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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 10/30/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 18, Whole Number 1882
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
November 12: SOYLENT GREEN (film) and MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! by Harry Harrison (book), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM November 19: WORLD OF PTAVVS by Larry Niven, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM December 17: THE MAN WHO COUNTED by Malba Tahan, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM January 28: "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster and "The Martian Way" by Isaac Asimov (both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM February 25: OUR MAN IN HAVANA by Graham Greene, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM March 24: HARD LANDING by Algis Budrys, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM April 28: LOST HORIZON by James Hilton, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM May 26: E for Effort" by T. L. Sherred and "Earthman, Come Home" by James Blish (both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM Speculative Fiction Lectures (subject to change): November 7: Jennifer Walkup, Finding Your Voice in YA Speculative Fiction, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N Northern New Jersey events are listed at: http://www.sfsnnj.com/news.html
Limitation (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
You can go only so far with digital paleontology since prehistoric animals were nearly all analog. [-mrl]
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for November (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I think younger film fans tend to underrate silent films as being too much trouble to watch. They seem to be of another age made for our great grandparents--people easy to impress with the rudiments of story telling technique. Not so. Last month I wrote about what an impressive film Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL really is and remains. I hope that anyone who had not seen it picked it up on Turner. It is a film that is still very entertaining today. The visual images are really impressive. Many silent films have withstood the passage of time. In November, TCM is running a five- film program of Douglas Fairbanks films. Fairbanks was sort of the Tom Cruise of silent films. He was handsome, charismatic, and very athletic. He also cheated a bit to seem more impressive on the big screen. If he could jump 37 inches high he would have a fence 35 inches high in the film so he could jump it in front of the camera. Maybe Cruise uses the same trick.
I admit, the first two films in the program I have not seen. They are both Westerns made in 1916. But some of his best action films are included. At 10 PM on Thursday, November 19 TCM will show THE MARK OF ZORRO (1920). This was the first of dozens of movies featuring the character El Zorro--the fox. Zorro was created just the previous year in the story "The Curse of Capistrano" which appeared in the pulp "All-Story Weekly". The outlaw Zorro defends the poor and powerless from the tyranny of local government rulers, sort of latter-day Robin Hood who thwarts the authorities at every turn.
At midnight TCM will show THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924). This is a strong follow-up to MARK OF ZORRO. The two are Fairbanks' two best action films. Ahmed, the thief of Bagdad, sees and falls in love with a beautiful princess who is soon to be married to one of three villainous suitors. Each of the suitors and the thief set out to find magical items. The art direction and lush production design are by William Cameron Menzies. There are many special effects scenes that ensue which still have the ability to charm the viewer. (For the sake of comparison to THIEF OF BAGDAD they will also run Alexander Korda's 1940 remake of THIEF OF BAGDAD [Saturday, October 28, 2:15 AM]).
Only a little less respected (by me, anyway) is Fairbanks' THE BLACK PIRATE (1926). Fairbanks plays a man with a vendetta against the pirates who killed his father. Instead of fulfilling his revenge plan he proves himself to be the best pirate of all and becomes the leader of the buccaneers. This film has the famous stunt of Fairbanks sliding down and cutting with his knife a ship sail. [Friday, November 20, 2:45 AM].
Well..., the plots are not really sophisticated. It takes longer to tell a story in silent films. But these are fun films intended for a family audience.
The films scheduled are:
8:00 PM THE GOOD BAD MAN (1916) 9:00 PM THE HALF-BREED (1916) 10:00 PM THE MARK OF ZORRO (1920) 12:00 AM THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924) 2:45 AM THE BLACK PIRATE (1926)And while we are on the subject of marathons honoring a single actor, on Monday, November 23--Boris Karloff's 128th birthday--TCM will run ten Boris Karloff films in a row:
6:00 AM THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932) 7:15 AM THE WALKING DEAD (1936) 8:30 AM WEST OF SHANGHAI (1937) 9:45 AM THE INVISIBLE MENACE (1938) 10:45 AM DEVIL'S ISLAND (1940) 12:00 PM THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) 1:30 PM BEDLAM (1946) 3:00 PM LURED (1947) 4:45 PM FRANKENSTEIN 1970 (1958) 6:15 PM THE VENETIAN AFFAIR (1967)Happy birthday, Boris.
