotesque and dreamlike. Manic and dark and surreal but fun all the way, Iglesia's story seems like a high intensity version of a Guillermo del Toro film crossed with a Quentin Tarantino action pic. It is breathtaking, beautiful, and weird. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
3. SHOLOM ALEICHEM: LAUGHING IN THE DARKNESS
The life of the Yiddish storywriter Sholem Aleichem mirrors the changing, often tragic, world of Eastern European Jewry in the late 19th and early 20th century. Writer/Producer/Director Joseph Dorman lovingly crafts a biographical documentary of the often beautiful, often tragic life in shtetl communities. As the title suggests this is a portrait of a people living in constant hardship and keeping themselves sane with a bit of humor. The telling is as sweet as honey cake and as bitter as horseradish. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns give us a fast-paced and grim scenario when a nasty but all-too-possible avian flu has been released and spreads through the environment. There are about six strands of plot running through the scenario, each with a recognizable actor playing the main character. In spite of the presence of major stars Soderbergh gives us the confidence that he is not tweaking the film to exaggerate the drama or excitement. Even without the usual tropes of science fiction, this is--among other things--an excellent science fiction techno- thriller. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
5. BARNEY'S VERSION
This is the story of Barney Panofsky, directed by Richard J. Lewis based on a Michael Konyves's screenplay based on the novel by Mordecai Richler. Barney is a self-indulgent, inconsiderate, alcoholic cad who somehow wins a wife who should have known better. Paul Giamatti gives a strong, multi-layered performance of a selfish, but not uncommon man. Rosamunde Pike plays his long- suffering wife. There is an undeniable fascination with this man whose life we see from early twenties to his late 60s. The dialog is really good without being unrealistic. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
6. THE ARTIST
As with HUGO we have a tribute to silent film. The two films are interesting to compare. But rather than just giving silent clips, THE ARTIST is an entire feature film, virtually all created in the style of the monochrome silent motion pictures. And just that novelty sustains the film for most of its length. THE ARTIST is a charming French-Belgian production set in good old Hollywood in that late 1920s and early 1930s. Somewhere along the line it becomes obvious that THE ARTIST does not attain the heights a Chaplin or a Fairbanks film might. The novelty fades and one might be watching a somewhat run of the mill silent. Still, the experience brings back memories of some great silent movies. The plot may be a bit similar to A STAR IS BORN, but as a reminder of the greatness of silent films, this is one of the must-sees of the season. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
7. MARGIN CALL
Everybody is concerned about the world fiscal failures and about the Wall Street securities traders who were instrumental in toppling the economy of this country. However, it seems impossible to make a dramatic film on the subject without huge expository lumps explaining economic theory. J. C. Chandor makes an intelligent thriller about a company that is faced with moral decisions and he makes it a compelling drama. It works like a good production of Shakespeare making the acting carry the story when the wording might be unfamiliar. The cast includes Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, and STAR TREK's Spock, Zachary Quinto. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4 scale) or 8/10
8. TREE OF LIFE
This film is mystical and yet holds a solid drama. TREE OF LIFE is the chronicle of a 1950s family living near Waco, Texas, placed in a context of all life going back to the creation of the world and later the age of the dinosaurs all to the tune of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde". What appear to be hundreds of apparently random inconsequential moments, presented in almost stream of consciousness; of the texture of everyday family life eventually add up to a plot both sentimental and bitter. A father, played by Brad Pitt, transforms from loving to strict to abusive and leaves a deep mark on his two sons. Terrence Malick has a feel for the textures of life. At the same time he features some spectacularly beautiful nature photography. This film is visually beautiful but still not for all tastes. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4 scale) or 8/10
9. THE ILLUSIONIST
Just surviving is difficult enough for a lonely music hall stage performer in the 1950s. When a young teenage girl follows him to a new town he takes her under his wing to be his surrogate daughter. Sylvain Chomet animates a script by the great Jacques Tati. The story has a delicate bittersweet tone much too rarely present in contemporary films. The animated film THE ILLUSIONIST is really a film not to be missed. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
10. WAR HORSE
Other films this year are overt tributes to older style of filmmaking, specifically HUGO and THE ARTIST. Stephen Spielberg simply gives us a film that starts with life in an English village and then follows the life and fortunes of one horse as he goes through episodes in his life with different owners. His human characters may not be complex, but they are three-dimensional in ways one does not need plastic glasses to appreciate. The stories are moving and allow the viewer to see how animals are treated by human society. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Other films that rated a high +2 are WIN WIN, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS--PART 2, THE LINCOLN LAWYER, RANGO, and DESERT OF FORBIDDEN ART.
