MT VOID 12/18/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 25, Whole Number 1889

MT VOID 12/18/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 25, Whole Number 1889

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 12/18/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 25, Whole Number 1889

Table of Contents

      Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Starvo? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I was listening to a podcast about SPECTRE. One of their "experts" referred to the villain a Ernst Starvo Blofeld. Starvo? It sounds like a cross between a superhero and a hunger artist. [-mrl]

Online Film Critics Society Annual Movie Awards:

Best Picture: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Best Animated Feature: INSIDE OUT Best Film Not in the English Language: THE ASSASSIN (Taiwan)
Best Documentary: THE LOOK OF SILENCE
Best Director: George Miller (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD)
Best Actor: Michael Fassbender (STEVE JOBS)
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (CAROL)
Best Supporting Actor: Oscar Isaac (EX MACHINA)
Best Supporting Actress: Rooney Mara (CAROL)
Best Original Screenplay: SPOTLIGHT (Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy)
Best Adapted Screenplay: CAROL (Phyllis Nagy)
Best Editing: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Margaret Sixel)
Best Cinematography: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (John Seale)

Founded in 1997, the Online Film Critics Society ( is the largest and oldest Internet-based film journalism organization. Over 250 members from 22 countries voted in this year's awards.

[Mark is a member of the OFCS.]

Mini-Reviews of Films of the Year (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper):

Once again this week I am reviewing films that were submitted to me for awards consideration. These are films for which I quickly got my responses written after seeing them so they are shorter than my usual reviews.

Featuring a multi-star cast led by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams, this is a detective story and a true story about a Boston Globe investigation team looking at a possible case of a Roman Catholic priest sexually abusing a boy from his parish. The circles get larger and larger to take in dozens of priests and a Catholic Church all too willing to cover up thousands of similar incidents all over the world. Tom McCarthy directs a script he co- wrote with Josh Singer. This film reminds the viewer very much of films like ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and Z. The account of the investigation is both riveting and wrenching.

The Spotlight team on the Boston Globe newspaper is a small group of investigative reporters who all work on the same story and no other and can spend months in an investigation. When they publish a story it must be a major piece of news to justify the expense in investigating the story.

Robby Robinson and Sacha Pfeiffer (played by Michael and Rachel McAdams) are investigating an accusation of child sexual abuse by one Father John Geoghan. Looking into his past record he has been moved from one parish to another over a course of decades. The fact that he has been shifted so often seemed to imply that he is probably a serial sexual abuser and rather than turn him over to the law, the Church was just moving him around to dioceses that did not know his malignant record. The investigation does not seem to terminate. Instead it just seems to implicate Church leadership higher and higher up.

Even if SPOTLIGHT was not about so sensational a story of Catholic priests abusing their power and authority to sexually abuse children from their congregation, it should be mentioned that along the way the viewer gets a look at newspaper journalism that goes beyond what was in films like ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. There are competition constraints, as the paper must publish a major story before other newspapers do. If story is published too soon after another major story, the story may be over-shadowed and will then be ignored. These are clearly issues, but no film in memory has explored them. Rating: high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

The rate of the extinction of species is not easy to measure but humanity is causing what will very possibly be a mass extinction event. More than half Earth's species, including humans, may die out in a relatively short interval of time. Vertebrates are dying out at a rate 114 times faster than normal. This is mostly the result of human careless exploitation of nature.

RACING EXTINCTION is a feature-length documentary that examines current species whose existence is endangered. How are we dealing with the danger? For the most part, we are leaving it to others, others who for the most part do not really exist. Louie Psihoyos, who authored and photographed a four-part series on extinction for National Geographic, brings some of those same values to a survey of current extinction in nature caused by humans. And as would be done for National Geographic, it is illustrated with eloquent photography of the nature we are losing and ugly views of acres of shark fin for sale, mutilated animals, and other nature on the block to be sold. He also shows us efforts to raise consciousness on the degree of the problem. Included are stealth raids to film evidence of nature abuse. This film covers a lot of territory as a survey of the status of endangered species. Rating: +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.


