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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/10/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 41, Whole Number 1853
Table of Contents
The Hugo nominations and Retro Hugo nominations are included in this MT VOID, but *after* all the other articles, including after Evelyn's book column, which discusses the nominees.
The Religious Limit (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
If R(T) is a religion at time T, the limit of R(T) as T goes to +infinity is Unitarianism. [-mrl]
Topology and Pluto (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
In topology there are different definitions of connectedness, the idea that a certain subset of a plane is all in one piece. We think we all know intuitively what we mean by "connectedness" (any piece you pullon the while thing comes with it) but we really do not. It would be nice if all the definitions were equivalent, but in fact all are different. What is a connected set by one definition is not connected by another definition. So you end up with different kinds of connectedness. The real world is just not orderly enough that there is this one property called connectedness and we all agree what it is. There is path connectedness, arc connectedness, local connectedness just plain connectedness, etc. We just accept that some sets are connected according to some definitions and not others. There are different kinds of connectedness. Connected by one definition is not the same as by another definition. I think about this when I think about Pluto.
That brings me to a recent discussion of Pluto, sparked by a comment I made in the VOID. The planetary status of Pluto issue does not seem to be going away. We all think we know what a "planet" is, but there are details and the devil is in the details.
I think people were told about our solar system in grade school and pictured nine orderly concentric circles the planets follow as they circled the sun. A little later they might have heard that the orbits are actually elliptical and not circular, but they are still expecting that degree of order.
It now turns out that things are much more happenstance. We have circling the sun a bunch of lumps of matter thrown at a gravity well. There are objects that have some properties. Pieces that have those properties we call the planets. Later we found out that one of those pieces of matter does not have a property that the rest have. The uniform properties that we gave planets were simplifying assumptions that made it easy for us as kids to think we understood the solar system. But there is more chaos and complexity than we wanted to admit to ourselves. Just because the nearer planets clean up their orbits does not mean that Pluto does also, even if it fits many of the assumptions we made about planets.
I personally find it exciting that there are kinds of objects that are nearly planets but which do not follow all the rules that we have come to associate with planets. There are things that are nearly planets but do not have all the properties of the others. And possibly more things that really are planets but are further out. There is an instinct that we want a hard and fast definition of planet so that we know where we stand, but we have to be able to accept that some things we thought of as planets might follow one set of rules for planets and not another. We have to come up with rules for and distinguish different kinds of planets. Just like in topology some sets fit one criteria for connectivity and not another.
I think my topology was good training for the Pluto controversy. The world is just too random and diverse for one definition of "connectivity" or "planet" to suffice. That is more like that there is one physics (presently) sufficing for the really large and another for really small. Perhaps similarly one definition of planet may not work for both objects in our solar system and for exo-planets. We need to get used to there being a lot of diversity in our universe because diversity is there if we like it or not.
Why do people take so personally that Pluto is not a planet? Because when we first saw Pluto we looked at it and said if it was big and circled the sun, of course it was a planet. Later when we saw that most planets cleaned up their orbits that was added to the definition. But Pluto probably does not clean its orbit. And it does not stay outside the orbit of Neptune.
Perhaps we are looking for the wrong sort of orderliness on the Universe. Matter is orderly in that it follows the laws of physics--very nearly the Newtonian laws. But we cannot assume that just because abody looks like a planet it follows the man-made definition of planet. That is expecting too much of the Universe. Perhaps a universe that orderly would even be dull.
There really is orderliness to the universe and for now a couple of systems of physics seem to cover it. But physics does not define the word "planet." We do that. If Pluto does not fit the definition we picked, so be it. The definition is one we like less. Let's define "outlaw" planets as being like planets but they do not clean their orbits and they do not cross other planets' orbits.
