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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 04/07/17 -- Vol. 35, No. 41, Whole Number 1957
Table of Contents
The list of Hugo finalists can be found at the end of this issue.
Three Times More Confusing (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I see the headline "North Dakota oil spill 3 times larger than first estimated." I have never known what "times larger" meant. People seem to interpret it as "North Dakota oil spill 3 TIMES AS LARGE AS first estimated." But "larger" does not mean the same thing as "as large as." "As large as" means of the same size. Larger means, well, ..., larger. Do they mean "4 times as large"? If that is what they mean, why don't they say it that way? [-mrl]
Mini-Reviews of 2016 Films (Part 5) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Several issues back I published four lists of major films of 2016 to let people know what is available somewhere in the cinema ether, if such a thing exists. I actually never completed that set because another bunch of topics came along to write about. Now things have slowed just a little and I can finish up the set of reviews of films I have been given an opportunity to see. All films are rated on my habitual -4 to +4 rating system.
There are some special considerations when reviewing a documentary. You are in part reviewing the interest value and style as you would any film. But you are also evaluating its importance and relevance. The threat of cyber warfare is almost certainly real and almost certainly a dangerous threat. It will not kill anyone but it can less directly kill millions and those left alive will find civilization has died and humans have to return to a primitive state. That is no exaggeration. Computer malware can bring down everything electronic. The precedent for allowing the STUXnet virus to distribute itself to computers around the world has created a very strong threat. The film is an introduction to what malware is and what it can do. And what it can do is not encouraging. The possibilities are to say the least disturbing. Rating: High +2
The title makes this film sound like science fiction. It is mostly a World War II espionage film that builds up to a huge gun battle. The film is about the efforts of the allies to have a small team assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the third man in the hierarchy of the Third Reich and a major architect of the Holocaust. Heydrich runs defeated Czechoslovakia with unlimited power. The people's resistance to the Germans is nearly dead in Czechoslovakia. London has them bring in a team of five fighters to try to kill Heydrich. The film is in large part about paranoia of trying to put the coup together. But it builds to a seemingly endless gun battle that is explicit and gory. The film contains disturbing scenes of torture. Rating: High +1
This is claimed to be a thriller, though it moves a little slowly to call it really thrilling. The drama is directed by Persian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi who in 2011 directed A SEPARATION. This film is good, but it is a step or two down from A SEPARATION. The film revolves around a husband and wife. The husband is a high school teacher. Both husband and wife are preparing a performance of Arthur Miller's "The Death of a Salesman." When their house collapses they move to a new home, one previously owned by a prostitute. The past catches up to the house as the wife is raped and the husband wants to find the culprit on his own without involving the police who might restrain him. The real meat of the story takes place after the culprit is caught. Unfortunately three quarters of the film is already gone by that time. Then the film deals with themes of justice, vengeance, and mercy. It is only in these parts that the film starts catching up to the quality of A SEPARATION. I was never clear on why the main characters were doing "The Death of a Salesman" specifically. Rating: Low +2 (Note, this film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. I still give it only a low +2, but with a little more respect. So, what do I know?)
TOUCHED WITH FIRE
(Minor spoilers follow.) TOUCHED WITH FIRE, written and directed by Paul Dalio, is the love story of two people, poets and general artists, who are both bi-polar. They meet in a psychiatric hospital and their manic mental state acts like a drug to magnify their relationship making them love each other. Both come from families that want to control them. Sometimes their condition causes problems in their marriage. Overall their story is not very different from one of two alcoholics. For the story to work one would have to indentify with the main characters, but that empathy takes a long time to kick in and then it is not really effective. We have seen their condition at that point and are not sure we really want them to try to raise a child together whom they are hoping will be doubly bipolar. They seem to feel that being bi- polar is both an illness and an artistic gift. Occasionally one feels that Dalio is using sick people's rants for entertainment. The film stars Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby as the sometimes lovers and it has veteran actors Christine Lahti and Griffin Dunne. Spike Lee is executive producer. Rating: +1
The Mexican border has been the setting of several sharply written crime films going back to John Sayles's LONE STAR (1996). More recently we have seen THE Coen Brothers' NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) and FRONTERA (2014). TRANSPECOS is not so tightly written. It has a small cast, no familiar actors, and limited plot. TRANSPECOS is a short film at 88 minutes. Though it manages to create some suspense for the viewer some of that tension is lost because the plot proceeds so slowly. Most of it takes place in the desert, keeping the budget down. Three Border Patrol agents patrol the line between Mexico and Texas panhandle west of the Pecos River. Hobbs (played by Clifton Collins Jr.) is a colorful character who is an old hand at reading a crime scene and getting the most information from it. Flores (Gabriel Luna) looks up to him. Davis (Johnny Simmons) is a tenderfoot who makes the mistakes of any newcomer. One of the three is secretly working for the drug cartel. Things are going to get ugly this day and the following night. Rating: low +1
WORLDS APART (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This film contains three stories of love and callousness, in each a Greek having a romantic relationship with somebody from another country. The three stories are bound together by the story of a fourth Greek less positive. Christopher Papakaliatis wrote, produced, directed and acts. For US audiences it might be a primer on the anti-immigrant movements in Greece as well as the financial crises. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
This is three love stories set in Greece in a time of turmoil and financial crisis. The stories are bound together to take place at the same time and toward the end they join together to be one single story. The film takes place in Athens and in each story a Greek meets and has a relationship with a non-Greek.