Innocent Until Proven Guilty (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Recently, some college revoked the honorary doctorate that they had given to Bill Cosby. (Actually, there have been several revocations, but I just happened to read about this one.) The column I read was about whether giving honorary degrees in the first place is basically unfair to the people who worked hard to earn their degrees.

But what caught my eye was a comment from a reader that these colleges are being unfair to Cosby: "Whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty'," they asked. This sort of thing is said a lot, but this time I started thinking about what "innocent until proven guilty" actually means.

If one assumes that "innocent" and "guilty" have inherent meanings, then clearly someone is guilty as soon as they commit whatever the specific act is. But "innocent" and "guilty" have other, conditional, meanings. In a legal context, "innocent" means that they have not been found guilty of a crime (or misdemeanor), while "guilty" means that they have been found guilty under the law.

So when we talk about "innocent until proven guilty," we do not mean that one cannot or should not make decisions based on one's perception of evidence (though we probably would agree that people should not take unsupported accusations as true), but that the legal system must assume people are innocent until proven guilty.

This still leaves us with the problem of requiring defendants to post bail (or even that of arresting people and putting them in jail before trial at all). Clearly, the presumption of innocence is not as straightforward or universal as it might at first appear. [-ecl]

Ceres (comments by Gregory Frederick):

The NASA Dawn spacecraft which has been orbiting ever closer to the large asteroid Ceres has helped scientists to determine the following about the bright spots on its surface:

A study now finds the bright spot's reflected light properties are probably most consistent with a type of magnesium sulfate called hexahydrite. Of course, magnesium sulfate is also known to Earth dwellers as epsom salt. Haze reported inside Occator also suggests the salty material could be left over as a mix of salt and water- ice sublimates on the surface. Since impacts would have exposed the material, Ceres' numerous and widely scattered bright spots may indicate the presence of asubsurface shell of ice-salt mix. [-gf]

Mark responds:

It is a bit of a surprise, but I am not sure it is an important finding. We are not going to mine it certainly. I think it must be mostly important because it explains the bright spots. Is that how you see it? [-mrl]

And Greg replies:

Yes, that is mostly how I see it. The interesting thing was how reflective and bright some spots appeared in a crater on Ceres as the Dawn spacecraft approached it. Scientists did not know what was causing it until the spacecraft got into a low enough orbit to really analyze the surface better. Also, the inner material of asteroid Ceres is understood better then ever now too. Well if the astronauts need a good relaxing soak and are near Ceres they know where to get the Epsom salts :-). [-gf]

TURBO KID (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: ROAD WARRIOR on BMX bikes. From the viewpoint of a 1980s-style SF film we see a cinematic adventure in 1997 after the coming great apocalypse. The Kid on one of the bikes gets military super-weapons and makes himself a super-hero. Together he and his newfound friends (a girl and a tall cowboy) are pitted against the evil Zeus who has a monopoly on all the local pure water. This Canadian/New Zealand production has a bright spirit and a lot of fun as it looks at what a mess we might make of the world and at The Kid who is setting things right. There are film references, strange people, mutant rats, robots, and nearly everything that makes post-Holocaust living fun. The team of François Simard, Anouk Whissell, and Yoann-Karl Whissell both write and direct the film. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

When TURBO KID starts you are no longer in the present year. You are back in the early 1980s watching a cheap post-apocalypse sci-fi film set in 1997. The main character--the Kid (played by Munro Chambers)--rides around in the only vehicles that seem to have survived the apocalypse, those little BMX bicycles. Figure that one out. This is a world where pure water is more precious than gold. And the most powerful man, who is also the most evil, is Zeus. Zeus holds onto his power by putting people into a juicer- like machine that takes all the water out of its victims and purifies it for safe drinking. Michael Ironside plays Zeus. And he might well have played Zeus if this film really had been made in the 1980s. The only man big enough to stop Zeus is not a man at all but a kid. But he is not just any kid. He is The Kid. This is a Mad Max back when he was only PO'ed. Coming with The Kid is his new girlfriend Apple (played by Laurence Leboeuf--who names a girl "Laurence?"). Much like the film itself Apple is irrepressible. Sadly for Chambers, off-the-wall Leboeuf steals every scene she is in.

