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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/05/14 -- Vol. 33, No. 10, Whole Number 1822
Table of Contents
A Step Ahead (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I read the article at http://tinyurl.com/MTV-email about how good e-mail newsletters are and it almost convinced me that that is what we needed to do with the MT VOID to keep up with the times. Then I remembered that the MT VOID has been an electronic newsletter for something like twenty-two years. [-mrl]
The Missing 1984 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
For years I have looked for the 1956 film adaptation of George Orwell's 1984. Apparently the family of Orwell wanted to keep it out of circulation for whatever reason. I was surprised that it showed up on YouTube, but I had not had a chance to see it since something like 1970. The following article: is my impression
Michael Anderson's theatrical version of 1984 is now a rare film. For years it has been unavailable, rumored to be taken out of circulation by the estate of George Orwell. These days it is available on YouTube:
It is amazing what makes its way to YouTube.
Anderson's adaptation was the first theatrical version of the novel by George Orwell. It had its way made for it by a highly successful television adaptation. Two years earlier in 1954 few people in the British public had heard of George Orwell or the novel 1984. Then the BBC adapted it as a television play. An unsuspecting British public saw it and was terrified at the prospect of a government like the one portrayed being in their or anybody's future. There was discussion in Parliament if such grim and political dramas should even be shown to the public.
In those days a successful television play would frequently become the basis for a film. The "Quatermass" TV plays, by the same writer, Nigel Kneale, were similarly adapted. With all the notoriety the television version of 1984 had received it was an obvious choice for a story to be adapted to film.
At the opening of the 1956 film we are warned in the credits that the Ralph Gilbert Bettison and William Templeton script for Michael Anderson's version of 1984 has been "freely adapted" from the novel. Indeed no other version of 1984 takes such liberties from the original text. Still, it remains basically the same story up until the ending.
Presumably the reader has some familiarity with the plot of this now-classic novel. There are minor variations here. This version says that in the year 1965 there was a devastating nuclear war and out of the ruins were built the three super-states of Oceania, EastAsia, and Eurasia. If there is anything optimistic about this film it is that the world was able to rebuild so completely in just nineteen years after a nuclear war.
The story takes place in Air Strip One (formerly London) in Oceania where the State watches every citizen with electronic monitors spying on everything that happens in virtually every room. In the novel it is a telescreen showing propaganda, but in this version it is reduced to an electronic eye that looks a lot like Gort's eye from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. The government uses technology to control the lives of its citizens. The state is personified by a fictional human personification of the state, Big Brother.
Winston Smith (played by Edmond O'Brien) works for the state "correcting" history accounts to the party's version. Winston knows he dislikes the government but knows better than to express his anti-government views. He is at first terrified when the woman Julia (Jan Sterling) seems to be watching him. He finds out she has fallen in love with him in spite of the government discouraging love. The two try to have an affair away from the prying eyes of the state. They are caught without ever having had a possibility of success, and after a tortuous reprogramming they are made to love the state.
It is notable that there were two endings shot for the film. One is faithful to the Orwell story. The ending more like Orwell's was the one used for the United States release. But there was another ending in which Winston and Julia are returned to their former lives but escape, find each other, and are shot and die in each others' arms. One could say that ending is grimmer than the faithful ending as Winston and Julia are murdered for conforming to the system. At least with Orwell's ending they live and are reasonably happy as pawns of the State, even if they had to be brainwashed to be made to love Big Brother. On the other hand, the Orwell ending is the more chilling. It says that everyone is a slave of the state--albeit a happy and contented slave. Even the urge for rebellion has been eradicated. In a sense it is an end of the world story. At least it is the end of the world as we know it. The alternate ending suggests that the state is not really strong enough to triumph over the human spirit. This leaves a possibility that the people may still rise up and defeat the state. Some Winstons and Julias will be killed along the way, but the future still may belong to the people. I do not know if that ending still is available on film somewhere.