I like the idea of having Pluto be an outlaw planet. [-mrl]
Problems with CASABLANCA (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Many people have pointed out that in CASABLANCA the Gestapo would not be stopped by some "letters of transit," no matter who had signed them. But there is much else in the film CASABLANCA that makes no sense. For example, Victor and Ilsa had to flee Europe, at one point even hiding out in a boxcar. Yet Ilsa seems to arrive in Casablanca with enough clothing, jewelry, and hats to fill a couple of steamer trunks and a few hatboxes. (She could not have bought them in Casablanca--she was wearing fancy outfits almost immediately on arriving in Casablanca.)
For that matter, why are Victor and Ilsa so concerned about keeping their marriage secret? The claim that as his wife she would know more about his Resistance activities than as his mistress seems very flimsy.
Renault is supposed to be charming and ultimately a likeable character, yet when looked at from a late 20th century perspective he is only a step or two above a rapist. Whenever there is trouble, there are always a lot of "young girls" rounded up for Inspector Renault, and he also offers exit visas in exchange for sex. This is likeable? (This is similar to Mark's observation that these days Benjamin Braddock in THE GRADUATE would be considered a stalker.) [-ecl]
Global Climate Change (letters of comment by Steve Milton and Dale L. Skran):
In response to Evelyn's comments on global climate change in the 04/03/15 issue of the MT VOID, Steve Milton writes:
How about this one:
They believe that significant global climate change is occurring and that it is caused primarily by humans, and that in the long run it is good to melt the Arctic because it makes Northern lands more habitable. [-smm]
And Dale Skran writes:
It seems to me that once you get to this level of agreement [fixing GCC is worth the cost], the discussion tends to split into sides about the nature of the corrective actions. On some fundamental level, you have a "deep green" group that looks at technology and capitalism as cancers that must be expunged by any means necessary and on the other you have "technological optimists" that argue our best way forward is, for example, a rapid increase in carbon neutral nuclear power plants or solar power satellites, and who think capitalism is part of the solution, not the problem. A third group might advocate for geo-engineering. My point is that there is no commonly agreed solution to global warming about which we are merely discussing a cost/benefit ratio. The real discussion is about what sort of future humans should build together--a tiny fraction of the current population living in sustainable grass huts while smoking pot, having sex, and playing musical instruments vs. a technologically enhanced species spreading out through the solar system and eventually the galaxy. [-dls]
Are you paraphrasing THINGS TO COME? Anyway, I wish that really were the choice. I think you are more of an optimist than I am. [-mrl]
[There is more conversation, so inter-leaved as to be irreproducible here in a reasonable amount of space, in rec.arts.sf.fandom, at http://tinyurl.com/void-v33-n40. -ecl]
Puzzle Answer (letters of comment by Kevin R and Keith F. Lynch):
In response to the answer to the puzzle in the 04/03/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:
I was stumped on this. Perhaps, as a former bookseller, I would rarely think of a calendar as having only 19 words on it. 365- word-a-day, B Kliban or "Far Side" Page-A-Day calendars? Even on a standard, one-sheet wall calendar I'd expect a copyright notice, and as for giveaways with ads on them--any of those could contain 1-4 of the excluded letters. [-kr] And Keith Lynch responds:
Likewise, though I've never worked as a bookseller. [-kfl]
Good point. I don't recall if the puzzler had "at minimum" as a qualifier. [-kr]
Fish and Chips Shops and A GOD THAT COULD BE REAL (letters of comments by Kevin R and Keith F. Lynch):
In response to Mark's comments on a fish and chips shop in the 04/03/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:
In Cod we Trust? Spud's Sole Kitchen? Flour on the Haddock?
In response to Lee Beaumont's review of A GOD THAT COULD BE REAL in the same issue, Kevin writes:
I only have a glancing, undergraduate's, they-required-12-credits- of-theology-at-my-university familiarity with it, but this reminds me of Alfred North Whitehead's "process theology." "The Becoming of God" was the phrase I remember.
An interesting SFnal meme: the question isn't "Is there a god (gods)," but "are there any other intelligences anywhere," followed by: are they superior to us, by how much, in what way, and would that make one or more of them godlike, as humans understand the term? In the universe's early days, would a now godlike intelligence have been much less so, and evolved into its present qualities. Was there some post-Big Bang singularity? Are we subject to the same processes? Absent any evidence, I still think it is all projection.