If you look for them there are film references to all sorts of pop media. Film references go from Indiana Jones to SOYLENT GREEN to THE ELEPHANT MAN. And it is fun to see so many clichés recycled. The film is a little gory in a comic way as limbs are hacked off in fights and ridiculous fake looking stage blood spurts like from a lawn hose. But none of the gore looks remotely real and it is all in what may be your taste in fun. The special effects are not there to fool anybody. TURBO KID is campy fun as a reminder of the films kids liked some three decades ago. It has the magic to turn "are you kidding?" into "that was fun." This film is better than it has any right to be. I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


DUNE by Frank Herbert (copyright 1965 Herbert Properties LLC, Ace Premium Edition 2010, $9.99, 883pp, ISBN 978-0-441-17271-9), (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a 50th anniversary reflection by Joe Karpierz):

Back in the summer of this year I was listening to The Coode Street Podcast driving in to work. Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan brought up the fact that this year is the 50th anniversary of the first publication of Frank Herbert's DUNE. DUNE is one of my favorite novels of all time, quite likely my absolute favorite of all time. Those of you with long memories will recall that I read and reviewed DUNE in 2005 as part of the lead up to the eventual publication of the completion of Herbert's story by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, and in that review I stated it was one of my top five favorite novels. I think this recent rereading has cemented it at the top.

An idea was born that morning. The idea was that I'd reread DUNE and write about it in celebration of its 50th anniversary (it was also pointed out that this year is the 40th anniversary of the first publication of Samuel R. Delany's DHALGREN. I will *not* be rereading and writing about DHALGREN.). I had no idea then what I would write--just that I would write something. And here I sit, starting to put my thoughts into words about the novel to which I compare all others. Hold that thought--I'll come back to it.

Independent of what I think about it, DUNE is widely considered one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, although what is meant by the term "greatest" is highly subjective, and in fact the entire discussion of the "greatest" of anything is, in and of itself, highly subjective. That doesn't invalidate either the discussion or the result of the discussion--if there is a result. Nevertheless, the novel ranks at or near the top of a lot of folks' lists, so I'm not alone in the way I feel about the novel.

The story told by DUNE is widely known. Dune is a desert planet, home to the spice melange, a potent and powerful drug that allows space to be folded to facilitate space travel, that allows for prescient visions, and is best known for transforming one young man, Paul Atreides, into the messiah figure Paul Muad'Dib. The Atreides family is given control of Arrakis--the official name of Dune--by the Padishah Emperor Shadam IV, ousting Atreides arch- enemy Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in the process. Little do the Atreides know that the maneuver is a trap being set by the Emperor to rid himself of the popular Duke Leto Atreides, who he considers a threat to his power. Leto's son Paul is the result of a thousands-year-long breeding program instituted and maintained by the Bene Gesserit, an order of women who subscribe to a special school of physical and mental training. Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach, an all-powerful male Bene Gesserit who can do what the females of the order can't, and who the Bene Gesserit want to control to do their bidding. Leto, Jessica, Paul, and others arrive on Arrakis and discover that there is a prophecy of an outworlder coming to Arrakis to lead the Fremen (nomad-like desert folk) out from under the repression of the Galactic Empire.

As I said in my review five years ago, you can probably see where this is going. And since most, if not all of you, know where this is going, it doesn't seem to make sense to lay out the rest of the story for you. It seems good to take another path.

On the surface, DUNE is a science fiction adventure story with space travel, galactic empires, and exotic planets. But it's also a romance, as we follow the growing relationship between Chani and Muad'Dib. Throw in politics (House Harkonnen versus House Atreides with a dash of House Corrino thrown in), religion (mysterious order of women breeding what turns out to be a messianic figure), and ecology (desert planet, terraforming, and the interaction between the desert and the people that live there), and you have one of the most complex and engaging books that has ever been written.