Now tradition says that I pick the best film of the month. My father-in-law would want me to pick his favorite film of all time, LOST HORIZON (1937). Turner has the most complete version I know of. [Friday, November 27, 11:45 PM--just before the 1940 THIEF OF BAGDAD and two films after Tom Hanks' favorite film of all time (I am told): JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963).] I have to go with my father-in-law. LOST HORIZON (1937). [-mrl]
Comments on the Film WAR OF THE WORLDS (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
1. The opening credits being done in stencil emphasize the "war" part of the title. In 1953, everyone would still be very much associating that font with the Army. 2. The opening voice-over seems to claim that Jupiter is nearer to Mars than Earth is ("their nearest world was giant Jupiter"). While this is technically the case when Jupiter and Mars are on one side of the sun, and Earth on the other, in general when one says that one planet is closer to another than a third is, the measurements are between the orbits, not the planets themselves at a specific point in time.
3. The "Grand Tour" of the planets skipped Venus. This is probably because at the time we knew next to nothing about it and even an image of the planet itself showed nothing but a uniformly clouded- covered ball. It at least mentioned Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus, but only to say they were all too cold, which meant they knew more about them than about Venus.
4. The first scene at the "meteor" reminds me of the film ACE IN THE HOLE, with everyone (or almost everyone) trying to figure out how to make money from it.
5. Isn't it convenient that Clayton Forrester brought square dance clothes with him on this camping/fishing trip?
6. Was it unusual at the time for the one Hispanic guy to be the smartest of the three who end up approaching the spaceship? (But also the most clueless, since he attempts to re-assure himself by saying, "Everyone knows that when you wave the white flag, it means you want to be friends.")
7. The Martians knock out the electricity, the phones, and even the wind-up watches, but somehow the cars still work.
8. When we see the bunker it is still only less than a day later the Martians landed--they got those sandbags up very fast!
9. When her uncle is talking to her about how no one has really tried to talk to the Martians, and then suddenly he mentions how he likes Forrester, etc., Sylvia seems completely clueless that he might be planning to try to talk to the Martians.
10. Sylvia and Forrester take shelter in a farmhouse; isn't it awfully coincidental that it is precisely that farmhouse that the Martian ship plows into?
11. After the atomic bomb fails, Forrester says, "We'll take all our instruments and establish a base laboratory in the Rocky Mountains." They must really mean the Sierra Nevada; the Rockies are 800 miles away from Los Angeles at their closest.
12. There is a visual reference to the "Odessa Steps" sequence of BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN during the Los Angeles evacuation sequence (at 1:09:22).
13. We see ads for a variety of things, including one for Russell Stover candies.
14. A lot of other countries are mentioned as being places where ships have landed. The Soviet Union is not one of them. [-ecl]
Hey, this is a film that meant a lot to me. I feel impelled to defend it.
5. Forrester could have easily borrowed some square dance clothing.
8. For the military to build a bunker that fast they would have needed an Army... Oh.
9. She may not have been thinking too clearly.
10. Not a big coincidence. The Martians had sent an invasion fleet. Many people probably had similar experiences.
11. Perhaps the location acceptance criteria involved more than what this one group would have found convenient.
13. Perhaps that is a product placement. Or it could have been an effort at realism. I will say that they had a film marquee for Paramount's SAMSON AND DELIAH and a billboard for Bob Hope whose comedies were made for Paramount.
