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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 10/23/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 17, Whole Number 1881
Table of Contents
Strange Objects (links from Gregory Frederick):
Gregory Frederick sent us this rather unsettling discovery:
From mnn.com: http://tinyurl.com/void-alien-hype-1
From businessinsider.com: http://tinyurl.com/void-alien-hype-2
Don't Believe Everything You Read (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I was reading the novel MARATHON MAN by novelist and screenwriter William Goldman. It is a fairly good thriller and I have liked the film for a long time. I did not expect that after seeing the film there were any mysteries in the story with which I was not already familiar. Well, I was wrong, but it is not a mystery in the plot of the novel. The scene takes place between the characters played by Dustin Hoffman and Fritz Weaver. Hoffman is new graduate student in an eccentric but admired history professor's seminar. The novel says:
"There is a shortage of natural resources worldwide," [Professor Biesenthal] went on. "There is a shortage of breathable air. There is even, alas, a shortage of adequate claret. But there is no shortage of historians. We grind you out like link sausages, and you are every bit as bright. Well, I say, enough! I say, let you find harmless employment elsewhere. Use your backs. Shovel your way through life. The universities have processed you for financial purposes, and so long as you could afford to pay tuition, they could afford to pay me. Progress they called it: manufacturing doctorates was progress. Well, I say, 'Halt the ringing cry of progress'--that is a quote--who said it? Come, come, who said it?" The Hoffman character knows the answer, but does not respond.
The answer (in the Dell paperback on page 40) is Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It is claimed it comes from "Locksley Hall Sixty Years After." That peaked my curiosity. I have not read "Locksley Hall" and "Locksley Hall Sixty Years After" since I was a junior in high school. At that time I had a really hard time understanding what I was reading. I did know it was a complaint about progress. It was similar to the complaint about progress that Cedric Hardwick (as Theotocopulos) makes in the film THINGS TO COME. I was curious what his arguments were. But here in MARATHON MAN it claimed Tennyson was making a similar complaint. I thought it would be a good time to go back and reread the Tennyson. I thought the poem sounded like it might have had a science fictional theme looking into the future with a tone of chronophobia--fear of what the future might be.
I went back and read the poems. There is a little prediction in them. Really the poems are about the poet and his relationship with a woman he calls "Amy" whom the poet loved and lost to another man. He turned against Amy vindictively. His anger took in a wide swath including a small snatch about the misuse of the forward push of mankind. Specifically one complaint is pilots will be talking to each other in the clouds, filling the clouds with words. Still I found a lot hidden by poetic rhetoric. Actually Tennyson does not talk about the ringing cry of anything. What he says is "Let us hush this cry of 'Forward' till ten thousand years have gone."
But the style sounded strangely different from how it struck me in the film. Was I remembering it wrongly? I went to the IMDB to get the precise film quote. It is quite different. This was how William Goldman rewrote his own words for the screen for the professor's acid comments:
"Well, you four have the dubious honor of having been picked from over two hundred applicants for this seminar. Well, let me just say this. There's a shortage of natural resources. There's a shortage of breathable air, there's even a shortage of adequate claret. But there is no shortage of historians. We grind you out like link sausages. That's called progress. Manufacturing doctorates is called progress. Well, I say, "Let us hush this cry of progress until ten thousand years have passed." That's a quote. Who said that? Come on, who said that? Well, somebody must know the answer." None of the students answer, but Hoffman writes on his notebook cover "Tennyson." The professor says, "Tennyson! Alfred, Lord Tennyson. My God, but you can't compete on a doctoral level and not know "Locksley Hall" and "Locksley Hall 60 Years Later! I hope you all flunk. Dismissed."
Now I do not care so much about revisions in the dialog, but the quote is quite different here and nearly equally inaccurate as a quote from the poems. Neither the film nor the book seem to get the quote right. I guess you just cannot trust Hollywood. At least the film is a little closer to the actual quote.
This does not strike me as anything that could be an unintentional error. Both times it is William Goldman giving us purported quotes from the Locksley Hall poems and both times he gets it wrong. The lines are just not there. I wonder if Goldman had even read the poems.
Oh, I should note the phrase "Halt the ringing cry of progress" really does appear elsewhere, but the artist is not Alfred, Lord Tennyson by a long shot. It was Jethro Tull. It is the first line of Tull's song "Apocalypse." Goldman is famous for the quote that in Hollywood nobody knows anything. Well, at least he has shown (twice) that Goldman does not know how Tennyson.