TERRA NOVA--The Heinlein Juvenile Re-imagined (television review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):
The one new SF TV show I have avoided reviewing is TERRA NOVA, running on Fox on Monday nights at 8 PM. The first season concluded December 19th, and so this seems like an appropriate time to review the series so far. I was not initially very enthusiastic about this series, as the first episode seemed overly maudlin in the Spielbergian fashion, and a bit on the light side. However, as the series has developed I have warmed to it, and now am looking at it in a different light. TERRA NOVA is, more than anything else I have seen in movies or TV, a Heinlein juvenile. It is not mainly about adults, although there are major adult characters. It draws elements from many of Heinlein's juveniles, and also themes and tropes from major Asimov novels. The result never quite hits the level of top notch SF, but is well produced and entertaining.
Rather than going through a recapitulation of the story so far, which you can easily pull off Wikipedia, I'd like to review how TERRA NOVA draws from Heinlein and Asimov. TERRA NOVA concerns a time tunnel that starts in Chicago at "Hope Plaza" and ends 85 million years ago in the Cretaceous period of an alternative Earth. Thus, although this seems initially like a time travel story, it has much more in common with Heinlein's TUNNEL IN THE SKY, where high school students are dumped on a distant planet in a test of their survival skills. Since the colonists traveling through the tunnel are hoping to build new lives, far from polluted and dying Earth, the story has the pioneering spirit of Heinlein's FARMER IN THE SKY. A major driver of the series is that the tunnel is one- way, but an unknown group of plotters have sent armed agents (called the Sixers since they arrived with the sixth group of colonists) through the tunnel. The Sixers have an agenda to open the tunnel two-way to allow TERRA NOVA to be strip-mined. This gives the story a lot of the flavor of Heinlein's THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS where heroic lunar farmer-colonists revolt against brutal Earth authorities. As things develop, a tale of colonization and exploration becomes one of open warfare, as the power behind the Sixers sends the heavily armed mercenary Phoenix force (reminiscent of Heinlein's "Yellow Jackets" in MOON) through the tunnel to suppress the colonists and set up strip mining operations. Although no powered suits are involved, the military spirit of the colonists is unapologetic, and led by a classic Heinlein uber-mensch, Commander Nathanial Taylor, they give the mercenaries more of an fight than expected, echoing the themes if not the details of Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS.
You would think that at this point I have exhausted the Heinlein references, but it is really just starting. The major reference is to THE ROLLING STONES. TERRA NOVA follows the adventures of the Shannon Family, as they initially escape from the future, overcoming the fact that the father, policeman Jim Shannon, has been imprisoned for the crime of having a third child. Jim is taken more from Asimov than Heinlein, but his wife, Dr. Elisabeth Shannon, reprises Mrs. Stone, also a doctor. The super-intelligent Stone twins, Castor and Pollex, are replaced by Maddy Shannon, a sixteen-year-old awfully smart teenager who also reminds me of the main character in PODKANE OF MARS. Shannon's teenage son Josh is Heinlein's "everyboy" who grows up and falls in love while recovering from huge mistakes. As is appropriate for a Heinlein juvenile, the story lines heavily revolve around the kids and their friends, much more so than in most adventure dramas.