14. That is hardly surprising. This was the 1950s and most US people were afraid to be less than hostile to the Soviets.
ROTOR DR1 (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: After a deadly virus kills 90% of the human race the world returns to small camps of survivors frequently fighting each other. Kitch, the sixteen-year-old main character, together with a girl his age and an artificially intelligent drone, strike out across country to try to find Kitch's missing father. Making the trip more difficult is the fact that most of the world thinks Kitch's father is to blame for the devastating viral plague. This film is based on, and probably edited from, a web series and crowd-funded by the drone hobby community. ROTOR DR1 is directed by Chad Kapper and written by Steve Moses, Megan Ryberg, Scott Windhauser, and Seth Yergin. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
There is a great deal of controversy these days about the use of drones--unmanned aircraft--the technical descendents of remote controlled aircraft. Films like Andrew Niccol's GOOD KILL look at the downside of remote control warfare with drones. They are something powerful and new, and people are fearful that their capabilities will be used against innocents in warfare and to spy on our own population for government invasion of privacy. In situations where we would not want to risk the lives of our own soldiers we can send in machines while the humans remain safe. There is no battle armor stronger than a few thousand miles of distance. Drones are certainly a useful weapon. In stark contrast to the negative view, ROTOR DR1 is a film made by private drone enthusiasts.
ROTOR DR1 is based on and probably re-edited from a science fiction web series of the same name. Sometime in the near future a deadly plague has killed all people but one in ten. Civilization has fallen apart and scavengers and thieves run wild. The key to power may be the drones. They still fly around the sky like insects under no obvious control.
Kitch (played by Christian Kapper) is sixteen years old and lives by his wits since his father disappeared during the pandemic. When Kitch's father's heirloom watch is stolen from him, Kitch discovers the thief is a girl, Maya (played by Natalie Welch), who is his own age and whom he befriends. He also gets another friend, a drone controlled by artificial intelligence that seems to like Kitch. DR1 becomes for him a sort of an iLassie. The charters come to refer to DR1 as "he" and "him," though thankfully there are no attempts to make DR1 look nearly human like the robots in THE BLACK HOLE.
The film's funding was crowd-sourced from the drone hobbyist community. So it is in a sense an amateur production and the production values are only sufficient. The writing is variable. We hit moments when the writers overestimate the viewer's affection for the drone DR1. Within the workman-like prose there are a few unexpectedly well-written lines. The people we would identify as the "bad guys" have scruples themselves. Their leader finds out that one of his minions slapped a child he was interrogating and angrily responds, "We don't hit kids." You will not find a line like that in a James Bond film. I found the story a little padded at times and other times a little hard to follow. Also a quick check with a few experts could have avoided embarrassing technical mistakes like using the phrase "sciatica around the lips." (I have a hard time imagining that from even the most agile of contortionists.)
Tyler Clark's cinematography does not have a lot of flourishes, but it gets the job done. It is surprising how much this film does with so little resource. I rate ROTOR DR1 a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4162992/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/rotor_dr1/
STEVE JOBS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: The major technical and personal milestones in Steve Jobs' life are woven into what is really a three-act play. The performance experience is intense and unrelenting, though word of mouth says that it is not particularly accurate. One cannot understand Steve Jobs without understanding some of his conflicts. In this film, however, there is little to him but conflict, and that can be somewhat tiresome to watch. Danny Boyle directs a script by Aaron Sorkin based on the book of the same name by Walter Isaacson. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
There is no arguing the fact that Steve Jobs was a creative genius. Slightly less well-known is that he was totally unpleasant at times, and frequently totally reprehensible. This film presents jigsaw pieces to be put together to tell a somewhat incomplete portrait of the man. We see his tactics dealing with competitors, his tactics dealing with the people who worked on his projects, and his tactics dealing with his ex-girlfriend and her daughter by Jobs himself. Just having so much tactics in life does not speak well of his character. You feel that if you knew him he would have his own tactics in dealing with you.