The State of Horror (lecture report by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Ellen Datlow spoke at the Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library on October 3 on "The State of Horror". Her talk was hosted by the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers Society, so was targeted primarily towards writers.
Datlow said this was a "Golden Age of short horror fiction." However, she has problems with supernatural horror novels, because it is hard for her to sustain disbelief for and entire novel
She talked a little about the process for the year's best horror volume she has been editing for many years. She has a reader for the magazines and anthologies that usually have no horror, and also those anthologies with no recognizable names. In terms of both her reading and writers' submissions, she emphasized that a magazine that prints horror stories does not necessarily have a title that indicates horror. As places to submit (and presumably also to read, she recommended "Black Static" (the sister magazine of "Interzone"), "Nightmare", "Light Speed", "The Dark", "F&SF", and tor.com. She noted that the latter pays very well: 25 cents a word for under 5,000 words, 15 cents a word for 5,000 to 10,000 words, and ten cents a word for anything longer.
Other advice to writers included not to contribute to an anthology for free, either explicitly (thinking that the exposure would be good), or to " charity anthologies" (which she said are good in theory, but bad in practice--there is rarely any money left after production costs to give to the charity). Another trap is a "royalties only" payment on a small press publication--there are never any royalties.
She also said to avoid anthologies edited or published by people who want to publish their own work; anthologies should not have stories by their editors or publishers. And writers should not do simultaneous submissions, but they should pull a story from one market after a reasonable amount of time if there is no response, and submit it elsewhere.
Datlow was asked about the distinction between dark fantasy and horror. She said that to her, horror is nihilistic, and does not have a happy ending; there must be a sense of loss or at least neutrality. Because she is primarily a horror editor, she said that she tends to forget or not notice anything except horror, but she said that Richard Kadrey's "Sandman Slim" novels are dark fantasy. [I suggested that Ray Bradbury's SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES is dark fantasy, while Lovecraft's "Cthulhu Mythos" is horror.]
There are no particular trends in word counts (although the fact that people will read longer works on-line means novellas still have a place in fiction).
Asking about cliches she never wants to see again, Datlow said she hates the "couple goes to a house and get involved in something horrible." It is also a trope, however, so she emphasized her complaint was when that was *all* there was to a story. In particular, she noted that Kim Newman handled it very well in AN ENGLISH GHOST STORY. She is also tried of the magical or superhuman serial killer--having a serial killer is enough on its own. Zombies are a trope, not a cliche; ten years ago she hated them, but there is interesting zombie stuff is being published today. The cliche is when it is just a zombie story with people trying to escape.
She singled out Benjamin Percy's RED MOON as being just a political novel with werewolves; she loathed it, because the story should come first.
Datlow said that science fiction has gone into niche markets because there are so many distinct types. The best on-line markets for writers are "Shimmer", "Abyss", "Apex", "Strange Horizons", and "Clarkesworld". For reviews, the main sources are "Locus", all the print magazines, and "Strange Horizons". There is also a Twitter account, @SFEditorsPicks.
I asked about translations into (and out of) English. Datlow said this is an exciting area, and is happening, but commissioning translations is risky because you don't know the story (unless you happen to read that language).
(I had to leave a little early, but the rest seemed to be more writer-specific.)
CRIMSON PEAK (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: The daughter of a wealthy man finds love with a handsome baronet and has little idea where this will lead her. Guillamo del Toro gives us a creepy ghost story with a color palette doused in greens, drenched in saturated reds, and set in the world of 19th century literary fiction. It is beautiful to watch until it jumps off the rails and goes over the top. Numerous experiments in visual and writing style are obvious throughout the film. The IMDB calls the resulting film a Drama/Fantasy/Horror/Mystery/Romance/Thriller. That about covers it. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
I do not happen to care for Guillermo del Toro's films based on comic books. But since his film CRONOS his horror films have never been less than visually fascinating and generally fairly creepy tales. Often we find the supernatural in his films, but it is not the point of the story. The viewer comes to the film for the weird elements, but it is the good story about people that captures the viewer. Del Toro is probably the best horror director in North America, turning out fresh new ideas in every (horror) film. Del Toro directs, but he also co-authored the story with Matthew Robbins, who has worked on scripts going as far back as SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), and DRAGONSLAYER (1981). Here the writers tell a romance story with echoes of Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, and Emily Brontë.
