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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/19/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 42, Whole Number 1750
Table of Contents
Triathlon (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
When they have an Iron Man Triathlon at the Olympics don't people have a big advantage depending on what powers their suit has? [-mrl]
Albert Robida, the Invisible French Giant (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
When you think of French Science Fiction, particularly in the earliest days of SF there is one name that stands out and very nearly eclipses every other French science fiction author. That is, of course, Jules Verne. Verne wrote about inventions of his near future. He wrote in a genre we now would call the techno-thriller. There already were submarines when Verne wrote about Captain Nemo. But the Nautilus was a very great deal advanced over under-water vessels of Verne's time, not to say considerably more reliable. The Albatross was doing what machines started doing some time about 1903, and then they would take a few years to catch up to Verne's imaginings. Verne was the great science fiction imaginer from France. If one goes to the Wikipedia page for French Science Fiction the names of the less familiar are even broken down into the categories "Proto science fiction before Jules Verne" and "after Jules Verne." And every name they give is eclipsed by Verne." The one name that that stands out most from the non-Vernes is Albert Robida.
If you know the name of Robida you probably associate it with his futuristic drawings of aircraft and strange machines. They were almost prototypes of 1930s pulp covers. Some of his work may be familiar:
French writer, illustrator, and novelist Albert Robida lived from 1848 to 1926 and so saw a quarter of the 20th Century, a century that fascinated him. He did not live to see many of his prophecies in illustration come true, but many have. Unlike Robida's Jules Verne's works were illustrated by one of the great artists of his day, Edouard Riou, who had been a student of Gustave Dore. Robida illustrated as well as wrote his own works. But unlike Riou, Robida usually had a satirical feel to his artwork. He might draw a sky so full of flying machines that one was sure in the next moment there would have been disastrous mid-air collisions.
One of the major differences between Verne's stories and Robida's are that Verne always put the technology in the hands of a technological elite. In Robida's imaginings the wondrous inventions had been adopted by the public at large and have uniformly transformed society. Though Verne is associated with an optimistic view of the future, it is more true of Robida, even if his predictions were half jokes.
Robida has been called the "Father of The Art of Science Fiction Illustration" and one can certainly see his influence on pulp magazine covers. While his stories are considered pedestrian it is his illustration that survives him. Clute and Nicholls' THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION attribute to him the inventions of (the ideas of) germ warfare and the videophone. The latter appeared in his illustration 'Le Journal Telephonoscopique' from his novel THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. The illustration done in 1883 highly resembles a picture of a modern family seeing an adventure film on a wide-screen TV. The big differences are that the projection equipment is in front of the screen (usually not the case these days) and the family is all wearing Victorian dress (also usually not the case these days.)
Robida wrote three futuristic novels about life in the 20th Century: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (1883), THE WAR OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (1887), and THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: THE LIFE ELECTRIQUE (1890). Sadly for all his fascination with the 20th Century, when the century actually did arrive his fame really did not. But his illustrations are still familiar to most science fiction fans, even if his name is not. [-mrl]
THE LIFE OF PI and the Poetry of Writing (letter of comment by John Hertz):
In response to Greg Benford's and Mark's comments on THE LIFE OF PI in the 01/18/13 issue of the MT VOID, John Hertz writes:
I heard there was a movie THE LIFE OF PI, but then I found it wasn't about the Rhind Papyrus and Archimedes and Lui Hui and Ramanujan and Kinada and the Palais de la Decouverte. How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics. [-jh]
I had a similar response when the book came out. Also, every time I heard about the movie CONSTANTINE I had an instant of thinking it was about the Roman Empire. And Mark said when he first heard the title "Autumn in New York", he heard it as "Ottoman New York" and thought it was an alternate history. [-ecl]
And in response to Evelyn's comments on Jorge Luis Borges's lectures in the 02/08/13 issue of the MT VOID, John writes:
Evelyn is quite right to note Borges on the poetry of "A rose-red city half as old as time" and "The thousand nights and a night". In particular this is a refreshing alternative to all the discussion in our field of how s-f is good or bad based on how it predicts things, or presents correct thought. [-jh]
THE DIVINE COMEDY (letter of comment by Sam Long):
In response to Evelyn's comments on THE DIVINE COMEDY in the 04/12/13 issue of the MT VOID, Sam Long writes:
Dante's Beauty Rendered In English In A Divine Comedy
Ref the mentions of Dante in the latest MT VOID. I like James's idea of using quatrains, which are common in English verse, whereas terza rima often seems contrived. A lot of French drama is in alexandrines, which don't work well in English, whereas iambic pentameter (rhymed or unrhymed) seems natural to us. Thus if I were translating Corneille's play "Le Cid" into English verse, for example, I'd use iambic pentameter to do so. [-sl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I recently finished SIMPLE LIBRARY CATALOGUING (SEVENTH EDITION) by Arthur Curley (ISBN 978-0-810-81649-7) but frankly, what can one say about a book like that? I suppose the only observation of interest is that many of the alphabetization rules in it that we learned in school have been replaced by rules based on computer sort order. So the old rule to treat words starting with "Mc" as if they started with "Mac" (e.g., "McBride" precedes "MacDonald", which precedes "McDougall") has been replaced by alphabetizing by what is actually there (e.g., "MacDonald" precedes "McBride" which precedes "McDougall").
On the other hand, I still think that "Dr." and "Doctor" should both be treated as "Doctor", because frankly, who can remember when the title is spelled out and when it isn't?
And while one normally alphabetizes numbers as being spelled out, there is much to be said for occasionally treating them as numeric. For example, "World's Best SF: 1969" should precede "World's Best SF: 1970". And "The Fourth Galaxy Reader" should precede "The Fifth Galaxy Reader".
(You may wonder how someone who just spent a month in the hospital and a physical therapy facility would not have a lot of reading to report on. Well, the fact is that such places are full of constant interruptions and even more constant noise from everyone else's televisions that any sort of sustained reading is impossible. A short story or article is about all one can manage.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Southerners make good novelists: they have so many stories because they have so much family. --Gore VidalTweet
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