The format of the film is a play in three acts, each act the drama that happens in the half hour or so just before Jobs is to go on stage before a large audience and announce for the first time the release of some new technical marvel that is going to re-shape the market. The idea that all this drama will take place in the three short intervals is a dramatic conceit. You might expect it with a stage play, but in a film it announces that there may be a bit of tampering with reality. Each of this film's three acts take place is what appears to be real-time except for a little bit of flashbacking. The idea that this drama is all taking place in just these few minutes is almost comical to imagine. Since these short intervals of time have to cover so much about the title character, they are performed in a rapid-fire staccato of arguments and ideas. The dialog is colorful, but a little too well-expressed to be believed. Characters are portrayed as so very eloquent for having ready-formed responses for arguments with the fast-thinking Jobs. Dealing with Jobs comes off as having been painful and demanding. One can only feel relief when the 122 minutes with Jobs comes to its end. The 2013 film JOBS, covering the same territory, may not objectively be as good a film, but it is far more pleasant to experience.
The film makes the assumption that the viewer will be interested in some of the technical issues discussed. This may be a mistake since many of the viewers will get lost on issues like the speed of a Pentium chip or why a stylus on a device is a total design failure. Actually, with most electronic tech what the public wants to know is if it works and what it can do. Behind-the-scenes technical struggles are not unique to the electronics industry. And disagreement over technical details does not make good film drama. In general the public attitude is that if the soup tastes good, they do not care what a labor the chef had making it.
Jobs is played as demanding and uncompromising. He is worth billions, but he lets his ex-girlfriend live with their daughter on $385 a month because he can take that privilege. Michael Fassbender gives a pounding performance as the reprehensible Jobs, though he has looks very different from those of Jobs, so that I never lost myself in the character. On the other hand, Kate Winslet is playing the less familiar Joanna Hoffman but she is hard to recognize as being Winslet.
Is the two hours of argument worth sitting through? That depends on the viewer. If you are looking for a more pleasant expose, see Joshua Michael Stern's JOBS. The latter is not a great film, but it makes the history and gossip about Jobs more pleasant and is perhaps more accurate. I rate Danny Boyle's STEVE JOBS a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2080374/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/steve_jobs_2015/
Exit One, Enter Three (CONTINUUM, MINORITY REPORT, LIMITLESS, BLINDSPOT) (television reviews by Dale L. Skran):
One of my favorite SF series, CONTINUUM, just ended its run with a short season. The show did a decent job of wrapping things up for the main characters, and in sticking to a consistent theory of time travel. At the level of lesser characters, or new characters, it is clear that there could have been a full season or even more of development, but the conclusion was not a stinker on the order of LOST. CONTINUUM has not been the perfect series. Sometimes the writing was uneven. Sometimes the acting was not the best. Sometimes the direction was choppy. However, CONTINUUMM introduced a large number of solid SF ideas in the context of an elaborate time war plot replete with timely political speculation. The series included some quite engaging actors and actresses, mainly among the bad guys, who over time mostly realized the limits of terrorism. I'll miss it.
However, from the ashes of CONTINUUM arose three compelling new SF shows. One, MINORITY REPORT, is SF with capital letters, showing a complex vision of 2065. LIMITLESS is SF in a more contemporary key--just over the horizon near-future speculation, but very much SF. BLINDSPOT dances along the edge of SF, with, so far, a few authentic SF ideas stuck in a plot that is part techno-thriller, part missing persons mystery, part conspiracy theory, and full- throttle engaging. All are part of the current explosion of SF on TV. All three are worth checking out.
MINORITY REPORT may have the greatest appeal to fans of written SF. In many ways, MINORITY REPORT resembles a TV version of Asimov's SF crime stories. There is a good bit of background detail showing how things are different in 2065. I won't spoil the fun, but each episode shows a bit more detail of what 2065 is like technologically and socially, and these extrapolations are both plausible and generally interesting. MINORITY REPORT is a true sequel to the movie, following the same pre-cogs as they adapt to life after their cloistered existence as part of the Pre-Crime organization in the movie.