The film ends with a narrator telling the viewer that this is a possible future if we do not defend our freedom. Hence, what was intended as a warning of government becoming too powerful and having too much control over its people suddenly becomes a patriotic film with the filmmaker saying we must obey what our government tells us to do to defend our freedom. The one small change reverses the intent of the story. It is all very Orwellian.
One curious touch of the film has to be seen from the vantage point of the present. There are in the scenes showing Airstrip One two towers that stand over the city and are in the shape of a narrow football standing on end. Its odd shape is reminiscent of the real building called "30 St Mary Axe". This building has become one of the most famous sights of London. It has been nicknamed "the Gherkin" or "the London Pickle". The building is for London what the Transamerica Building is for San Francisco. But the Pickle is oddly reminiscent of the two buildings we see over Airstrip One in this film.
Just as the state sets up the fictional savior, Big Brother, it has a fictional villain. In the book it is Emmanuel Goldstein, but in the film they change his name to "the arch-traitor Kalador," making the name sound less Jewish. It sounds like the most villainous knight at the Round Table. They may have been trying to avoid making someone with an obviously Jewish name be called an evil traitor, even if he was an invention of the State.
The Government fosters an Anti-Sex League to counter any sexual thoughts that might distract people from loyalty to the state. In such a society it is odd to see women wearing eye make-up. Why allow cosmetics while discouraging love and sex?
Besides the two lead actors the film features Michael Redgrave, Mervyn Johns, David Kossoff, and Donald Pleasance--fairly familiar faces from British film. Michael Ripper, a key actor in Hammer Films, is the leader of the hate rally. Edmond O'Brien is a different sort of Winston Smith than Peter Cushing played. Cushing is a little polished and perhaps delicate. It was perhaps too easy to break him. Edmond O'Brien is stolid like a clay pot. It is a more of a task to destroy him.
There are some subtle touches added all along. I got a chuckle from the dance music incorporating themes from Beethoven symphonies.
The worst touch of the film is the total lack of chemistry between Edmond O'Brien and Jan Sterling. When they make an assignation my first reaction was why do they even bother? Anderson might have intentionally made his characters bloodless and bland so the society will seem to have drained all the emotions out of everybody it rules.
There have been much better adaptations of the novel. The television play of two years earlier was certainly a better adaptation on a smaller budget. The film 1984 made in 1984 may be the best adaptation. This film is just a sort of lukewarm production taking advantage of the public recognition of the BBC TV version. I would rate it a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.
The BBC television version adapted by Nigel Kneale is on YouTube at:
Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2018 (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
The Mindset List was created at Beloit College in 1998 to reflect the world view of entering first year students. It started with the members of the class of 2002, born in 1980. This year, they seem to have changed authors or something, because the entries are not nearly as striking. Nevertheless, here are my twelve favorite entries from the Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2018:
1. During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.
5. "Press pound" on the phone is now translated as "hit hashtag."
8. Hard liquor has always been advertised on television.
13. Women have always attended VMI and the Citadel.
16. Hong Kong has always been part of China.
17. Courts have always been overturning bans on same-sex marriages.
19. Bosnia and Herzegovina have always been one nation.(*)
22. Students have always been able to dance at Baylor.
23. Hello, Dolly: Cloning has always been a fact, not science fiction.
39. While the number of Americans living with HIV has always been going up, American deaths from AIDS have always been going down.
46. They have probably never used Netscape as their web browser.
50. Affirmative action has always been outlawed in California.
[*) More accurately, Bosnia and Herzegovina has always been a separate nation.
The full list is at http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2018/. [-ecl]
THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN CAME TO PARADISE (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: False identities, sex, feuds, and mysterious deaths are part of the history of the Galapagos Islands that tour guides do not tell visitors. This is the true story of three groups of settlers on the Galapagos island of Floreana. The account is told in detail by the writing and directing team of Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine. It is a long story--with the film running to just over two hours--but this unique documentary holds the viewer and compels him. This film does not answer all the questions it raises, and in fact many of its questions have never been answered. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
The Galapagos Islands are among the most beautiful places in the world. They are also known as the Encantadas, or "the Enchanted Isles." The islands are part of Ecuador and are a string of volcanic isles whose natural history was studied by a young Charles Darwin leading him to pose his theory of evolution. These days the islands are part of a national park attempting to keep the wildlife as close as possible to the state it was in Darwin's day. But natural beauty does not by itself a paradise make. The story of the Galapagos Murders--if indeed they were murders--involves lies, sex, fights, fraud, false identity, and mysterious deaths. The story involves mostly Germans who left their country when Hitler was coming to power and came to settle on Floreana in the island chain.
