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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/02/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 18, Whole Number 1726
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
November 8: K-PAX (2001), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5PM; discussion after the film November 15: TRIGGERS by Robert J. Sawyer, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM (note this is the *third* Thursday) December 6: TWO FAMILY HOUSE (film hosted by Mark Leeper), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 6:30PM December 20: DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM Date TBD: THE RAPTURE OF THE NERDS by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM Speculative Fiction Lectures: November 3: Linda Addison (Bram-Stoker-Award-winning author), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
Northern New Jersey events are listed at:
Realization (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I am starting to find people in their seventies who are actually my generation. That never used to be true. There was a time when most people of my generation were mostly in their teens. Now people in my generation are starting to admit to being near- septuagenarians and even closet septuagenarians. It just goes to show you. Trust people and you see what happens. I don't mean to point fingers, but a lot of them were the first to enter their fifties also. [-mrl]
Entering the Science Fiction World for Real (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I think I have been interested in science fiction from around age five or six. And it did not take me long to realize that science fiction did not get a lot of respect from people in general. The term "science fiction" is frequently used as a synonym for silliness. To call something a silly idea you brand it as "science fiction." And while it is probably true that no four-hundred-foot creatures are ever going to come out of Tokyo Bay, that is not the whole stock and trade of science fiction. There are things that are outside of current human experience that really can happen. One of those things is significant climate change.
One of the purposes of science fiction is to give serious thought to certain kinds of things happening and considering what effects they will have. An editorial page I read (I think it was from the "Wall Street Journal") laughed at the suggestion that we need to prepare a strategy for what to do if it looks like the planet will have a collision with an asteroid. They call that idea "science fiction." But there is a non-zero-probability it could happen even if it has not happened in the short span of time that is human memory. It is a poor policy to prepare only for the sort of problems we have faced in the past and are used to.
People have a hard time imagining that serious change really could happen, particularly if they have selfish interest in ignoring the possibility of that change. And for a long time there was a large political force denying that global warming was happening. Plain old probability gave the issue a plausible deniability. How so?
Imagine you are playing roulette. On the first spin of the wheel you win if any number from 1 to 36 comes up. That is, any number but zero and double zero coming up is a win for you. On the second spin you win on anything from 1 to 35. Third spin will have you win with the numbers from 1 to 34. And it will continue in the same way. What sort of behavior would you see in terms of wins and losses? Certainly at the start of the game you will have long strings of wins punctuated by relatively short stretches of losses. You can easily be skeptical that the long strings of losses are coming. Particularly if you see it to be in your benefit to be unconvinced that losing stretches are coming. If there are stretches of wins still happening it can be a while before you see the losses outnumbering the wins. But it will happen eventually.
The weather phenomenon is much the same. The presence of global warming does not mean we will not get some rashes of cold weather. And certainly when we do there will be those who point to them saying they disprove the phenomenon of global warming. But the best prediction is that these intervals will become shorter and fewer as time goes by. In other words there is some variability centered around a warming trend.
As far as global warming is concerned, it looks like our winning streaks may be more limited in the future. In fact we now may be on a losing streak. It looks like 2012 is going to be the hottest year on record, beating out 2005, the previous record holder. And prior to this year, of the twelve hottest years on record only one was prior to 2001.
This year massive droughts have driven the corn crop to a five-year low. The Corn Belt is suffering its worse drought in more than fifty years. That is going to translate to higher costs for food and fuel. The fuel problem is that people who want corn for food are competing with people who want corn ethanol for fuel. Competition will be driving up the cost for each. And the machines that are used to grow and collect the corn will need fuel themselves, complicating the issue.
There are two bits of comfort in all this. (It may be cold comfort for such a warm year.) One comfort is that at least some of the people who have argued obstinately that global warming does not exist have changed their position. They now say that there actually may be global warming after all but it certainly is not the result of human action. I fully expect them to soon move on to a position that warming may indeed be the result of human action, just not their particular action. Then maybe it will be their action, but action from long ago. They will want smaller and more defensible boundaries to defend as the evidence that they have been wrong becomes harder to deny.
The other piece of comfort is that the disastrous climate this year is not very much the result of this year's ignoring of the problem. Had we last year slammed on the brakes on creating greenhouse gasses we would probably still be having droughts and heat waves. We are not a whole lot worse off than we would have been if we had done the right thing last year. Our environment and the whole earth is a giant heat sink. It takes a long time to heat it up and a long time to cool it back down. The warming does not stay where it was put. It gets smeared over decades. This year's heat waves and droughts are for the most part a gift from the last generation. The warming we cause today is the legacy we are leaving the next generation. And some of the same people who seem the most concerned of the financial debt we are leaving our children are the least concerned about destroying their environment.