The main character, "Dash" Parker (played by Stark Sands), can see only confusing glimpses of the crime scene, with the result that real detective work is required to establish basics like who the potential victim might be. One of the background ideas is that each of the three pre-cogs in the movie saw something different about each future murder, and it was only working together as a single mind that they were able to get the full picture. Dash is charmingly played by Sands as an innocent who has spent most of his life hooked up in a milk-filled tank experiencing murders. Dash wants to prevent the murders he continues to see from happening, and thus begins our story. Fairly soon he encounters Detective Lara Vega, and after a certain amount of cloak-and-dagger, they team up to secretly use Dash's pre-cog abilities to continue to solve crimes.
Looming in the background are Dash's brother, Arthur, who has used his abilities to see numbers and names associated with murders to make a large amount of money and operate in the criminal underworld, and his older sister Agatha, who proves to be a ruthless manipulator of human lives via her pre-cog abilities. Agatha has seen a future where the three pre-cogs are again hooked up in the milk tank, and somehow Detective Vega is involved.
This is all at least mildly entertaining, but the acting sometimes doesn't gel, and having pre-cogs on your side, even with the limitations presented, makes things a bit too easy. Deus ex pre- cog seems to get our heroes out of too many situations. All in all, MINORITY REPORT turns out to the least interesting of these three new SF outings.
LIMITLESS follows the pattern of being a sequel to the movie of the same name, which is in turn based on the book THE DARK FIELDS. The first episode introduces a new character, Brian Finch (played by Jake McDorman), who like Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) in the movie, is a talented but shiftless looser. Once on NZT he becomes not just the smartest man in the room, but the smartest man in the world. The first episode feels like a remake of the movie, but after a while it starts to move in different directions. Bradley Cooper appears, reprising his role from the movie as Senator Eddie Morra. The movie ends with NZT-enhanced Morra running for Senate, so the TV show appears to take place at most a few years later, with Morra now a Senator.
Morra has some mysterious purpose in providing Finch with NZT, and this purpose requires Finch to work for the FBI. It turns out that the FBI was already aware of the existence of NZT, and had attempted to use it to create a group of super-agents. Alas, this program ran aground on the horrific side effects of NZT use. Morra has secretly invented (or paid for the invention of) a treatment that prevents those side effects. Once applied to Finch, the treatment makes him of great interest to the FBI as a unique subject that does not suffer the side effects of NZT.
The show has now evolved into a near-future FBI procedural, with Finch each week assisting the FBI in catching a major criminal while sometimes helping solve another crime on the side or running secret missions for Morra and his minions. An interesting touch is that to keep Finch under control, the FBI gives him an NZT pill in the morning which lasts for twelve hours, meaning that Finch starts an evening date as the most interesting man in the world and ends it as plain old loser Finch. The NZT time is filmed in bright light and the non-NZT time in muted blues. This structure allows for a lot of interesting character development that didn't fit into the movie.
Of special interest is the show's attempt to put on-screen the thought processes of a super-genius. This is done using a variety of techniques. Sometimes a montage of images Finch is considering, including equations or drawings are presented, gradually merging into a pattern. Another device is to show multiple versions of Finch working different tasks. Often two versions of Finch will argue over how to solve a problem. Sometimes the "smart" Finch will leave video messages for the "normal" Finch. Overall, I find this presentation of high-level problem solving to be excellent.
Another aspect of LIMITLESS is the portrayal of super-intelligence and its limitations. Finch is the smartest man in the world, but if he doesn't know the facts--and sometimes he doesn't, he can come off like a con man. He functions best when the FBI lays out a vast amount of data for him to analyze. He becomes bored easily, and surfs the web looking for challenges to solve. There are some inconsistencies with the movie. In the movie, Morra is able to defeat a gang of men by recalling fighting techniques from boxing matches and TV shows. In the TV show, Finch's attempt results in him getting knocked out by the first punch his opponent throws. Hopefully this will get rationalized in some fashion.