First there was Friedrich Ritter a doctor and mystical philosopher who attracted a student, follower, lover, and admirer--and a sufferer of Multiple Sclerosis--Dore Strauch. The two decided to leave the social pressures of Germany and, following Friedrich's teachings, went to live a simple Crusoe-like existence in the nature and the solitude of Floreana. That was in July of 1929. Friedrich, not realizing the future problems he was causing himself, wrote back to Germany with accounts of his new idyllic life. In 1932 there was another settlement. Heinz and Margaret Wittmer who had read Friedrich's accounts of the simple island life came bringing their son Harry and another child on the way. Friedrich was unhappy that his little island had to be shared, particularly when the Wittmer's assumed that Friedrich would offer free medical services to the new family. But this was just the very beginning of the conflicts to follow. That same year the "Baroness" von Wagner arrived with two male companions and announced that the island was hers and she was going to build a hotel. The Baroness respected nobody else's property and enjoyed soaking her feet in the Ritters' drinking water. And this too was in the early days of the war that was to come--a war covered in detail by writer/directors Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine. The story is complex with alliances and disagreements among the three settlements. Hatreds culminated in mysterious disappearances and vastly contradictory accounts of what had happened.
The script, besides being a meticulous account of the feud on the beautiful island, is a logic problem with no solution given. Geller and Goldfine present a straightforward account of what was said of the affair by the various participants. It is surprising that there was sufficient diary material a fodder to make so complete an account of the small wars that occurred. Also there was apparently a great volume of home movie footage. The story is mostly told either by interviews or voice actors speaking the words from the journals under home movies. Leading the voice actors is Cate Blanchett, voicing the words of Dore Strauch. In the meantime while we get the story, we also get a feel for the texture of life on the small island. Though it is not really discussed, there is some sadness at seeing the lamentable "development" of what had been an unspoiled island.
THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN CAME TO PARADISE is colorful, at times funny, and strangely hypnotic. I rate it a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10. The film will be available on DVD and Netflix on September 9, 2014.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2960450/combined
What others are saying: http://tinyurl.com/rt-galapagos-affair
LonCon 3 (2014 Worldcon) Mini-Report (convention report by Joe Karpierz):
Now that it's more than a week behind me, I think I can honestly say it was one of the best Worldcons I've attended. I don't have a lot of time right now to give a fully detailed report--or at least as detailed as I would give, anyway--but here are a few points that come to mind.
1) The programming was excellent. Yeah, there were 1089 different programming items, but I could always find something I wanted to go to. In fact, by the end of Friday I'd been to so many panels and other events that I was wiped out. I slowed down the last three days, doing a bit more visiting with friends and shopping. I felt that in general, for the items I went to, the room size was adequate for the panel, except for maybe the George R. R. Martin/ Connie Willis panel. Odd that there wasn't a Silverberg/Willis panel.
2) Silverberg was clearly unhappy with the convention. In fact, I think he's completely unhappy with the state of the field. The con was too big, there is too much fiction so he can't find the good stuff (never mind he could use the internet to find recommendations), he doesn't really know anybody any more. He was cranky about it on just about all the panels he was on that I attended. I think it's all passing him by.
3) No con suite, but the fan village was outstanding. Gaming, bid tents, food sold by the convention center, no room parties which were instead held in the fan village and were awesome. It was a tremendous place to meet people, hang out, and relax.
4) Smallish dealers area, but I suppose that's to be expected, given that it was not in the United States.