But it's not just all that. The characters are interesting, engaging, and thought provoking. I don't know that the reader can necessarily identify with any of the characters in DUNE, but they certainly are interesting. Paul, the teenager who, in the span of the novel, develops from a student of battle tactics to the leader of a band of fanatical followers who start a jihad in his name that spans the universe; Chani, his concubine, who is more wise than we all can imagine and who teaches him the ways of the Fremen; Stilgar, the bold leader of those same Fremen, caught between tradition and his respect for and awe of Muad'Dib; Baron Harkonnen, the evil and twisted leader of the sworn enemies of House Atreides, who turns out to be the grandfather of Muad'Dib; and Jessica, Paul's Bene Gesserit mother, who holds many secrets and eventually becomes a Reverend Mother when she drinks the Water of Life. This list is just scratching the surface; there are so many more that play roles in the development of Muad'Dib, Arrakis, and the mythology of Dune itself.

Fifty years later, DUNE still holds up well. Herbert deliberately toned down the hard science in the story to focus on all those things that have been mentioned above and a whole lot more, and because of that strategy the book is as readable and as relevant today--we still live in a world that is filled with religious fanaticism, ecology issues and problems, and political machinations at all levels of government--as it was fifty years ago. It certainly seems to continue to sell well, and it is being taught in schools. I went to the local Barnes and Noble to pick up a paperback copy (I couldn't find my other paperback copy, I didn't want to read either of my hardback copies, one of which is a first edition from Chilton, the original publisher, which is not in mint condition but *is* a first edition, and I wanted to read a physical copy and not an e-book) and I couldn't find it in the science fiction section. It turns out it was in the front of the store so it would be easy to find (apparently it wasn't easy for me to find) for the students from the local schools who had it as assigned reading for the semester.

At the beginning of this article I stated that DUNE is the book to which I compare all others. When it comes time to vote for the Hugo Awards every year, I read each novel with the thought in mind of comparing that book to previous Hugo winners, both recent and further back in the past. How does the book compare to RINGWORLD, THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, THE DISPOSSESSED, THE FOREVER WAR, GATEWAY, ENDER'S GAME, and more recently ANCILLARY JUSTICE, A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY, DOOMSDAY BOOK, and HYPERION? That may not be fair, but if you want to be counted among the greats you must be compared to the greats. But the one I compare it to first is DUNE. Those books I just listed, among others that have won Hugos, stand up there with DUNE.

The cover of the edition that I read for this article calls DUNE "Science Fiction's Supreme Masterpiece". I think that covers it. [-jak]

MEETING INFINITY edited by Jonathan Strahan (2015, Solaris, $14.99, 441pp, ISBN 978-1-78108-380-2) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz):

I find that I'm enjoying reading short fiction again. I read a lot of it many years ago when I was young and was just discovering the field. I did read novels, make no mistake. But I cut my teeth on anthologies that introduced me to the finest work of the field, from the various "Hugo Winners" volumes to the "Science Fiction Hall of Fame" volumes to Baen's "Destinies" volumes. That interest waned as I started discovering the classic novels of the field. I tried subscribing to the various print magazines of the day, such as GALAXY, ANALOG, F&SF, and eventually ASIMOV'S, but those publications never re-ignited my love of short fiction.

I slowly started coming back into the fold with David Hartwell's "Best of the Year" anthologies. But the books that have really caught my attention and gotten me back into short fiction are the books in Jonathan Strahan's "Infinity Project". The stories in the "Infinity Project" books are what Strahan terms "core science fiction", which I take to mean stories that are unmistakably science fiction in the way we all know (and knew) it to be. Good science, engaging characters, and interesting stories. The latest in Strahan's themed anthology series is entitled MEETING INFINITY. The common element here is how humanity adapts itself to meet the challenges of the rapidly changing universe it lives in. Once again, Strahan has assembled a stellar group of stories written by grizzled veterans as well as newer writers. And in reality, there isn't a bad story in the bunch.