Finch's partner, FBI agent Rebecca Harris (well-played by Jennifer Carpenter), does an excellent job and seems more like a real person than the models often chosen for such roles. Jake McDorman rises to the dual challenge of playing both normal/loser Finch and superhuman Finch. He is fun to watch and quite believable as a man who finds himself caught up in a situation of staggering danger and potential. The shows makes good use of "just over the edge" technology. One episode revolves around the theft of a long-lived genetically modified mouse, for example. Ron Rifkin adds weight to the cast as Dennis Finch, Brian's father. Overall, LIMITLESS is an engaging follow-up to the movie. I find it more entertaining and more plausible than MINORITY REPORT, which by focusing on pre-cog abilities, veers into sheer fantasy.
At last we come to BLINDSPOT, the least SFie of the three. Starring Jamie Alexander (Sif in THOR), BLINDSPOT opens with a bizarre situation--a large bag is found in Times Square. It turns out to contain not a bomb, but a nude woman. Oddly, this woman is completely tattooed over her entire body. Stranger still, she has total amnesia, and appears to have been given a massive dose of a chemical that can erase memories. But one thing is clear in the tattoos--the name of FBI agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton). Weller is called in from the field where he heads the FBI Critical Incident Response Group.
Figuring out this mystery becomes Weller's job #1. It gradually evolves that the tattoos are clues to future crimes, or plots in the making. Further, it is established that "Jane" (from Jane Doe) may not remember who she is, but she does retain a vast array of skills useful in a criminal investigation. She can read and speak obscure dialects of Chinese. She is a top-level hand-to-hand fighter. She is a really great shot under pressure. And she is brave and self-sacrificing. It turns out she has one erased tattoo--that of a Navy SEAL. But there has never been a female SEAL.
This is only one of a never-ending stream of mysteries as the team faces off against increasingly deadly menaces, including a secret US Air Force drone group that is carrying out kill missions inside the US, terrorists building a dirty bomb, and high-level CDC officials who have decided to use the CDC's disease stockpile to kill as many people as possible to protect Mother Earth.
Overall, this is handled well. BLINDSPOT is so fast-paced and dense with plot ideas that thirty minutes into the show you feel like it must be almost over, but usually it is just getting started. Alexander does a great job as "Jane"--part steely cold and part incredibly vulnerable. The tensions on Weller's FBI team are plausible and well acted. The menaces are realistic just-over- the-edge techno-thriller ideas. There is only one "SF" idea--the amnesia-inducing drug--but the entire plot is so speculative and engaging that, rather like THE MENTALIST, BLINDSPOT should appeal to many SF fans. It is also apparent that the person behind the tattoos is not just very much in the center of secret and criminal activities, but a brilliant planner who likes to play elaborate games. Such a character, rather like Red John in THE MENTALIST, becomes an SF idea by themselves.
Hail CONTINUUM. It was a great SF show that has not received the attention it deserves. I highly recommend it for binge watching. But all good things end. Fortunately, there can be new good things. I suggest SF fans should check out MINORITY REPORT, LIMITLESS, and BLINDSPOT.
Time for a little commentary here. It has been often said that STAR TREK was never about the future--it was about the present. The Klingons were the Russians, and so on. This is, of course, true of all SF to some degree. In the 1960s we had shows like THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN that prepared audiences to accept cyborg implants. Today cochlear implants provide hearing to thousands who would otherwise be deaf, and the first cyborg eyes have been approved by the FDA. These implants don't make anyone superhuman right now, but in time they will. However, I predict no one will much care when they do.
Recently there have been a spate of TV shows, including THE MENTALIST, INTELLIGENCE, THE BIG BANG THEORY, SCORPION, LUCY, and now LIMITLESS, that exult in the virtues of superior intelligence and "neurodifference." Many of them have been extremely popular, suggesting that the general public is increasingly ready to accept people of high intelligence in a way that would be hard to predict in the 60s. The future is creeping up on us, and the future of LIMITLESS in particular might already be happening. If you see someone looking at you with eyes that glisten just a bit too much, it will be too late. [-dls]
Corrections to and Comments on the Report on the State of Horror (by David Goldfarb and Philip Chee):
In response to Evelyn's comments on Ellen Datlow's lecture on the state of horror in the 10/23/15 issue of the MT VOID, David Goldfarb sends these corrections:
The magazine title is "Lightspeed" (one word), not "Light Speed".