5) I didn't care for the art show, but that may be a function of some of the bigger names not bringing pieces because of the overseas travel. Then again, I haven't been impressed with Worldcon art shows in quite a while now.
6) The Hugo ceremony was succinct and to the point. Almost no silliness, and no Silverberg to drag things out. Done in under two hours. That was helped in part by the Big Heart, First Fandom, and other awards being given out at the Retro-Hugo ceremony.
7) The Retro-Hugo ceremony was terrific. Staged as a 1939 radio show, complete with swing band and period costumes by the presenters, it included a modern-day update to the War of the Worlds radio broadcast where the Martians were attacking the convention center and were defeated by con crud. Outstanding.
8) The Worldcon Philharmonic Orchestra was terrific. Dave McCarty posted various pieces from the performance on YouTube. Search it out.
9) The convention center was *huge*, but we didn't use more than maybe a third of it. It was a good venue. Everything was at one end of the venue, and food vendors were open late for the con crowd.
The wretched streaming problems meant we didn't get to see all the "terrific" retro-Hugo stuff; maybe there will be something posted to YouTube. [-ecl]
LonCon 3 (2014 Worldcon) (Part 1) (convention report by Dale L. Skran):
[Dale has written a somewhat longer report. :-) This is the first of five parts.]
Thursday, August 14, 2014
11:00 [11:00 am] "Climate Catastrophes: Past, Present, and Future"
I only caught the last part of this talk, but it seemed like a good presentation on past climate changes, of which there have been many. The speaker, Johathan Cowie, concluded on the note that there is really nothing that can be done at this point to prevent a significant warming of the Earth--it is literally "baked in." Without disputing this point, my further take-away is that we need to keep firmly in mind how many times the Earth has warmed and cooled without human intervention. The point is that the Earth is not set up for stable occupation by humans. Sooner or later there will be catastrophic warming or cooling. For example, there was once a volcanic eruption in Siberia that resulted in a 1,000-year winter on a global scale. There could be an eruption like that tomorrow. Cheery thought.
12:00 [12:00 noon] "Images of Venice: Alternative, Fantasy, and Future"
I think I might have liked this art talk, but after ten minutes of waiting for the projector to work, I decided to vote on site selection. When I came back fifteen minutes later, a crudely improvised projector was putting up a tiny screen. After about five minutes I left--it was just too hard to see what was being discussed. My observation is that although this is a great convention center, the technical support is less than the best, and that many panels start with technical issues.
12:00 [12:00 noon] "War of the Worlds: Goliath"
I watched the last two-thirds of this new animated steampunk adventure. It is ten years after the original Martian invasion, and they're back! Fortunately, the humans have reverse-engineered their heat ray technology and mounted it on Star Wars type steam-powered walkers, Zeppelin aircraft carriers and tri-winged planes. A completely unrealistic multi-racial and multi-gendered crew led by Teddy Roosevelt battle the Martians with tons of anime explosions and some extremely derivative dialog that has no surprises. I'm glad I saw it, but it seemed more like homage to anime than a real creative effort.
13:30 [1:30 pm] "Herschel and Plank"
I just caught the last part of this talk, but it appeared to be a good summary of recent work on the cosmic background radiation and cosmology.
15:00 [3 pm] "Occupy SF: Inequality on Screen"
This panel was moderated by Martin McGrath, and including Carrie Vaughn (the only American), Roz J. Kaveney, Takayuki Tatsumi, and Laurie Penny (a sometime Guardian writer who did a good job of representing left-wing British views). Like most British Worldcon panels, this one displayed "balance" between a left-wing American writer (Vaughn) and a Marxist Brit (Kaveney), that is to say, there was no balance whatsoever. I liked Penny since she was articulate and intelligent. I didn't much agree with what she said, but she made a clear presentation of far-left views on this topic. Kaveney had watched CONTINUUM and expressed the view that the main character evolved from being a "fascist" to "joining the revolution." This is a remarkably un-nuanced view of a complex and excellent series, in addition to being factually incorrect. It would be more accurate to say that CONTINUUM appears to have just made, at the end of season three, a remarkably cynical statement that the revolution is just another tool of the elite to achieve its goals.