It's tough for me to pick a favorite, since all of them are so good. I suppose I can start out with Gregory Benford's "Aspects", his first story set in the Galactic Center series in many, many years. I suppose I was predisposed to like that story, since the Galactic Center books are among my all time favorites. James S.A. Corey's "Rates of Change", which leads off the book, explores the relationship between a mother and her son--as well as his father-- as the son makes changes to himself and takes risks that the mother does not approve of in the least. Nancy Kress gives us "Cocoons", wherein a virus loosed upon an area surrounding a military base is changing people exposed to it to something that may resemble an earlier form of humanity--or maybe it's the next form. Yoon Ha Lee's "The Cold Inequalities" (the title of which seems like it's a riff on "The Cold Equations" from decades ago, given the subject of both stories) relates the tale of an Archivist on what appears to be a generation ship whose duty it is to maintain the integrity of the data archives and what she does when she comes across a stowaway on the ship (hence the connection, however slight, to "The Cold Equations"). Bruce Sterling's "Pictures from the Resurrection" gives us a post-apocalyptic world where "ninja zombies" appear to be the enemy of humanity, but by the end of the story we find out something completely different about them.

Whether those stories are the best is really left up to the reader, because there are more. Madeline Ashby's tale, "Momento Mori", relates a society where people don't necessarily die, they just get new bodies--called re-versioning--and how one woman has to deal with a man from her past as well as a couple from her present. I particularly like "All the Wrong Places", by Sean Williams, about a man who will chase a former lover across all of time and space-- literally--to win back her love. Aliette De Bodard's "In Blue Lily's Wake", is a story set in her Vietnamese space opera universe, about a ship that has come down with a lethal virus. Ramez Naam give us "Exile From Extinction", a very basic and straightforward story about a war between humans and AIs, which provides the reader with a nice surprising twist at the end. John Barnes' "My Last Bringback" is a tale both at once heartwarming and chilling, which relates the story of a scientist who is researching a method for bringing people back from Alzheimer's; the catch is that she is a convicted murderer and she's trying to bring herself back. An Owomoyela's "Outsider" is a story about a "natural" woman escaping from an earth where being augmented is the norm, and what happens when she falls into the lap of more augmenteds.

There are other stories here by Kameron Hurley, Simon Ings, Gwyneth Jones, and Bejanun Sriduangkaew, all of which are terrific and are worthy inclusions here. One story that I want to single out, however, is Ian McDonald's "The Falls: A Luna Story". As the title suggests, it is a story set in the universe of McDonald's latest novel LUNA, which is, of course, set on the moon. It is a terrific story about a mother's relationship with her daughter who, not unlike young people today takes way too many risks for her mother's tastes. I've not been much of a fan of Ian McDonald's work over the years. However, this story, as well as another story in the Luna universe, has convinced me that I need to pick up a copy of LUNA. If that novel is as good as these stories have been, I will indeed enjoy it.

As I stated earlier, there is not a bad story in MEETING INFINITY. It's the fourth book of the "Infinity Project", and the third which I have read. It may certainly be the best of the group. Another Infinity book is in the works, and if the quality of that book is anywhere near the quality of this one, we're all in for a treat from one of the top anthology editors in the field today. MEETING INFINITY is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in what the future of humanity may look like. [-jak]

George Méliès (letter of comment by Kip Williams):

In response to Mark's comments on early horror films in the 12/11/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I wouldn't be surprised if the Mephistopheles guy in the Melies movie turned out to be Méliès himself. He liked playing a magician in his movies. [-kw]

Sherlock Holmes, Jacques Futrelle, D'ORDEL'S PANTECHNICON, and D'ORDEL'S TACTICS AND MILITARY TRAINING (letters of comment by Fred Lerner and Kip Williams):

In response to Evelyn's comments on Sherlock Holmes novels in the 12/11/15 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