Edith Cushing (played by Mia Wasikowska) is a sort of early 20th century proto-feminist who ignores the interest of a longtime male friend and has a severe distaste for Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a business associate of her father whom she has never actually met. When she does finally meet him she finds her aversion is totally unrequited. The baronet has been totally charmed by Edith and Edith soon is charmed by Thomas. Edith's father has very low regard for Thomas and attempts to buy him off to no avail. Thomas's sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) is equally unhappy with the match and lets her feelings be known, though she does come to accept the couple. Eventually the couple marry, leave Buffalo, and go with Lucille to live alone together in Allerdale Hall, the Sharpe family's dank mansion in the lake country of England. Edith has been told previously by her mother's ghost-- yes, she has been visited years ago by her mother's ghost--to beware Crimson Peak. But her mother had made no mention of Allerdale Hall. Edith is shocked to learn that Allerdale Hall rests on a hill known as Crimson Peak. What is crimson about the hill? It is made mostly of bright red clay. When the clay mixes with groundwater the result is what looks like blood coming oozing from the wounded hill.
There is a lot that is blood red in this film. Much of it comes from the veins of the characters. It is clear that bright red was some decorator's favorite color in Allerdale. We see metric tons of things bright red around Allerdale Hall. There are twelve-foot diameter tubs of blood-red mud in the lower levels. If you do not watch the garden the earth under it will bleed gallons of blood-mud from the turned earth. This would be a charming place for a picnic. You just know that some time soon the ground will not be the only source of blood-red. Some time before at Allerdale the second-favorite decorating color must be green. The place must look really weird through cellophane 3D glasses.
Besides playing with the color, del Toro does some remarkable things with sound. Invisible phantoms seem to fly overhead. At one point a dog is heard to bark, but alternating barks come from the left and the right of the theater. I cannot promise that these effects will be heard at every theater, but they were quite impressive where I saw the film.
I have one major complaint about the film. Once people get into real trouble they seem to be able to survive injuries that would have reduced Jason Bourne to smeary goo. It is just my opinion, but I think that once someone in the film is wounded to a degree that is mortal, they should have the decency to say "uhhhh!," lie down, and not move any more under their own power. We have about 7.3 billion living people in the world and once someone is sufficiently killed they should move over to the ranks of the dead. Del Toro does some interesting things with this film, but they do not all work. I give CRIMSON PEAK a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2554274/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/crimson_peak/
BRIDGE OF SPIES (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: BRIDGE OF SPIES is a Cold War thriller based on fact. Tom Hanks plays a New York insurance lawyer who defends a Soviet spy and then negotiates the exchange of the spy for U-2 pilot Gary Powers. Steven Spielberg directs a script provided by the Coen Brothers (and Matt Charman). This is a truly adult thriller. Its thrills come not from the barrel of a gun or master martial artists jumping from building to building. Instead it is about a plain lawyer doing his job and somewhat more than his job. In the process he changes history. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
Now here is a film directed by Steven Spielberg, written by the Coen Brothers (and Matt Charman), and starring Tom Hanks. Each of them is at the top of his field. That usually is a recipe for a disaster. Even if a producer gets the best people it does not mean they work well together. Each will have his own instincts. I cannot say that harmed this film though there certainly were moments that were very Spielberg and moments in the dialog that were noticeably Coen Brothers.
Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is a Soviet spy operating in New York City in 1957. When he is captured and arrangements are made to put him on trial it seems the whole United States is pulling for Abel to be executed. After a long list of potential defense lawyers is considered, insurance lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks), who had a small part in the prosecution of the Nurnberg trials is chosen to defend Abel. With the country thirsting for Abel's blood, Donovan manages to avoid a death sentence. When U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers is shot down over Russia, Donovan must go to East Berlin to see if he can broker an exchange of prisoners, Powers for Abel. Donovan depends on his rare talent for making the person he is negotiating with want what he wants.