This panel featured reasonable discussion of movies like V FOR VENDETTA and SNOW PIERCER, and TV shows like ARROW, but seemed unable to perceive the moose on the table. Although all appeared to admire left-wing revolutions and disdain "the rich," there seemed to be little recollection of how such left-wing revolutions lead almost invariably to left-wing totalitarianism and a river of innocent blood. There was also a good bit of talk about the intrinsic fascism of superheroes and a rejection of the politics on Nolan's RISE OF THE DARK KNIGHT. In fact, much of the time the panelists talked as though the movie industry was being run by a right-wing cabal, a view that would be viewed with astonishment pretty much anywhere else in the United States. Perhaps all this means is that from the viewpoint of British Marxists and Socialists, the decidedly left-wing Hollywood movie industry appears "right-wing."
18:00 [6:00 pm] "The Superhero-Industrial Complex"
This panel of much younger faces [younger that most panels at this Worldcon] did a good job of navigating the Marvel and DC cinematic universes and providing the audience with concrete reasons for the new popularity of super-hero films. A panelist earlier in the day had expressed the view that the superhero story was fundamentally fascistic. This person will be quite disappointed to hear that we are going to be seeing superhero movies for a looong time to come. In fact, it is reasonable to expect that the superhero film will have the kind of extended dominance once enjoyed by the Western.
19:00 [7 pm] "2014: Best Novel Shortlist Discussion"
Justin Landon moderated a panel that included Matt Hilliard, Ruth O'Reilly, and Maureen Kincaid Speller. Landon did a fine job pushing the panelists to both lay the groundwork for the discussion and to actually get through all the books without descending into pointless disputation. Although I found myself in strong agreement with the panelists that ANCEILLIARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie ought to win the overall tone of the panel was a bit too "lit snobby" for my taste. For example, several panelists described *all* of 2014 nominations as "commercial fiction." The panelists seemed to have mostly gone through an evolution process from believing that the Best Hugo Novel winner was the best SF book of the year to a more nuanced and perhaps cynical view that the nominations represented different constituencies within SF. Personally, Mark Leeper long ago convinced me that the Hugo was just the most popular book among Worldcon members, which is obviously not the same as the "best SF book of the year." I'm just a bit disappointed when it turns out to not be a book I like.
The panelists did not discuss two forces that tend to degrade the quality of Hugo winners. The first is what I call "the pity Hugo." In this process, a new author is nominated many times for excellent works, but fails to win for one reason or another. Eventually they win for a mediocre work, buoyed by the votes of many who are really voting a preference for a body for work. A good example of this process is the Hugo for Asimov's THE GODS THEMSELVES. In another, related phenomenon, the same author wins year after year, more on name recognition than anything else.
In any case, much time was spent lauding ANCILLARY JUSTICE, which I have separately reviewed for the MT VOID, and which I also highly recommend. Although for a first-time novelist Leckie is really good, I did not find her writing quite as excellent as the panelists did, perhaps because they seemed to focus more on sentence-by-sentence flow and less on the overall structure of the novel. The panelists also seemed to admire Leckie's take on colonialist and gender issues. I found JUSTICE thankfully to deal with these matters in a non-polemical fashion that grew strongly out of the story assumptions, and not out of an apparent need of the author to make political points. STROSS got high marks for his economic ideas in NEPTUNE'S CHILDREN but was dunned for an overly expository writing style. My observation is that there is something about Stross's style that rubs literary fans the wrong way. Don't let this deter you from reading an excellent book. There seemed to be general agreement on the panel that Larry Correia's WARBOUND was a fun, fast read but not original or well written.
The panelists seemed to have been chosen on the basis that they were willing to read *all* of the books in Jordan's WHEEL OF TIME series. This seemed to put them in a grouchy mood, and they pretty much slashed the series into strips of paper. Apparently the first few books are a good Tolkien rehash, but it does downhill after that. Nothing said by any of the panelists inspired me to crack any of the many volumes. Finally, and a bit to my surprise, the panelists really dumped on PARASITE by Mira Grant. In fact, by the sheer volume of complaints they seemed to like it even less than WARBOUND.