When first I read A STUDY IN SCARLET almost sixty years ago I too was surprised by the apparent anti-Mormon bigotry in the story. But later I learned about the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, in which an American emigrant party was slaughtered by the Mormon church's Nauvoo Legion. As this occurred only 29 years before the composition of A STUDY IN SCARLET it would likely have been remembered by both author and readers. In his use of the Mormon establishment as villains was Doyle any more guilty of bigotry than a present-day writer who uses the iniquities of ISIS or Al Qaeda as a historical reference? [-fl]

And Kip Williams writes:

Your Sherlock Holmes article reminds me that I recently went looking for, and found, rich sources of ebook versions of [Jacques] Futrelle's THE THINKING MACHINE, the man who out-Sherlocked Sherlock in terms of being a brain from Brainsville with no humanizing characteristics, utterly arrogant, and with a totally mystified stooge to explain things to.

A PDF containing almost fifty tales:

An author site with even more stories:

Project Gutenberg has some Futrelle as well, which I theeeenk consists mostly of novels that might not be about Van Dusen at all. I confess I have not determined it. Not sure if I could take a whole novel at a stretch, but I expect to find out some day. [-kw]

Speaking of brains from Brainsville with no humanizing, etc., etc., I see that has a complete scan of D'ORDEL'S PANTECHNICON, a 1908 satire on publishing that is still actually pretty funny and on-point. I happened upon this year's ago when Ned Brooks (may he rest among books) requested it through Interlibrary Loan. I made a photocopy of the book at the time, and later scanned it all and made my own PDF of it, but Archive makes this unnecessary with scans taken from the originals at this page:

The book (by Sykes and Sandars) is described as "The Manual Art of Manufacturing Illustrated Magazines..." and is in three parts. Part the First is where the conceit is introduced and the authors tell you what they are going to do, in some detail. Part the Second is the magazine itself, made according to the plan described already. Part the Third is further explanation of the finer points of making a periodical mountain out of a molehill or a dustheap, provided one has no respect for the intelligence of the reader. For instance, a three-page illustrated article on dustmen is presented, and the explanation stresses how to pad and stretch it out with redundant descriptions and such, when the thesis of the article is simply "dustmen dust."

My favorite feature is the serial adventure, "The Search for the Iron Toe," featuring the enigmatic Grypula, the nigh-omniscient sage whose adventures are breathlessly described by his near- idiotic companion who exists (as is explained) to gape in wonder at the pronouncements of the protagonist. I hate to give away all the gags (and I won't), but I must mention the "Serial Adventure Form," a slip of paper on which the author fills in a few salient facts (Author's Name. "D'Oothey Boyle"; Adventurer. Name "Grypula"; Characteristics "Palpitating suture on bald head and cat's eyes"; Tame animal "Stoat"; Relaxation "Treble dummy whist with stoat.") and gives the form to the typesetter, who hangs the form up next to his machine and fills in the story. This typesetter is capable of wondrous prose, such as, "Grypula switched off the electric light, and I heard him gliding noiselessly towards the back of the long cellar."

The illustrations, though perhaps lacking true professional polish, still carry their load effectively, and strike an almost-subtle blow against the fashion of running text around irregularly-shaped frames.

I've had a complete set of the scans up at my flickr page for some time, and Marcus Rowland actually converted the whole thing to a searchable ebook for his Forgotten Futures website. Now that I've found this on Archive, I will have to decide whether to replace my own PDF with theirs. Theirs looks better, and as an ex-library book, it has stamps in the back from when it was checked out (in 1965 and 1993). Mine, on the other hand, has the original cover, rather than featureless buckram, as well as an advertisement for D'ORDEL'S TACTICS AND MILITARY TRAINING, a volume of which I've never found a sign anywhere. (Does anybody out there have a lead on this? I've been looking since the 80s.) If they haven't protected their file in some way, maybe I could inject those pages into their PDF.

I recommend this volume highly, and if anybody knows where the Tactics and Training book could be found for a reasonable price--or free online--I'd like to know about it."

P. S.

Looks like Amazon offers a copy of the military one, but I don't have the sixty bucks to take a flyer on it today.