"Abyss & Apex" is one zine title, not two. [-dg]
And something I (Evelyn) should have mentioned:
Ellen Datlow is a contributing editor for tor.com, so not surprising that she would recommend the magazine highly. [-dg]
And Philip Chee writes:
[Evelyn writes,] "... '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."
In other words this encourages writers to write long serials broken up into installments of 4,999 words or less. Que Dickens. [-pc]
William Goldman, MARATHON MAN and Alfred, Lord Tennyson (letters of comment by Mike Glyer and Peter Trei):
In response to Mark's comments on MARATHON MAN in the 10/23/15 issue of the MT VOID, Mike Glyer writes:
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.
What are the chances the misquotes are both intentional, and meant as an additional revelation about the character of the overbearing prof? [-mg]
Without contacting Goldman--he is still alive--we can only speculate on whether it was intentional or not that the quote is wrong in both places. I suppose it did make the quote marginally more interesting. It certainly raised my curiosity to go back and read the poem again. Somehow a discussion of progress was not what I would have expected from English poetry and there is only a whiff of the social issue in the original poem.
A fear of progress seems strangely timely for our own present. [-mrl]
And Peter Trei writes:
I think Goldman is mixing several things up--including Jethro Tull.
The correct quote from LH-60YA is a riposte to this quote from LH:
'Not in vain the distance beckons, forward forward let us range. Let the Great World spin forever down the ringing grooves of change.'
(which, btw pretty well sums up what I like about SF, though I like to substitute 'future' for 'distance'.)
'Ringing' occurs in that memorable couplet, and could have easily have been linked in Goldman's mind to both Jethro Tull and the 'Locksley Hall--Sixty Years After' quote.
BTW, I think 'Locksley Hall' envisages not just flight, but air freight, and aerial warfare:
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Tennyson's vision predates Kipling's ABC ["Aerial Board of Control"] stories by seventy years. [-pt]
THE MARTIAN (letter of comment by Philip Chee):
In response to Dale Skran's comments on THE MARTIAN in the 10/23/15 issue of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes:
[Dale Skran wrote,] "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."
And India, which currently has an orbiter above Mars.
[Dale Skran wrote,] "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."
As you know Bob, to qualify for a PG-13 certification you can't exceed two F-words. [-pc]
India's current space program doesn't really enter into the plot of THE MARTIAN. I think Dale's point was that extrapolating that the only relevant space program for the plot was the Chinese was reasonable.
Also, one sees Watney *mouth* several more F-words, but since they are not on the soundtrack, I guess they don't count towards the rating. [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
PROFESSOR BORGES: A COURSE ON ENGLISH LITERATURE by Jorge Luis Borges (edited by Martin Arias and Martin Hadis; translated by Katherine Silver) (ISBN 978-0-8112-2274-7) is the transcription of the lectures that Borges gave that formed this course at the University of Buenos Aires in 1966.
To start with, it is worth reading the introduction ("About This Book"), because it talks about some of the difficulties in transcribing the lectures from tape. In addition to Borges quoting in multiple languages, and with a slight speech impediment, the transcriber's lack of knowledge in the field led to bizarre transcriptions. (I am reminded of the person taking notes at a diversity meeting I attended who wrote about "the 80L"; we eventually figured out that is how she heard "ADL"!)
The biggest problem that remains, though, is that although the text mentions a bibliography and an appendix, neither is present in this edition. Whether they were in the hardback and left out of the paperback, or were never included to start with, I have no idea. (I have written the publisher in the hopes of obtaining them if they were issued as an errata sheet, but I don't hold out much hope.) The only other error of note is the persistent use of the title "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" when the correct title is "The Picture of Dorian Gray".