We do feel some Spielberg moments. The film begins with a lush image of the streets of New York City as they were in 1957. They make a telling comparison to the not-so-lush streets of East Berlin in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was being built. Still, the building of the wall is one more historical event like the Fall of Shanghai, the Battle for Iwo Jima. the Munich Olympic Massacre, and the D-Day Landing that Spielberg has re-created in iconic images for his viewer. The question of whether the Constitution grants rights to the country's enemies is as timely as Guantanamo. There is some of the feel of SCHINDLER'S LIST in showing soldiers' cruelty to civilians. There is what may be one too many sweet bits in the last few scenes of the film, but Spielberg likes to play on the emotions. Donovan has some very strong feelings about justice, the law, and the United States Constitution, which also springs from Spielberg
The dialog in the film has touches of subtle prose supplied by Joel and Ethan Coen that leave the viewer something to think about. There are arguments such as, is a runaway car hitting five motorcycles one accident or is it five?
Tom Hanks is a very generous actor, willingly giving up viewer attention to other actors when they share scenes with him and have something to show. That is actually true through much of BRIDGE OF SPIES. Rudolf Abel is played by Mark Rylance, best known as Cromwell of WOLF HALL. He plays the Russian spy so impassively that he becomes a riddle to the viewer, so ironically that he steals every nearly scene he is in. Amy Ryan of GONE BABY GONE plays Donovan's wife, who in a thankless role must wheedle her husband to return home when she thinks he is fishing in Scotland. Alan Alda also has a small role, but most of the other faces are unfamiliar.
In this story based on fact, we get to know this insurance lawyer, uncertain of his own abilities, as he fights the bureaucracies of three countries, including his own, to do what the governments of the countries cannot do for themselves. Once again in a Spielberg film the common man--or near-common man--triumphs. I rate BRIDGE OF SPIES a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10. This is one of the best films of the year.
Note: I am informed by my wife that the patent number we see on a razor blade is really for a patent on a device for removing railroad ties.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3682448/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bridge_of_spies/
BEASTS OF NO NATION (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Agu, a boy of about thirteen in an unnamed African country at war, is caught between battling armies and forced to take on the duties and responsibilities of an adult soldier. He is made to see nightmare happenings and to kill under orders. Cary Joji Fukunaga adapted, filmed, and directed Uzodinma Iweala's novel following the horrendous life of children made into killers. He is forced to become a weapon for people whom he does not understand. This is a disturbing film that you will not forget soon as much as you may want to. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Warning: Mild plot spoilers
Wikipedia estimates that there are 300,000 child soldiers worldwide and perhaps 120,000 of them are in Africa. Africa is where the number of child soldiers is growing fastest. BEASTS OF NO NATION is what appears to be a realistic look at what life is like for one boy forced to fight in a civil war.
Agu (played by Abraham Attah) is about thirteen years old and living in an African country torn by a civil war with several different factions fighting each other. His life had been fairly comfortable--more so after the war closed the schools--until his small village became a battleground for two warring factions each of whom see being neutral as one more flavor of being the enemy. In the chaos his family is split up. He and his brother are on their own trying to survive and to rendezvous with their mother. The brother does not live to get very far and Agu is left to shift for himself.
Agu is indoctrinated with drugs and strange mystical ceremonies. To get him to fight when he sees the enemy he is told that "these are the ones who killed your father." He is taught how to kill with a machete and forced by the Commandant (Idris Elba) to actually do it. Unable to resist the mind control of his captors, he consoles himself that at least in killing he is doing the right thing. Agu, robbed of his childhood, is forced to do as much and perhaps more than an adult soldier would have to.
The film is structured, at least superficially, like Steven Spielberg's EMPIRE OF THE SUN. The main character starts with a pleasant lifestyle but goes to having war rip his family apart. The fall of Agu's village is much like a small-scale version of Spielberg's Fall of Shanghai. Each boy is on his own and learns to live in a world alien to what he is used to. He makes a different set of friends and acquires mentors who are less than totally savory just as in EMPIRE. However, it was Spielberg's style, as we might expect, to have his main character triumph over the situation, but Agu never finds much to feel very positive about. And that is the more realistic storytelling. The boy in each film ages very quickly during wartime. The best of the writing in BEASTS OF NO NATION shows up near the end of the film when the commandant tells his men about the alternatives to the combative life style he has chosen.