Politics (letters of comments by Kevin R and Keith F. Lynch):
In response to Mark's comments on politics in the 04/03/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:
Strike "air" and replace with "lungs," and I'd agree with you. Even if I'm at a smoking-allowed event, intentionally blowing the stuff right into my face is a minor assault.
+1 to Jim Susky [-kr]
To which Keith Lynch replies:
Smoke can damage things other than lungs, or at least make them sticky, smelly, discolored, and disgusting. [-kfl]
Sure, but if the venue is posted with a "smoking allowed" notice, you can decide to enter or not, and risk said damage. I think the idiots who posit a "right to smoke" are as bad or worse than the lady who wants "rape stare" controlled. The owners of the property get to say if smoking is allowed, or not, IMHO. [-kr]
As you probably know, the reason for not allowing "smoking allowed" restaurants, bars, etc., isn't because of the customers, but because of the employees. Under current employment law, employees aren't allowed to sign away their right to a safe workplace. For instance if a coal mine operator said, "We pay more than our competitor because we don't spend anything on safety. If you're over 21 and willing to sign a waiver and agree to the risk...," they'd be shut down by OSHA immediately. [-kfl]
Kevin goes on:
Yes, that is one of the justifications. Since less than a fifth of adult Americans smoke nowadays, I have no problem with firms banning the practice. Some companies would rather hire non-smokers as they think they burden health insurance less, and because smoking hurts productivity, if only because of the practice of taking unauthorized breaks to smoke. Nicotine does have the benefit of making people more alert. Firms should ban smoking but encourage patches and gum...? :)
There are industries where it is more prevalent among the workforce, and the restaurant and bar trade seems to be one. There's a certain irony to have a "thou shalt not smoke" rule in such establishments, when the staff are all running out to the alley to sneak a butt.
I was perfectly happy frequenting bars that had high-tech ventilation systems to minimize smoke, but I'm a pretty tobacco- tolerant non-smoker.
These choices ought to be market-driven, it should go w/o saying. [-kr]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
If the Hugo nominations all look unfamiliar, that is because a couple of small groups of people proposed (overlapping) slates with agendas(*), and bloc nominating of these slates pretty much swamped all the other nominations.
This is basically explained in http://tinyurl.com/void-io9-hugo-2015, and I will add only a few short comments.
The agenda(s), depending on whom you ask, are:
A while ago people wanted more participation in the Hugos, because in many categories hardly anyone was nominating or voting. BCWYWF.
It apparently took only a few hundred bloc voters to determine almost the entire contents of the final ballot, and my guess is that most of these were people who were not nominating/voting for Hugos a few years ago.
Given that any proposed fix to this problem (assuming you think it is a problem) seems designed to limit the number of people who can nominate/vote (almost always by financial means), all it will do is reinforce the claim that the Hugos are elitist and snobbish.
I have no solution. Indeed, there may not be one, because that would probably involve a small group of people crafting a "real" Hugo slate, and then a person (or persons) with a lot of followers promoting it. How this would actually be an improvement is a mystery to me, though it would look just like the Presidential elections here, where relatively small numbers of people pick the two candidates and the rest of us have to choose between them.
A couple of specific notes:
Although the people who proposed the slates constantly talk about how they want to return to the science fiction of Heinlein, they failed to notice that the second volume of the Heinlein biography was eligible, and their slate of five other works kept that off the ballot.
THREE-BODY PROBLEM, a breakthrough science fiction novel from China that is (in many people's opinion) a novel in the spirit of the Golden Age, and that most people thought was a shoo-in, failed to make the ballot. Go read it anyway.
I am not a member of Worldcon this year. Because the nominated works are probably not going to be very accessible without the "Hugo packet", and also because they were chosen as much (if not more) for political reasons as for quality, I will not be reviewing the short fiction this year.