It's reviewed here:

More here:

And here's one for just $55:

So near, and yet, so far. [-kw]

Yogurt and Blueberries (letters of comment by Joy Beeson and Dorothy J. Heydt):

In response to Mark's comments on yogurt in the 12/11/15 issue of the MT VOID, Joy Beeson writes:

I'd say, instead, that the universal flavor is "sweet" and the mean flavor is "jam".

If you can find real yogurt ("Ingredients: cultured milk"), it's nice with kow choi and a dash of salt. [-jb]

Dorothy J. Heydt replies:

I can get unflavored low-fat yogurt at Costco. I put blueberries and almonds on it. The flavored kinds tend to have sugar in them, which means I can't eat them. But the blueberries have a low enough glycemic index that my endocrinologist has given them her blessing. [-djh]

Joy replies:

My doctor actually prescribed blueberries. I forget what for; he was the third doctor back. But he was very pleased to learn that I had three pounds of blueberries in the freezer, and asked where I'd bought them.


Evelyn adds:

I like blueberries, but do not like dried blueberries. I haven't tried frozen blueberries. [-ecl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

THE CAVE by Jose Saramago (translated by Margaret Jull Costa) (ISBN 978-0-15-602879-0) is the story of a potter and his interactions with family, neighbors, and "the Center", where he sells his pottery and his son-in-law is a security guard.

Saramago has said that he feels THE CAVE is the third part of a trilogy beginning with BLINDNESS and ALL THE NAMES. In these, there is a unity of intention in talking about the world and the life we are living. [EPOCA, 01/21/2001] And THE CAVE does emphasize respect for manual labor and "the work of the hands," a theme that also showed up in RAISED FROM THE GROUND and THE ELEPHANT'S JOURNEY.

As always, there are many little nuggets throughout the book. Saramago, for example, has a character muse on the non-existence of [cardinal] numbers: "He got annoyed with himself, it was nonsense, utterly absurd to worry about existence, yes, that was right, he had never thought of that before, numbers don't really exist, things couldn't care less what number we give them, it's all the same to them if we say they're number thirteen or number forty- four..." This is a disputed philosophical point among mathematicians: do numbers have an objective existence, or are they merely philosophical constructs?

Dog-lovers will like Saramago's attitude toward dogs: "[The] disinterested joy of a dog can reconcile us for one brief minute to the pains, sorrows, and disappointments of this world."

The main character is a potter/sculptor, so Saramago can digress and write, "Many of the best-known gods choose mud as the material for their creations, but it is hard to know now if that preference represents a point in mud's favor or a point against."

When the main characters move to "the Center" we get two descriptions of the Center, which make it sound like a combination of the Mall of America, the Dubai Mall, and the New South China Mall:

"[The elevator] traveled slowly past the different floors, revealing a succession of arcades, shops, fancy staircases, escalators, meeting points, cafes, restaurants, terraces with tables and chairs, cinemas and theaters, discotheques, enormous television screens, endless numbers of ornaments, electronic games, balloons, fountains and other water features, platforms, hanging gardens, posters, pennants, advertising billboards, mannequins, changing rooms, the facade of a church, the entrance to the beach, a bingo hall, a casino, a tennis court, a gymnasium, a roller coaster, a zoo, a racetrack for electric cars, a cyclorama, a cascade, all waiting, all in silence, and more shops and more arcades and more mannequins and more hanging gardens and things for which people probably didn't even know the names, as if they were ascending into paradise."