BEASTS OF NO NATION is largely in English or subtitled for the unnamed language of the unknown African country where the story is set. I would rate this film a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1365050/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/beasts_of_no_nation/
THE MARTIAN (book and film review by Dale L. Skran):
Ridley Scott's movie THE MARTIAN is lighting up our theaters, to the accompaniment of great expectations from space advocates and NASA employees. The movie is good, the effects are excellent, the story well-conceived and well-directed, and you really ought to go see it. Having said all that, I'm moving into somewhat picky and subtle spoiler territory, so you may wish to press the button on your ejection seat.
THE MARTIAN is really a good adaptation of the book with the same name by Andy Weir. All of the main plot points are present. Many of the good lines from the book are present. The main characters from the book are seen on-screen. However, and perhaps inevitably, significant events in the book do not appear on the screen. As a result, the movie seems more like a Cliff's Notes of the book than anything else. Also, a lot of the scientific detail in the book does not make it to the screen. In some cases this is mandatory to tell the story without boring the audience (like waiting twelve minutes for every message from Earth), but in others it feels like a different approach to the film might have communicated Mark Watney's internal mental states better. For an example of what might be done, check out the portrayal of the thinking of a super- humanly smart character in the new TV show LIMITLESS.
Many space advocates have waited with bated breath for THE MARTIAN, hoping to somehow use it as a springboard to press forward new plans for going to Mars. I don't think this is likely to happen for several reasons. One is that THE MARTIAN shows NASA in a realistic but somewhat negative fashion. A NASA manager is fired for disobeying an order as he proceeds to set in motion the events that ultimately bring Watney home. NASA is either very tight on money or has not planned very well, leading to a considerable shortage of rockets. Another is that THE MARTIAN puts a relentless focus on the dangers of living on Mars, and in space in general. Unlike GRAVITY, which may be some kind of wish-fulfillment dream after a certain point, THE MARTIAN follows "real" events, but those events are only marginally less scary than the ones in GRAVITY. Finally, the NASA of THE MARTIAN seems far removed from the real NASA. The Mars program consists of five multi-year trips to Mars, all using the same immense vehicle. The Hermes is even larger and more capable than the proposed Nautilus X, and the Nautilus X greatly exceeds any real NASA plan for going to Mars. In fact, the NASA of THE MARTIAN seems to have implemented something more along the lines of an Aldrin Cycler, a space station that moves routinely from Earth to Mars and back, over and over again. I find this sort of Mars plan very sensible, but it would cost quite a bit, and it is quite unlikely NASA will undertake it.
At least one reviewer has complained that the movie is not international enough, and that commercial space is ignored. THE MARTIAN takes place in some future where Russia and Europe are not involved in going to Mars, but China has an active space program. One can criticize this, but it is a perfectly reasonable extrapolation by Weir, and the movie handles it well.
It is certainly true that companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are not visible, but this seems like a good decision by Weir. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is now dated by the use of specific company names like Pan Am, and the same could occur with any current space company. On the other hand, the current "flagships" of NASA beyond Earth orbit exploration--SLS and Orion--are nowhere to be seen. I think this is a good thing as well. Any usage of existing launch vehicles will just date the film and look odd later. The movie does a good job of showing a variety of plausible-looking rockets that are not stock footage. I thought the final rocket launching the Ares IV mission was well envisioned. It might be a Delta IVH with extra side boosters. It might be a Falcon Heavy with extra side boosters. It might even be a future SpaceX Mars Colonial Transport (MCT) or an enhanced ULA Vulcan or the new Blue Origin "big rocket." But it looks like some kind of future heavy lift vehicle, and it is obviously not an SLS.
So maybe the commercial companies are here--just hiding in the background unmentioned. In fact, the most plausible way that THE MARTIAN with its titanic interplanetary Hermes might come about is if the SLS were canceled and replaced with a large number of Falcon Heavy and Vulcan launches. On the other hand maybe the Hermes was built by SLS launches, and then the crews are launched commercially. In any case, the movie handles these aspects very well by avoiding excessive detail.
There are a few structural changes from the book. The book starts with Watney lying wounded and covered in sand, all alone on Mars. Later there are recapitulations about how this came to happen. The movie opens with all the astronauts on Mars, and shows the sandstorm that forces them off-planet and blows Watney away. The captain's "Plan B" if the cargo ship cannot dock with the Hermes as it plunges toward Earth is excised, perhaps because discussion of cannibalism would really dampen the mood. The actual final rescue scene is somewhat different, more exciting, and more improbable than in the book. The movie also adds a nice coda showing the various astronauts after their return to Earth, including Watney. The final scene of Watney delivering a lecture on survival in space to a rather large class of future astronauts is in many ways the most hopeful thing in THE MARTIAN, with its hint that at long last the United States government is finally providing the funds needed to really explore space. Finally, although the F-word is used twice by Watney, his often salty language in the novel has been cleaned up for the most part.