20:00 [8 pm] "Hard Right"
Moderated by Neyir Cenk Cokee, this panel featured David G. Hartley, Charles E. Cannon, Alson Sinclair, and Jaine Fenn. Like a lot of panels at a British Worldcon, opinions ranged from a left-wing United States Democrat on the right to hard-line Maxist on the left, which is to say that only a rather narrow range of views were represented. The general thesis under discussion was the idea that "hard SF" was tightly tied to conservative thought on both a practical and a philosophical level. On the practical level this seemed to amount to nothing more than recognition that some conservative editors (Campbell, Baen) used their bully pulpit and editorial powers to promote conservative views. On a philosophical level the views expressed were much more disturbing, such as those by Jaine Fenn, who seemed to believe that there was a pretty tight connection between believing in hard scientific laws and fascism. Panelists like Hartley and Cannon expressed more balanced views, but it was hard to escape the idea that the panelists as whole believed that there was a deep strain in SF that lionized rule by kings, exulted in mass death, and gloried in ignorant colonialism. Of course, there have been SF writers with these and worse views, but the association of hard SF with conservative politics seems unfair, inaccurate, and even dangerous. I pointed out that in the 60s/70s, the three main hard SF writers were Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, and two of those three were well-known liberals. Behind the thinking of at least some of these panelists seemed to lay "postmodernist" ideas that there is no "real scientific truth" and instead "science" was just the political thinking of a small group old white men. Some panelists drew a connection between "hard SF" and absolute moral values, decrying the need in stories like "The Cold Equations" of the necessity of making hard choices. The sexism inherent in stories like "The Cold Equations" does not mean that there is never a time when hard choices must be made, including choices that result in the loss of innocent life. At a time when we need the guiding truth of real science on issues ranging from climate change to vaccine efficiency, believing that "hard SF" is a plot by conservatives does not work to create a reality-based future. [-dls]
IN THE COMPANY OF THIEVES (letter of comment by Steve Milton):
In response to Joe Karpierz's review of IN THE COMPANY OF THIEVES in the 08/29/14 issue of the MT VOID, Steve Milton writes:
The Gentleman's Speculative Society was a front for the Company, so those stories are also Company stories, so I suspect all the stories are company stories. [-smm]
Tsundoku and Tsunami (letter of comment by David Goldfarb):
In response to Evelyn's comments on "tsunami" in the 08/29/14 issue of the MT VOID, David Goldfarb writes:
[Evelyn said,] "One imagines that tsunami comes from the same first word (pile up) [as tsundoku], so they are related."
A quick bit of online research indicates that the "tsu" in "tsunami" means "harbor". (And "nami" is "wave".) Although it's read the same as the "tsu" in "tsundoku" they are quite different characters, with different meanings, and as far as I can tell the two words are no more related than are, say, "marine" and "marble". [-dg]
Oh, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Wasn't it Don D'Ammassa who was once trapped for several hours when one of his bookshelves collapsed onto him. He might see a connection between "tsundoku" and "tsunami". :-) [-ecl]
Time Machine Fiction; Ethics Versus Religion; and Baseball, Football and Science Fiction (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to various items in the 08/29/14 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
It has been a while since I have written about recent issues of MT VOID so this is overdue. Yes, there are a couple items that piqued my interest in #1821, so here goes.
I copy-pasted the link to the "The Rise of Time Machine Fiction" article in a new window and only got hits for time capsules. Hmm. I may have to do a more concerted Google search for that particular magazine you mentioned and track the article down. Otherwise, yes, time travel has long been a favorite topic in science fiction, but actually the concept goes back a considerable distance. After all, before Wells wrote his novel in 1895, Mark Twain's A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT predated that by six years, and a quick online search lists titles such as MEMOIRS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Samuel Madden (1733), A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens (1843), PARIS BEFORE MEN by Pierre Boitard (1861), and of course LOOKING BACKWARD (2000-1887) by Edward Bellamy (1887). Other titles were listed, of course, but these are probably the most notable works. My thoughts on why time travel--whether by machine or dream, as Twain and others used--is that human curiosity about where we're going or how we will evolve socially, politically, and physically, is a built in trait that enables humans to shape their futures. Nothing we can do about the past, but perhaps knowing through firsthand experience what has happened can help us to change our present behaviors to shape a better future. As the expression goes, failing to learn from history is A Bad Thing. Or something like that.