The first story has a young Greek woman, Daphne (played by Niki Vakali) saved from a street mugging by Syrian refugee Farris (Tawfeek Barhom), once an artist, now a street vendor. The Syrian decides he likes this woman and pursues her in his own way. This turns into a Romeo and Juliet story, since Daphne's father Antonis (Minas Chatzisavvas) leans to the fascistic, who wants to see all these foreigners thrown out of his country. With a little help from some friends he intends to take matters into his own hands. He sees himself as having lost everything he valued to immigrants, especially street thieves.
In the second story, Giorgios works as a salesman for a big corporation. Its home office in Sweden is downsizing it. Giorgios is played by Christopher Papakaliatis, who co-produced, wrote and directed WORLDS APART. The company sends a corporate "axe man" to Athens to lay off workers and perform the downsizing. In this case the axe man is really an axe woman and though the two disagree strongly on company policy, outside of work they find something to like in each other.
The third story has a Greek housewife Maria (Maria Kavoyianni) having her world turned around when she meets a German historian intent on introducing her to poetry, philosophy, and a wider more romantic world. The professor is improbably played by J. K. Simmons who brings his usual amiable style, though he is not entirely convincing as a German. The two meet secretly in the grocery at the same time each week for a platonic rendezvous in a world apart from Maria's unpleasant home life.
There is a thread that ties the stories together; it snakes through the other stories, touching all the major characters.
The film is a Greek production. Most of the cast will be unfamiliar to American audiences, the one exception being Simmons. Scuttlebutt is that most of the others are well known in Greece. Christopher Papakaliatis who wrote, produced, directed, and is one of the main characters looks a bit like a Greek Mandy Patinkin. The film is in English and Greek with English subtitles.
The film was made in 2015, but with nativist attitudes making themselves felt in the United States and with the financial crisis in Greece it can only be more relevant today than when it was made. I would rate WORLDS APART a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. It will be coming to DVD and On Demand on April 11, 2017.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3909336/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/worlds_apart_2015
DAY FOR NIGHT (letters of comment by Paul Dormer and Tim Bateman):
In response to Mark's comments on DAY FOR NIGHT in the 04/03/17 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:
Also known as LA NUIT AMERICAINE.
Heard a fascinating radio talk back in the seventies about how the novelist Graham Greene ended up playing an English insurance assessor in this film.
Truffaut wanted an actual Englishman to play the role and asked his casting director to ask around the English ex pat community in the south of France. The casting director knew Greene and suggested that he audition for the role, without telling Truffaut who it was. He got the role at which point Truffaut said he looked familiar. It was only then he found out who it was. (I see it's his only acting credit in the IMDB.) [-pd]
Tim Bateman responds:
Well, well, well. TV Tropes has a slightly different account of this incident:
In 1973 he had an uncredited cameo as a British insurance company representative in the movie DAY FOR NIGHT. He had told a friend how he had always wanted to meet Truffaut, as he was a huge fan of his films, so it was arranged for him to have a small part in the film. Truffaut was disappointed when he found out after Greene had left, because he had been a huge fan of Greene's writing!
It is like unto a thing of Captain America's Awesome origin. [-tb]
It was a long time ago, so I could be misremembering. [-pd]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
In 2010, our book discussion group read STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHER STORIES by Ted Chiang (ISBN 978-01-101-97212-0). This year we re-visited it, with specific emphasis on "Story of Your Life", which was the basis of the movie ARRIVAL. [Note: there will be spoilers.]
One person suggested that the radial symmetry of the heptapods-- with no beginning and no end--was reflected in their view of all time simultaneously, rather than moving from a beginning to an end.
The question of free will and determinism came up, of course, since the notion that the heptapods know or can see the future would seem to bring up the question of what happens if one sees himself do something in the future, and then purposely does something different. It is yet another version of the philosophical question of whether all time exists "simultaneously" and we just move through it, or whether the future is created moment by moment. (English really lacks the words to express a "simultaneity of time.")