I have two nitty complaints about the movie. Watney is portrayed as a mechanical genius who can fix or build anything even though he is a botanist. This is explained well in the book (Watney is cross-trained in both botany and mechanical engineering, and as result has the perfect knowledge base for Martian survival) but the few sentences it would take to make it more realistic do not appear in the movie. My other nitty complaint is that the movie makes it seem like JPL is where all the important work at NASA goes on, and where all the smart folks reside. Of course, it is always possible that in some future world JPL has greatly expanded relative to Johnson and Marshall, but we should at least recognize that in the real world JPL would probably not build the resupply cargo ships.
Overall, I'm rating THE MARTIAN a solid +2 on the -4 to +4 scale. There is no violence and no sex. There is, however, a large amount of peril, and a certain amount of salty language. I'd be happy to let any kid over five see it--they hear worse language every day on the playground. I may be a victim of excessive expectations here, but INTERSTELLER blew me away. The EDGE OF TOMORROW surprised me. THE MARTIAN is just a damn fine movie. [-dls]
The Wilhelm Gostloff (letters of comment by Dale L. Skran and John Purcell):
In response to Mark's comments on the Wilhelm Gostloff in the 10/16/15 issue of the MT VOID, Dale Skran writes:
It seems to me that you missed the most obvious reason why the sinking of Wilhelm Gostloff has received little attention--after WWII there was very little sympathy for the Germans or their allies. In the context of the untold millions the Germans killed, it is hard to get worked up about another 9,000, at least some of whom were probably fleeing because they knew they would be executed as war criminals if caught by the Russians.
Of course, this does not mean that the Russians ought to have sunk the ship, just that it is understandable that the event has received little attention. [-dls]
Perhaps. But remember they were more than half children, German or not. I think that would bother a lot of people if they had been told about the sinking. People do not like to hear about any children being killed. They were just not told about it for political reasons.
Don't forget that this all happened more than 70 years ago. There has been plenty of time to tell people about what happened after the shock of war had worn off. [-mrl]
And John Purcell writes:
I believe I once read about the Wilhelm Gustloff tragedy in one of my undergraduate classes on Soviet Military History (Russian Studies was my minor at Iowa State University). An incredible loss of life, to be sure. I am glad some recognition has been given to the site of its sinking--as a protected war-grave--by the German government, but I still wonder how much of the history of Operation Hannibal has been made known to the German people. Nowadays there is probably a fair amount of information to be found; still, as mentioned in the article you shared, as World War II was ending so badly for Germany, it is not surprising that the knowledge of such a tragedy would be kept from the German people. If the citizens had known about this, that probably would have completely demoralized the German forces and the nation's people. A fascinating article, Mark. Thank you for sharing it. [-jp]
THE WORLD WITHOUT US (letters of comment by Gregory Benford and John Purcell):
In response to Evelyn's comments on THE WORLD WITHOUT US in the 10/16/15 issue of the MT VOID, Gregory Benford writes:
GOOD REVIEW: i.e., told me much without dwelling on the morose implications. Stewart's EARTH ABIDES was a more uplifting work, showing that fiction can capture moods and convey meaning better than straight nonfiction, methinks.
Small things will abide--famously, toilets. The WIPP waste facility I worked on evaluating (recounted in DEEP TIME) will maintain security for 1000s years, but the 10,000 Year Clock will, too-- unless vandalized before the imagined human demise.
In space, plenty of durability. [-gb]
And John Purcell writes:
The television mini-series LIFE AFTER PEOPLE was well-produced, and maintained my interest level. The computer-generated graphics definitely helped. Now I may have to track down Weisman's book. *sigh* Another one for the To Be Read shelf. I think I'm going to need another shelf. Heck, I may need another wall! [-jp]
Church Schism, ISS and Worldcon, and THE MARTIAN (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to various comments in the 10/16/15 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
Good morning, Mark and Evelyn. I hope this Sunday morning finds you hale and hearty, awake and full of coffee, ready to tackle the day. My Sunday will be a busy one, so it's best to start things off with a loc or three. Your fine weekly electronic newsletter is a good place to begin.