Evelyn's commentary about Ethics vs. Religion are very thought-provoking, and for the most part I agree with her position. She begins with an excellent question: "One of the classic ethical questions that arises in a discussion of religion is, 'What do you do if your ethics tell you to do one thing and your religion tells you something else?' (Or if you prefer, 'What do you do if your ethics tell you to do one thing and the voice of God tells you something else?')" Quite the conundrum. I like the way Evelyn uses the example of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to answer this question, and I agree with her interpretation.
On a personal level, I would hope that I would act in accordance with my personal sense of moral right and wrong to do the ethically correct thing given such a situation. I am afraid that in America today a serious decay in personal ethics has occurred, giving rise to a fervent and extremist belief system where a large portion of the population has lost personal direction to the point where they allow others to control their ethical decisions. Unfortunately, these ethical leaders tend to be political and media figures with profound influence, often with agendas that have nothing to do with Biblical teachings. I really don't want to get into a lengthy diatribe about what I feel is wrong with America today and why, but in a nutshell, what Evelyn has brought up is essentially this very issue: the loss of a person's ethical integrity. There is a lack of critical thinking, if you will, to examine issues and reach a conclusion that lines up with your convictions of what a person believes is right and wrong. Mark's closing comment reflects both Evelyn's and my thoughts. It will be interesting to read how other readers of MT VOID will respond to Evelyn's comments.
Jim Susky's letter about Baseball, Football and Science Fiction was a bit of a diversion. Since I am a sports fan of sorts--I enjoy watching hockey, soccer, and baseball, and follow college football (especially my alma mater, Iowa State University)--his loc was fun to read even though the idea of an infinite foul line is anathema to me. The ethos of baseball (sports in general) being ingrained into America's consciousness is essentially true, as is the concept of labeling a team either a winner or loser. The example of the Minnesota Vikings is good (0-4 in Super Bowl appearances, but a dominant team throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s), as is the Atlanta Braves of baseball, which dominated the National League East Division between 1985 and 2010, winning the World Series only once in all that time. America loves a winner, you see, but loves to pull for the underdog.
One final thought on this subject. There have been a great number of SF stories written about sports or having sports being an integral plot element. My favorite example is the novel THE NEW ATOMS BOMBSHELL by Marvin Karlins (1980), a straight science fiction novel about what baseball would be like in the far-flung future year of 2002! It is an enjoyable bit of fluff, too, and there are loads of copies available on Amazon.
Wow, I have certainly rambled on, haven't I? Well, it happens. Many thanks for posting your issue, and I look forward to the next one. [-jp]
Re Time Machines: The link works for me, but try just searching on the phrase "The Rise of Time Machine Fiction". It appeared in Prospect Magazine.
I think that people got used to thinking of what happens in faraway places as almost as if it were in different worlds, but then realize with some effort you can get to those places. The past also is like another world and we somehow think if we can get to China, we somehow think we should be able to get to 1492. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I'LL HAVE WHAT SHE'S HAVING: BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE GREAT ROMANTIC COMEDIES by Daniel M. Kimmel (ISBN 978-1-56663-737-4) led me to ask, "Exactly what is a romantic comedy?" Somehow, this never really got answered, although Kimmel comments that certain films are not romantic comedies because, for example, the romance element is secondary to another plot element. So one can sketch in the outlines, though like Damon Knight's definition of science fiction, it may well be "what we point to it when we say it." (Or Justice Potter Stewart's comment--twelve years after Knight's definition--on what constituted pornography: "I know it when I see it.")