Well, what has posterity ever done for us? [-mrl]
CARNIVAL OF SOULS (film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Last week one of the mailing lists I'm on had an on-line film discussion about CARNIVAL OF SOULS. Here are a few of the comments I had; they probably will not make sense if you have not seen the movie. There are *SPOILERS* for both CARNIVAL OF SOULS and another movie.
Who is the man Mary keeps seeing? He is supposed to represent death, I suppose, but it certainly is never very clear.
Mary doesn't look at the first organ owner when she talks to him, except at the end when she says she's never coming back. She also usually doesn't look at the doctor when she is talking to him.
Saltair Pavilion II, where it was filmed, closed in 1958, and was destroyed by arson in 1970. Saltair III was built in 1981 from an old aircraft hanger a mile west of the original. As of 2005, concerts were held there. However, Saltair is *west* of Salt Lake City, so Mary would not have passed it on the way from Kansas. (We went there on one of our trips to Utah. Mark will probably have more comments on it.)
In Kansas, the organ teacher (?) tells her to put her soul into her playing. In Salt Lake City, the minister says, "That's why they put up this barrier," and Mary replies, "It'd be very easy to step around it." This is, of course, what she is doing with the barrier between life and death. Later the minister says (when Mary is playing the strange music), "I feel sorry for you and your lack of soul." There are also several other references to souls.
There are two sequences when Mary "becomes invisible" to everyone else, and all sound ceases. Each time it ends when Mary sees a bird and hears it chirping. Maybe the bird is a reference to the bird in DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE with Frederic March, where a bird is singing, but when a cat attacks it, Jekyll changes into Hyde.
For that matter, when Mary is invisible in the store, does the sales clerk see the dress Mary is carrying float out of the dressing room and onto the rack? Or does it magically appear at some point? Or what? (That's the problem with invisibility--does it extend to clothes you wear and things you carry?)
(THE SIXTH SENSE may draw somewhat from this. I'm sure Shyamalan had seen CARNIVAL OF SOULS before making THE SIXTH SENSE.)
It's a sign of the times when the movie was made (1962) that Mary always covers her head in church, even when practicing in an empty church. But what kind of church is it? It seems clear it is not a Catholic church, so the minister's collar and the stained glass windows indicate probably either Episcopalian or Presbyterian.
Other signs of the times, include that the car has an AM-only radio and that she drives to Utah on two-lane roads with gravel shoulders. There were certainly *some* interstate highways at the time, but major sections of I-70, which would be the current route to use, was not completed until the 1970s and later.
Also, she stays in the car on the lift in the garage, another sign that things have changed a lot since then.
I don't know why Mary lets the creepy neighbor in, but he really reminds me of Angie in MARTY.
The other customer at the bus station window obviously knows she is there, even though the script claims not.
Is the car that goes off the bridge a Schroedinger's car, where she is half-dead and half-alive until you fish the car out and look and the wave form collapses? [-ecl]
Duck and Cover and Harry Belafonte (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky):
In response to Mark's comments on "duck-and-cover" films in the 10/19/12 issue of the MT VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:
On "duck and cover": It's funny to think that a good defense against nuclear weapons is white clothing, a big hat, and sunglasses. I once saw a picture of a Hiroshima survivor with a pattern burned into her back, where black lines on her white blouse got very, very hot. And of course getting under your desk protected you from falling debris.
My impression is that nuclear weapons got smaller rather than larger--because the increasing accuracy of delivery vehicles made large bombs wasteful. So the advice is still good. [-tw]
I am not sure where my father got it but in the 1950s my father had a large report from the Atomic Energy Commission showing what has been learned from studying of Hiroshima after the attack. I think I have seen the same photographs. (I don't think it warped me, but maybe something did.) Of course it was not a part of the helpful instructions at the time, but when you saw the flash there was no time to put on a while shirt. [-mrl]
In response to Mark's comments on Harry Belafonte in the same issue, Taras writes:
The reference to Harry Belafonte rang a bell faintly. Ronald Radosh, a former man of the Left himself, described Belafonte as a Stalinist who admired Castro and called Colin Powell a house slave. See http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=21534. [-tw]
I am not sure why you are bringing politics into a discussion of non-political song lyrics, but at the time Belafonte raised a great deal of controversy and all kinds of people said all kinds of things about him. I think of Belafonte as somebody who was somewhat admired who took a public stand that desperately needed to be taken. He had been formed by a lot of what had been inflicted on him. He did not come off as well in interviews and took on extreme views. I don't think he ever ran for office, knowing his own limitations, but he would admit to extreme views when asked. Probably the reason he still is a role model to some extent was that he had extreme private views that he came by honestly, but didn't force his views on others. Instead he advocated a policy that we now think of as common sense, thank goodness. Perhaps he should be a role model on what to do with extremist views.