Jim Shannon is taken more from the classic Asimov mold of the SF detective, modulated by the need to fit him into a Heinlein war story, which requires that he be an excellent hand-to-hand fighter. Shannon quickly rises from stowaway to Taylor's head of counter- intelligence. Some of the plots are pure Asimov--one is a locked room mystery that could be called "Death by Dinosaur." The series puts more emphasis on the spy story than is typical in the Heinlein juvenile but in this it does echo elements of CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY. Mixed in with the spy stories and the war stories and the crime stories are pure 50's style SF puzzle stories, where, for example, migrating flying reptiles threaten the colony with destruction [think of THE BIRDS], or a meteor causes an E&M pulse that shuts down their technology. There is also an on-going element of mysterious events and discoveries that are later only partially explained, echoing to a degree the TV series LOST, especially in the concluding scenes of the first season.
The series villains include Mira, the military leader of the Sixers, fighting to make a better life for her hostage daughter back on old Earth, and Lucas Taylor, the genius son of Nathaniel Taylor, who blames his father for the death of his mother, and is dedicated to making the tunnel two-way and seeking revenge on his father. Together Lucas and Mira provide a highly motivated and capable enemy that must be reckoned with.
I think at this point you have some of the flavor of the series. TERRA NOVA is beautiful to watch, with great dinosaur effects, and generally plausible future technology. Some may find the dim future of rapacious greed destroying the Earth overdone, but it is a time honored SF scenario, and it is balanced with the unapologetic colonialism, technophilia, and fighting spirit of the Terra Novans, who echo the American colonists, even to the point that Taylor's second in command is named "Washington." There are some silly and unlikely dinosaur scenes, and every now and then your heartstrings are pulled in a such a broad fashion as to be annoying, but on the whole I think older kids, teenagers, and adults will enjoy this series. Although not especially bad by today's standards, the series is going to be too violent for younger children (character shot in the head with a gun at close range seen in the distance, Shannon tortured with a cattle prod, etc.). [-dls]
THE CHILDREN OF THE SKY by Vernor Vinge (copyright 2011, TOR, $25.99, 444pp, ISBN 978-0-312-87562-6) (book review by Joe Karpierz):
Vernor Vinge is one of those authors who produce terrific stuff every time. He's won Hugos for three novels: A FIRE UPON THE DEEP, A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY, and RAINBOWS END. He's won Hugos for shorter works, and his name is closely associated with the concept of the technological Singularity. A FIRE UPON THE DEEP is one of my favorite novels, so it is probably not a surprise that when I heard that Vinge was writing a sequel to it, I was interested in picking it up and reading it as soon as I could.
While not as good as A FIRE UPON THE DEEP, THE CHILDREN OF THE SKY is a pretty terrific novel anyway.
The story is set ten years after the end of A FIRE UPON THE DEEP. The children referred to in the title of the book, those who were sent down to the Tines' world in the aftermath of the Countermeasure in the conflict with the Blight. The story begins, though, two years after the Battle of Starship Hill. Tine pack Vendacious allies himself with Tycoon, another Tine pack that is one of the most successful business, uh, men, on the planet. Together they hope to exploit the Tropical Choir, a huge group of individual Tines numbering in the millions, to expand Tycoon's business empire and make a fortune.
Ravna Bergsndot revives the previously mentioned human children, and plans to bring the level of technology of the Tines' world, currently at the bottom of the Slow Zone, up by taking advantage of the knowledge stored in the Out of Bounds II, or oobii. Things don't go according to plan (when do they ever?), when some of the children whose parents were at High Lab--where the Blight was created--rebel, believing that the remaining Blight fleet, some thirty light years away and believed to be heading to the Tines' world is the rescue party and not the problem. They believe that the Countermeasure, created to destroy the Blight is the true evil. Thus, they no longer believe Ravna--darn those teenagers anyway-- and overthrow her.
Of course, once again it's not that simple. It turns out that Nevil, the leader of the rebel Disaster Study Group, has taken up with Tycoon and Vendacious, purportedly to produce an alliance between the Tines and the humans that will produce greater prosperity and wealth and bring technological advancements and change sooner than Ravna's plan would. But there seems to be more going on there as well.