When I looked at the list of films included in the book (indisputably all classics), I did notice something: they all had a white male and a white female as the romantic couple. Now this could be that for the vast majority of time that romantic comedies have been made, this was the only acceptable pairing for a Hollywood movie, and the inclusion of SOME LIKE IT HOT does include a film that skirts as close to the boundaries as one could at the time (if you'll pardon the pun). (Oddly, Hollywood seemed to have no problem with Tom Hanks falling in love with a female of a different *species* in SPLASH, another possibility for the list.)
And this brings out a requirement that does not seem to be explicitly stated: these are almost all Hollywood romantic comedies. (LOVE ACTUALLY is British actually.) You won't find LA CAGE AUX FOLLES; or YESTERDAY, TODAY, TOMORROW; or DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAYENGE or MONSOON WEDDING; or CHASING AMY or KISSING JESSICA STEIN; or THE WEDDING BANQUET. This is a pity, since my personal opinion is that the last two or three of Kimmel's choices are not ones I would have labeled as "great." But I suppose that just means I should write my own book. (If I did, DESIGNING WOMAN (1957) and OSCAR (1991) would definitely be in it. Back when we used to have friends over for "film festival" double features, we showed SOME LIKE IT HOT and OSCAR as a double feature. All eight friends voted OSCAR the funnier of the two.)
(And if the author's name sounds familiar to MT VOID readers, there's a good reason for that.)
[Let me throw in my own comment here. It is hard for me to think of SOME LIKE IT HOT as a "romantic" comedy. For me that would be a comedy in which the two main characters have some chemistry together and the viewer hopes that they will end up pair-bonded by the end of the film. In SOME LIKE IT HOT I never have the feeling that Monroe and Curtis are just right for each other. It is quite the opposite. Whether they get together or not is just one more plot point. In fact you would like to see Monroe get someone *better* than Curtis. There is nothing in the film that I find "romantic." So for me it is not a romantic comedy. Your mileage may vary, of course. -mrl]
ALL ROADS LEAD TO AUSTEN: A YEARLONG JOURNEY WITH JANE by Amy Elizabeth Smith (ISBN 978-1-4022-6585-3) is yet another approach to Jane Austen. Smith decides to spend a year traveling through Central and South America discussing Jane Austen. More specifically, she visits Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina, and in each country organizes a book discussion of a Jane Austen novel (which everyone, herself included, reads in Spanish), which focuses not only on the novel, but on whether there is a universality to Austen's characters and situation or whether they are specific to 19th century England. The book is half travelogue and half discussion of Austen. For the book lover, I will report that she says, "In a single stretch of about eight blocks on Corrientes, heading west from the Avenida 9 de Julio, there were more than twenty bookstores. Some had only new books; others, used; and some, both. There were stores with every kind of classic you could want, translated from any language; stores focused on Latin American politics, history, and literature; stores specializing in overstock with new books for less than two dollars apiece; stores with used books stacked precariously from floor to ceiling; stores with antiquarian books guarded jealously behind glass."
A newly formed discussion group was reading BRING THE JUBILEE by Ward Moore (ISBN 978-1-434-47853-5), so we decided to give it a try. I found a lot of interesting bits; for example, in Moore's alternate United States there were government-run lotteries in the 1940s. And the main character talks about the humane treatment of Negroes in the Confederacy--well, who knows, maybe in the alternate world it is true. The Whigs apparently promote "trickle-down" economics, just like in our world. And Moore consistently uses "Southron" (which is indeed a real word) instead of "Southern".
But the most interesting change seemed to be the use of apostrophes in contractions. It appeared as though the "punctuation" in the United States changed a lot:
I spent quite a while trying to figure out how a Confederate victory would make this happen. I shouldn't have bothered--it turns out that Moore felt about apostrophes the way e.e.cummings felt about capital letters, and who won the Civil War had nothing to do with it! [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: [George R.R.] Martin has come early to solid presence in SF, where it has become easy to make an initial splash followed by virtual disappearance. --Algis Budrys, F&SF, 02/78Tweet
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