If you saw the way our current-day Republican candidates tore into each other and Obama a few months ago, why should we expect that those on the 1950s left should have all agreed with each other or even have any less vitriol when they disagreed? [-mrl]
Sorry I've not been commenting much lately. [-tw]
It is always interesting when you do comment and since, as Evelyn figures, about 25% of the members do comment, which is incredibly high for a fanzine. [-mrl]
What Is Science (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):
In response to #science>Mark's comments on what is science in the 10/26/12 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:
Mark wrote "It is a question of what we want the words to mean. But there are sciences that make observations but without error bars. Psychology has no error bars. Of course, psychology is an inexact science and mathematics is a very exact discipline. "
Wouldn't astronomy be a better comparison than psychology?
You do not explain your reasoning and on the face of it I definitely disagree. If I want to measure the mass of the planet Mars I will need to make some numerical measurements. None of those measurements can be absolutely precise. I will have to compute the probable value and the range of possible error. Psychology rarely would get into measurements. I will not say never, but I would think it would be rarely. In fact Google shows I am wrong. I do find an a paper entitled, "Measurement error in psychological research: Lessons from 26 research scenarios": http://tinyurl.com/void-measurement-error. [-mrl]
Wednesday's Child (letter of comment by Kip Williams):
In response to 1Mark's comments on Wednesday's child in the 10/26/12 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:
Beware, Mark! John Sloan offers apparent confirmation of your observation that most people of your age were born on a Wednesday, but unless you share the same exact birthday, acceptance of his data in your dataset is most likely to allow (or require) the inclusion of other data that will water your case down to about 14% of what it was before he chimed in.
His is not confirmation but an observation of a similar phenomenon. I am nearly certain that John is not my age. It is just a separate case of devilishly good looks and birth-day-of-week of convergence. It is too small a set to be statistically significant. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
THE WORLD BEHIND THE DOOR: AN ENCOUNTER WITH SALVADOR DALI by Mike Resnick (ISBN 978-0-8230-0416-4) is part of Watson-Guptill's "Art Encounters", a series of young adult novels about artists. (Resnick has also written LADY WITH AN ALIEN: AN ENCOUNTER WITH LEONARDO DE VINCI and A CLUB IN MONMARTRE: AN ENCOUNTER WITH HENRI DE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC.) A familiarity with Dali's work would be helpful for the reader, as much of what Dali describes from his dreams appears in one or more famous paintings of his. (The stilt- legged elephants appear in "One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate", but in also "The Temptation of St. Anthony".) The basic idea is that Dali can get to another world through a door at the back of his closet, and no, it's not Narnia. It is a world where everything in Dali's work that is so bizarre is normal and everything normal in our world (such as level floors, and effect following cause) is considered bizarre, (That makes this a fantasy novel rather than just biographical fiction, if you care.)
I am not sure that the mind of Dali is suitable for a young adult novel, but Resnick does the best he can, and fans of his will probably find this of interest.
FANTASMAS: SUPERNATURAL STORIES BY MEXICAN AMERICAN WRITERS edited by Rob Johnson (ISBN 978-1-931-01002-3) is an anthology of nineteen stories distinguished from magical realism (according to the introduction by Kathleen Alcala) by having a basis in oral tradition, an influence from folk religions, the use of vernacular forms, and the influence of United States life and culture. (In that sense, there is a similarity to Neil Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS, which repositions European folk religions into the United States.) While it may seem that these stories often have familiar stereotypes (curanderos, for example, or various pre-Columbian tropes), it is also true that as soon as one identifies a literary movement or genre, one is likely to find a thread running through it, and this may be somewhat stereotypical.
(FANTASMAS is published by the deceptively named Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingue--deceptive because the book is not in fact bilingual, but is entirely in English.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: If people only spoke when they had something to say, the human race would soon lose the power of speech. --Kitty Fane (THE PAINTED VEIL)Tweet
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