This novel is a nice return to the Zones of Thought universe. I know that in the past I've railed against series or multiple books in a universe, preferring standalone novels, but I've decided I've given up on that stance since I've looked at my to read stack and the only novel that comes to mind that's on the list is a stand- alone is Charles Stross' RULE 34. Anyway, If you're looking for lots of involvement with the various Zones, you're not going to get that here. This story is grounded on the planet, but there's enough stuff going on here that I believe your interest will be held from beginning to end. It's also a well-written, straightforward book--straightforward in the sense that I didn't have to warp my brain to read it. A lot of familiar characters are back from the previous novel as well, thus providing that sense of comfort that a lot of people need in their series books.
There's one other reason I've given up that stance about series novels: it's clear there's another one coming. [-jak]
SLEEPING BEAUTY (2011) (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: A college student who takes odd jobs finds herself working for an enterprise that (with their consent) drugs young women and allows men to live out their fantasies with them, with just a few rules to protect the young women. This is a strange film that gets into issues of the meaning of sex, of male fantasy, even of feminism. Sadly the viewer may be as unengaged and passive as the protagonist in the story. This is the first film either written or directed by Julia Leigh. The Australian production has very modest budget and no recognizable actors. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
"You will go to sleep: you will wake up. It will be as if those hours never existed." That is Lucy's job. Lucy allows herself to be drugged so that she will be unconscious for several hours. During that time she has no real need of her body so her employer can allow paying customers do whatever they want with her as long as there is no penetration and there are no marks left. Lucy's body must be left in a state as if she has been alone for the hours of her sleep. It is an interesting philosophical question. Would you rent out your body if it would suffer no ill effects from the time it is in someone else's possession?
But in a sense Lucy (Emily Browning) has already been renting out her body in ways sexual or non-sexual but more socially common. To make money she allows herself to be a lab specimen for medical research. She allows a probe--apparently a camera--to be dropped down her throat into her lung. At a local stylish bar she is willing to trade sex for cocaine. She has short-term jobs and shorter-term relationships with men. And the same group that later arranges the "Sleeping Beauty" sessions hires her first to serve at fancy meals wearing only lingerie. She is used to the concept of selling herself for the money that she much needs for rent and to help a boy friend who needs medical attention. In desperation she willingly takes a job at the milder end of prostitution and moves up to the "Sleeping Beauty" sessions.
Emily Browning plays Lucy maddeningly passive through most of the story but later more assertive. Early in the film she lets a coin toss determine with whom she will spend the night. She takes jobs she hates. She allows herself to be manipulated. Later in the film her experiences seem to focus her on what she really wants. She wants to go after a boyfriend that she could not commit to at some earlier time. There is only one man she seems to want to commit herself to and he may not be able to reciprocate.
Julia Leigh films with a simple and matter-of-fact style focusing on just one character and little to distract us. The only music in the main body of the film is picked up from the background. There is little camera movement. We see three men living out their fantasy, but insufficient time is spent to get to know any of them. Lucy holds the center of the film.
Is this film erotic? That will depend on the tastes of the viewer. (I did not find it so ... much.) Was it intended to be erotic? Writer-director Julia Leigh is not saying. I rate SLEEPING BEAUTY a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. Not surprisingly, the film has a good deal of nudity of both genders. The film was released in December from IFC Selects.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1588398/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/771239978/
TOPIC (letter of comment by Rob Mitchell):
In response to Dale Skran's comments about Singularities in the 12/30/11 issue of the MT VOID, Rob Mitchell writes:
I have no objections to what Dale has said, but he's taking a very Vinge-esque view of the Singularity. I wonder, has he read any Charles Stross? He's written short fiction like "Antibodies" (giving himself the challenge to write a hard SF story about algorithmics), but how that relates to the Singularity is a spoiler. He's written novels like SINGULARITY SKY and its sequel, IRON SUNRISE, which deal with humanity after the Singularity, and how humanity deals with the Singular intelligences. Finally, he's written ACCELERANDO, a novel about humanity, and lobsters, before, during, and after the Singularity occurs.