"[From the elevator on the other side] they would have been able to see, during the slow ride upward, as well as the new arcades, shops, escalators, meeting points, cafes and restaurants, many other equally interesting and varied installations, for example, a carousel of horses, a carousel of space rockets, a center for toddlers, a center for the Third Age, a tunnel of love, a suspension bridge, a ghost train, an astrologer's tent, a betting shop, a rifle range, a golf course, a luxury hospital, another slightly less luxurious hospital, a bowling alley, a billiard hall, a battery of table football games, a giant map, a secret door, another door with a notice on it saying experience natural sensations, rain, wind, and snow on demand, a wall of china, a taj mahal, an egyptian pyramid, a temple of karnak, a real aqueduct, a mafra monastery, a clerics' tower, a fjord, a summer sky with fluffy white clouds, a lake, a real palm tree, the skeleton of a tyrannosaurus, another one apparently alive, himalayas complete with everest, an amazon complete with Indians, a stone raft, a corcovado christ, a trojan horse, an electric chair, a firing squad, an angel playing a trumpet, a communications satellite, a comet, a galaxy, a large dwarf, a small giant, a list of prodigies so long that not even eight years of leisure time would be enough to take them al in, even if you had been born in the Center and had never left it for the outside world."

[As always with Saramago, the capitalization--or lack thereof--is Saramago's.]

I love that one of the billboards says, "WE WOULD SELL YOU EVERYTHING YOU NEED, BUT WE WOULD PREFER YOU TO NEED WHAT WE HAVE TO SELL," because that so sums up one of the big functions of advertising: convincing you that you *need* what the advertiser is selling.

And notice the attitude of the government (or rather of the Center) is, "Yes, but people have to learn not to be curious, to walk on by, not to stick their nose in where it isn't wanted, it's just a question of time and training."

In fact, while one of the major underlying themes of THE CAVE is commercialism, another is the replacement of the government by "the Center", that is, by a large commercial entity. It is not a multinational corporation, but it has the size and power of one. Saramago has had books with "international" scope, but many of his works that would seem to call for it (e.g., BLINDNESS) are instead very constrained, and given that there is no real reason for a wider scope in this story, making the Center an international corporation would add unnecessary complications.

[SPOILER] Saramago also plays a bit of a trick on the reader. The reader thinks he understands the meaning of the title, but he is wrong. [END SPOILER]

[The translation seems to have a couple of hiccups. I think the plural of "aurora borealis" should be "auroras borealis", and I think the quote about dogs above should have said "one brief moment" rather than "one brief minute" (which just seems too precise a time period).]

THE NOTEBOOK by Jose Saramago (translated by Amanda Hopkinson and Daniel Hahn) (ISBN 978-1-84467-614-9) is a collection of the entries on Saramago's blog from 2008 and 2009. One of the things he wrote about was the idea that Spain and Portugal would unite into an Iberian Federation. Given that I read this a couple of days after Catalonia voted to begin formulating to secede from Spain, this does not seem entirely likely. (On the other hand, I suppose that one could have an Iberia with three partners rather than two, or even four if Andorra joins in.)

Confusingly, in 1976 Saramago wrote a book called THE NOTES. It is less confusing in Portuguese, where the 1976 book is O APONTAMENTOS and the 2009 book is O CADERNO. In my opinion, titling the 2009 book "The Journal" in English would have been less confusing.

JOSE SARAMAGO EN SUS PALABRAS by Jose Saramago (edited by Fernando Gomez Aguilera; translated by Roser Vilagrassa (from the Portuguese sources), Jose Luis Lopez Munoz (from the English and French sources), and Carlos Gumpert (from the Italian sources)) (ISBN 978- 607-11-0677-3) is not listed in most of Saramago's bibliographies. I suppose that traditionally collections of quotes from someone are not considered their books, but it would seem as though they should be. This volume is in Spanish, which means that many of the quotations are doubly translated, first from Saramago's original Portuguese into (e.g.) French, and then from French into Spanish.

I did not read the entire volume, but I found the chapter which included Saramago's comments on his own works to be very useful in understanding some of what Saramago was trying to do.

By this point, you may be wondering why there have been reviews of so many Saramago books this year. The answer is that I had proposed a panel about Saramago for Philcon and so felt I should catch up on all his novels that I had not yet read. And as I was finishing the last of them, it turned out that Philcon could not find any other panelists for such a panel. Oh, well, I got to read a lot of great books, and who knows, some convention in the future may have such a panel. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper
Quote of the Week:
          Time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse 
          proportion to the sum involved.
                                          --C. Northcote Parkinson

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