And synchronicity strikes again. This year's ballot is dominated by a small press named "Castalia House". I spent Sunday morning reading about it in the context of the Hugos, having never heard of it before. I then picked up the next book on my to-read stack, MAGISTER LUDI/THE GLASS BEAD GAME by Herman Hesse, and discovered that Castalia is a fictional province that he invented in this book! [-ecl]
Best Novel (1827 nominating ballots)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette)
Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos (47North)
Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc Books)
Best Novella (1083 nominating ballots)
Big Boys Don't Cry, Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
"Flow", Arlan Andrews, Sr. (Tor.com, 11-2014)
One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
"Pale Realms of Shade", John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts
& Seasons, Castalia House)
"The Plural of Helen of Troy", John C. Wright (City Beyond
Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)
Best Novelette (1031 nominating ballots)
"Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium", Gray
Rinehart (Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show,
"Championship B'tok", Edward M. Lerner (Analog, 09-2014)
"The Journeyman: In the Stone House", Michael F. Flynn (Analog,
"The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale", Rajnar Vajra (Analog,
"Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus", John C. Wright
(The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
Best Short Story (1174 nominating ballots)
"Goodnight Stars", Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse
Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
"On A Spiritual Plain", Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2,
"The Parliament of Beasts and Birds", John C. Wright (The Book
of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
"Totaled", Kary English (Galaxy's Edge Magazine, 07-2014)
"Turncoat", Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
Best Related Work (1150 nominating ballots)
"The Hot Equations: Thermodynamics and Military SF",
Ken Burnside (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
Letters from Gardner, Lou Antonelli (The Merry Blacksmith
Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful
Truth, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
"Why Science is Never Settled", Tedd Roberts (Baen.com)
Wisdom from My Internet, Michael Z. Williamson (Patriarchy
Best Graphic Story (785 nominating ballots)
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal, written by G. Willow Wilson,
illustrated by Adrian Alphona and Jake Wyatt,
Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery, written by Kurtis
J. Weibe, art by Roc Upchurch (Image Comics)
Saga Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated
by Fiona Staples (Image Comics))
Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick, written by Matt
Fraction, art by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)
The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate, Carter Reid
(The Zombie Nation)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form (1285 nominating ballots)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Lego Movie
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (938 nominating ballots)
Doctor Who: "Listen"
The Flash: "Pilot"
Game of Thrones: "The Mountain and the Viper"
Grimm: "Once We Were Gods"
Orphan Black: "By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried",
Best Editor, Short Form (870 nominating ballots)
Edmund R. Schubert
Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Best Editor, Long Form (712 nominating ballots)
Best Professional Artist (753 nominating ballots)
Best Semiprozine (660 nominating ballots)
Abyss & Apex, Wendy Delmater editor and publisher
Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine, Andromeda Spaceways
Publishing Association Incorporated, 2014 editors
David Kernot and Sue Bursztynski
Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews
Lightspeed Magazine, edited by John Joseph Adams, Stefan
Rudnicki, Rich Horton, Wendy N. Wagner, and Christie Yant
Strange Horizons, Niall Harrison, editor-in-chief
Best Fanzine (576 nominating ballots)
Black Gate, edited by John O'Neill
Elitist Book Reviews, edited by Steven Diamond
Journey Planet, edited by James Bacon, Christopher J Garcia,
Lynda E. Rucker, Pete Young, Colin Harris, and Helen
The Revenge of Hump Day, edited by Tim Bolgeo
Tangent SF Online, edited by Dave Truesdale
Best Fancast (668 nominating ballots)
Adventures in SF Publishing, Brent Bower
Dungeon Crawlers Radio, Daniel Swenson
Galactic Suburbia Podcast
The Sci Phi Show
Tea and Jeopardy
Best Fan Writer (777 nominating ballots)
Amanda S. Green
Laura J. Mixon Cedar Sanderson
Best Fan Artist (296 nominating ballots)
Brad W. Foster
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (851 nominating
Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy
writer of 2013 or 2014, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo
Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.)
Eric S. Raymond
*Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. --John AdamsTweet
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