Stross's Singularity/ies tend to be in the computers-and/or- networks "awakening" arena, but the intelligences are not human intelligences, with human needs, wants, and interests. Instead, the post-Singularity humans are in the dark about the Singular intelligences, other than by deduction (what's happening to the solar system?) or direct intervention ("You *will* do this"). Not to put words in Stross' mouth, but I think he'd disagree with Dale's statement that "my money is that we will only notice that it has occurred when a second group transcends and comes into conflict with the first". I offer "Antibodies" as Exhibit A...
One aside; the movie 21, which Dale cites, is based on a book, BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE, by Ben Mezrich, which I liked better than the movie, although the film was reasonably close to the book. [-rlm]
Automata, TINTIN, and the Mundane Manifesto (letter of comment by Kip Williams):
In response to Morris Keesan's comments on HUGO in the 12/23/11 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Killiams writes:
Omigod, the Franklin Institute has an automaton? Which I didn't know to look for when I was there? Okay, a grimace for the past and maybe hope for the future in that. It's better to know. We went to York in '97, and I set aside a day for the Museum of Automata there, only to find that it had closed some three to six months previously. This isn't as bad a disappointment as that, I must say. [-kw]
And in response to Morris's comments on TINTIN in the same issue, Kip writes:
TINTIN was quite watchable. Overall, the eyes didn't bother me as much as I thought they would. I think seeing realistically rendered potato noses was more of an ongoing distraction, and I never got used to Haddock's saturated accent. I was pleased that the first face onscreen was Herge himself, in a post-mortem cameo. (I must say, he's looking good for a man of his mortality.) The action scenes more or less took over for large parts of the movie, and they succeeded in sucking me right in. Kids in the audience laughed out loud at parts, and there was applause now and then. I couldn't tell if a reference to another of the stories was anachronistic or not, but on reflection, I don't think it was. The opening titles weren't as good as the ones made by a fan and posted on YouTube, but I decided that I liked them. The bottom line is that I would watch RED RACKHAM'S TREASURE, which is clearly next. I wonder if they'll do the stories that amount to prequels to this one, where Tintin has no Haddock to bounce off of. They're alluded to in some newspaper pages seen in Tintin's lodgings, so including Archibald Haddock in them would even violate their own internal logic (not to mention infuriating the fans, who are far more numerous in Europe). [-kw]
In response to Evelyn's comments on the "Mundane Manifesto" in the 12/30/11 issue of the MT VOID, Kip writes:
"Mundane Manifesto," eh? Ah, where were they in 1980, when my mundane zine withered on the vine. I figured I had the wave of the future, but I couldn't thrive on the amount of interest I was able to get. Note that I'm not blaming anybody but me. [-kw]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
My reading last year was up a bit: 168 books as compared to the 156 in 2010. Still, both these numbers are down from the 200 or so I used to read.
People consider me a science fiction fan, but science fiction (including alternate history and fantasy) made up only a third of my reading. General fiction (and mysteries) was another 20%, with the remainder (46%) being non-fiction.
Our science fiction discussion group met earlier than usual in January, due to scheduling conflicts for several of the members. The book selected was Theodore Sturgeon's SELECTED STORIES. To keep the page count below 300 (our unofficial cut-off), we skipped (or postponed) the three novellas ("The Golden Helix", "Killdozer!", and "The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff"), leaving us ten short stories and novelettes. However, not having the book chosen, I read all the stories in other collections and probably in a different order than in SELECTED STORIES, so I will comment on them in publication order.
The earliest stories here, "It" (1940) and "Bianca's Hands" (1947), are more horror stories a la Robert Bloch than science fiction. Sturgeon is not thought of as a horror story writer, but this may just be a mistake in perception. (Admittedly, his later stories did tend more toward science fiction.) Of "Bianca's Hands", James Gunn says, "It was written in 1939 and rejected many times (often violently) before it won a $1,000 British magazine contest in 1947."