Borges also says that "all those who have made a film based on  have made a mistake; they used the same actor to play Jekyll and Hyde." This was almost but not quite true at the time of his lecture ; in 1953, stuntman Eddie Parker did most of the Edward Hyde scenes in an Edward Hyde mask because at 66, Boris Karloff was too old to do the athletic work involved in Hyde's character. However, Parker was uncredited in the role. After Borges's lecture, in 1971, DOCTOR JEKYLL Y EL HOMBRE LOBO starred Jack Taylor and Paul Naschy in the two roles. And in 1972, DOCTOR JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE, not surprisingly, used two different actors (Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick).
You can tell what parts of English literature Borges is most interested in--he spends seven of the twenty-five lectures on Anglo-Saxon literature, while most English literature overview courses I have seen spend only one or two lectures out of considerably more than twenty-five on that period. He spends little time on Shakespeare (maybe the iambic pentameter of the language does not translate well into Spanish, and hence much of Shakespeare's skill is lost on someone reading him in translation. And by "English literature" he means the literature of Great Britain (he includes Scotland as well as England), not the broader range of all literature written in the English language (though he does frequently mention Walt Whitman).
Borges translates the last word of BEOWULF ("lofgeornost") as "most eager for praise." Previously (as the title of Fred Lerner's excellent fanzine) I have seen this translated as "worthy of praise"--one wonders if we can ever really know for sure which is more accurate.
Borges said in Class 4, "It was said of one of the Norwegian kings, Olaf, that he was so agile he could jump from oar to oar as he sailed the ship." So could Kirk Douglas.
I have written several times about the linguistic status of colors, so I naturally found it fascinating when Borges claimed that Norse historians did not have (or at any rate, did not use) any words for color other than "Blaland" ("Blueland") and "solr" ("yellowed", referring to fallowed fears and seas). But even "Bla"/"Blue" seems problematic, since it is their name for Africa, so "Bla" may also mean "black". Though the Norse mention snow, blood, and dields, they do not call these white, red, or green. Borges compares this with the Homeric Greeks, whom he also found lacking in a color sense, and contrasts this with the Celts, whose poetry from the same period as the Norse abounds in descriptions of color and color terms.
In Class 14, Borges describes how Samuel Taylor Coleridge would drop in on his friends and "at first it was assumed that the visits would last a week, then they lasted a month, and in some cases years. And Coleridge accepted this hospitality, not with ingratitude, but with a kind of absentmindedness, because he was the most absentminded of men." This sounds a lot like the lifestyle of the mathematician Paul Erdos.
He also relates (in a slight digression) how his friend Macedonio Fernandez would leave manuscripts behind whenever he moved (as did Coleridge) and when asked whether he minded losing what he wrote, replied, "What, do you think we are so rich, that we have something to lose? What I thought up once, I'll think up again, so I lose nothing." Borges does not comment on the irony of this, that Coleridge is best known for losing the thought for his poem "Kublai Khan" and not being able to regain it.
Though the editors did their best to footnote references that the average reader (and particularly the Anglophone reader) might not understand, a few slipped through. Borges says, "Coleridge was born in 1772, two years after Wordsworth, who was, as you know, born in 1770, which is easy to remember." This is not footnoted, and it took a bit of searching to discover what Borges *may* have been referring to: the Falklands Crisis of 1770. One presumes that this date is one that the Argentines taking the course would recognize even though we do not.
[I really dislike the cover design for this book, with its fluorescent horizontal yellow bars across the front and back in an imitation of the highlighting one often finds in books. I realize that there is a philosophical divide between those who believe highlighting, underlining, and so on are fine, and those who are appalled by it. I am in the latter camp, with the proviso that minimal lightly penciled underlining and notations are sometimes permissible. But I have seen books in which more than 50% of each page was highlighted and I cannot understand how that can serve any purpose.] [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: The circumstances of human society are too complicated to be submitted to the rigor of mathematical calculation. --Marquis De CustineTweet
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