That sure is a lot of -isms you mentioned. I see there was nothing about Mondayism, but that's probably because everybody hates Mondayism. Very cool videos of Astronaut Kjell Lindgren's Sasquan contributions. How scientifictional! Dear old Hugo Gernsbach would have been proud. We certainly live in a stfnal world when something like this can be done. Is it time to promote for a potential Worldcon in orbit? I can hear the slogan now: "L-5 in '75!" Note that the first two digits are left off to buy the bid committee time. Then again, Minneapolis still holds bidding parties for 1973, so it seems time is not an issue. Be that as it may, I think it's danged awesome that NASA let Lindgren participate in Sasquan this way. Very cool.
I just recently finished reading THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir, and will probably see the movie next weekend (payday is in two days) and compare the two. From what I have been hearing--scientific accuracy notwithstanding--the movie is very faithful to the novel, which is a rarity in Hollywood these days. I am sure it will be enjoyable.
Many thanks, and keep them coming. [-jp]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I was reading SELECTED POLITICAL SPEECHES by Cicero (ISBN 978-0-14- 044214-4) and have concluded that anyone who thinks political speeches today are inflammatory has not read Cicero's speeches against Lucius Sergius Catalina. From the second oration:
"At length, O Romans, we have dismissed from the city, or driven out, or, when he was departing of his own accord, we have pursued with words, Lucius Catiline, mad with audacity, breathing wickedness, impiously planning mischief to his country, threatening fire and sword to you and to this city."
"For what evil or wickedness can be devised or imagined which he did not conceive? What prisoner, what gladiator, what thief; what assassin, what parricide, what forger of wills, what cheat, what debauchee, what spendthrift, what adulterer, what abandoned woman, what corrupter of youth, what profligate, what scoundrel can be found in all Italy, who does not avow that he has been on terms of intimacy with Catiline? What murder has been committed for years without him? What nefarious act of infamy that has not been done by him. But in what other man were there ever so many allurements for youth as in him, who both indulged in infamous love for others, and encouraged their infamous affections for himself, promising to some enjoyment of their lust, to others the death of their parents, and not only instigating them to iniquity, but even assisting them in it."
Doesn't it make you happy that you live in a time when the candidates spew their venom only on illegal immigrants and television reporters? (Then again, maybe Cicero attacked his opponents because he didn't have illegal immigrants and television reporters to pick on.)
The fourth oration begins with a discussion of the death penalty. (I will note that the condemned are not guilty of murder, but of conspiracy to commit treason and mayhem.) Decimus Silanus, apparently, feels that the Cataline conspirators "should not for a single moment be permitted to live and enjoy the air we all breathe." Gaius Caesar (a.k.a. Julius Caesar), on the other hand, feels that death was created by the gods "not as a punishment at all, but as an inevitable natural happening, or a relief from toil and trouble." However, imprisonment was clearly designed as a punishment for "atrocious" crimes. Caesar argues that life imprisonment is a greater punishment than death. "It was to scare criminals here on earth that men of ancient times held that punishments for evil-doers are paralleled by similar penalties which they will continue to suffer after they are dead; because our ancestors realized, evidently, that if the terror of those posthumous sanctions were removed, the threat of death itself would hold no fears any longer."
Cicero sides with Silanus, observing that they would have to build prisons and pay people to guard these man and even then it seems likely they would somehow contrive to escape. The argument that the Sempronian Law forbids the death penalty against Roman citizens when the Assembly has not voted it he dismisses in an all-too- familiar fashion: he claims that Caesar (and others) "must also know that a man who is a public enemy cannot possibly be regarded as a citizen at all." How often throughout history have people been stripped of their rights and their lives by the state deciding that they are public enemies and hence not "real" citizens after all? How often does one nation portray its enemies as "sub- humans", "beasts", or "animals"? (And it clearly continues even into science fictional futures, with the ironically named Caesar in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES being challenged by an ape opponent that he must not kill Koba with the law "Ape not kill ape" and responding "Koba not ape" right before killing him.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: People don't believe what you tell them. They rarely believe what you show them. They often believe what their friends tell them. They always believe what they tell themselves. --Seth GodinTweet
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