"Thunder and Roses" (1947) seems very cliched now, but when you recall it was published in 1947, it is clear that it was not a cliche when Sturgeon wrote it, and was certainly one of the first of its kind. Of it, David Drake writes, "If you were a kid who read SF [in the Fifties], the feeling of [nuclear] dread was even more acute. It wasn't formless for us, you see: there were hundreds of stories to describe nuclear war and its aftermath of lingering death, deformity, and savagery in vivid detail. "Thunder and Roses," which I read in THE ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION ANTHOLOGY when I was thirteen, is one of the earlier stories of the type."
"The Sex Opposite" (1952) is another one of those stories that may have been cutting-edge when it was written, but no longer has that virtue and just seems flat. It is possible to write a story that becomes in some sense outdated as events pass it by, but there has to be more to the story than the gimmick, the message, or whatever it is that made it once so notable. It is like re-reading DANGEROUS VISIONS: it may be that the stories were "dangerous" once upon a time, but now they are often just bland. (Or like the scene in TIME AFTER TIME where Wells is trying to seduce Amy by saying in meaningful tones that he wrote about "free love," and she responds in surprise, "Free love? I haven't heard that term since junior high.")
"A Way of Thinking" (1953) seems to be trying to show someone "thinking outside of the box," but his solution to the problem in the story did not seem particularly original. Indeed, if you do not accept the magical premise, the solution is the only solution possible.
"Mr. Costello, Hero" (1953) was made into an "X Minus 1" episode which aired July 3, 1956. Both its original publication and this adaptation were during the McCarthy Era, so the theme of being suspicious of everyone and especially those who wanted to be alone (for example, readers, writers, and other intellectuals) was an obvious work to shape a science fiction story around.
Of course, after I wrote this, I read John Grant's statement that, "At best one could describe the tale as an extremely inept satire of Soviet-style communism--one of those pseudo-satires that is ineffective through misrepresenting its target. At its worst it's just a rather flabby tale." Even after he has suggested this, I find it hard to see in the story. And Paul Williams takes my side on the topic, and completely disagrees with Grant on the quality: "'Mr. Costello, Hero' is one of the finer pieces of writing to come out of the whole McCarthy experience."
Two side notes on this story: Everyone on the "X Minus 1" episode pronounced "Costello" as "COS-teh-lo" rather than (cos-TEH-lo). I could almost understand this were it not that Abbott and Costello had been a popular comedy team for years. (Mark thinks maybe they wanted to make sure people *didn't* think of Abbott and Costello.) The other note is that the planet all this takes place on is Borinquen; Borinquen is another name for Puerto Rico. Normally, if you find a planet in a story named after a country, you assume there is some reason or significance to it, but apparently there is none here.
My observation of "The Skills of Xanadu" (1956) is that it looks as if Sturgeon were trying to write a story based on Clarke's Third Law ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.")--except that the Law was not proposed until 1973. John Grant feels it "takes a long time telling something very simple; Eric Frank Russell would have done the same in half the wordage and twice as effectively--and made you laugh at the same time." It is, of course, not clear that making the reader laugh should necessarily be a prime consideration when writing a story.
"Bright Segment" (1955) is yet another horror story (at least according to someone; Mark sys it is more Collieresque). I skipped this one, based on the samples I read.
"The Man Who Lost the Sea" (1959) was nominated for a Hugo for Best Short Story. I am not sure why. I suppose the style is very literary, but the ending hardly justifies the rest of the story.
"Slow Sculpture" (1970) is the most recent of the stories and won a Hugo for Best Novelette. Again, the message seems a bit obvious. Maybe I am just not attuned to Sturgeon's style. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: It is impossible to imagine Goethe or Beethoven being good at billiards or golf. --H. L. MenckenTweet
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