One person in our group thought the idea of someone being able to see the future made no sense; his suggestion was that Chiang had the narrator use this as a device to tell the story, much as one could write a story in the second person, or in the present tense, but that in fact it was told entirely from a point in time *after* the latest event related.
I also talked about how the rotation and modification of the heptapod glyphs that united to form a sentence reminded me of the way Maya glyphs also could be rotated and modified to fit together in a more pleasing figure. Of course, the haptapod modifications were very specific and added meanings (e.g., putting the word in the objective case), while the Maya modifications were more aesthetic (similar to how English cursive script changes to make the connectivity to the adjacent letters work). (I just got a copy of BREAKING THE MAYA CODE by Michael D. Coe, and will probably review it after I read it. I certainly enjoyed the NOVA episode "Cracking the Maya Code", and I need to try to find the feature- length version, BREAKING THE MAYA CODE. [I assume one is a subset of the other, since Michael Lebrun directed both.)
The vast majority of Amazon reviews are positive, but it was instructive to read the negative reviews. Discounting the reviewers who complained that they did not realize they were ordering an e-book, or the book never arrived, the negative reviews indicated some basic misunderstandings.
For example, one person complained that the book was "just unrelated stories." This person was apparently unfamiliar with the notion of a single-author collection (or perhaps even of an anthology). Related to this was, "Had nothing to do with the movie." (The story "Story of Your Life" is actually the penultimate story in the book: apparently the reviewer got to it.)
Also, there were such comments as, "You have to be a physicist or a mathematician to follow along." Lord help these people if they ever have to read a Greg Egan story. [-ecl]
Best Novel 2078 ballots cast for 652 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 156 to 480. ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY, by Charlie Jane Anders A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT, by Becky Chambers DEATH'S END, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu NINEFOX GAMBIT, by Yoon Ha Lee THE OBELISK GATE, by N. K. Jemisin TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING, by Ada Palmer Best Novella 1410 ballots cast for 187 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 167 to 511. THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM, by Victor LaValle THE DREAM-QUEST OF VELLITT BOE, by Kij Johnson EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, by Seanan McGuire PENRIC AND THE SHAMAN, by Lois McMaster Bujold A TASTE OF HONEY, by Kai Ashante Wilson THIS CENSUS-TAKER, by China Mieville Best Novelette 1097 ballots cast for 295 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 74 to 268. "Alien Stripper Boned From Behind By The T-Rex", by Stix Hiscock (self-published) "The Art of Space Travel", by Nina Allan (Tor.com, July 2016) "The Jewel and Her Lapidary", by Fran Wilde (Tor.com publishing, May 2016) "The Tomato Thief", by Ursula Vernon (Apex Magazine, January 2016) "Touring with the Alien", by Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld Magazine, April 2016) "You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay", by Alyssa Wong (Uncanny Magazine, May 2016) Best Short Story 1275 ballots cast for 830 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 87 to 182. "The City Born Great", by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016) "A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers", by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016) "Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies", by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016) "Seasons of Glass and Iron", by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press) "That Game We Played During the War", by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016) "An Unimaginable Light", by John C. Wright (God, Robot, Castalia House) Best Related Work 1122 ballots cast for 344 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 88 to 424. THE GEEK FEMINIST REVOLUTION, by Kameron Hurley THE PRINCESS DIARIST, by Carrie Fisher TRAVELER OF WORLDS: CONVERSATIONS WITH ROBERT SILVERBERG, by Robert Silverberg and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS, by Neil Gaiman THE WOMEN OF HARRY POTTER POSTS, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com) WORDS ARE MY MATTER: WRITINGS ABOUT LIFE AND BOOKS, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin Best Graphic Story 842 ballots cast for 441 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 71 to 221. Black Panther, Volume 1: A Nation Under Our Feet, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda Ms. Marvel, Volume 5: Super Famous, written by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa Paper Girls, Volume 1, written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by Jared Fletcher Saga, Volume 6, illustrated by Fiona Staples, written by Brian K. Vaughan, lettered by Fonografiks The Vision, Volume 1: Little Worse Than A Man, written by Tom King, illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form 1733 ballots cast for 206 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 240 to 1030. ARRIVAL DEADPOOL GHOSTBUSTERS HIDDEN FIGURES ROGUE ONE STRANGER THINGS, Season One Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form 1159 ballots cast for 569 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 91 to 193. Black Mirror: "San Junipero" Doctor Who: "The Return of Doctor Mysterio" The Expanse: "Leviathan Wakes" Game of Thrones: "Battle of the Bastards" Game of Thrones: "The Door" Splendor & Misery [album], by Clipping Best Editor, Short Form 951 ballots cast for 191 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 149 to 229. John Joseph Adams Neil Clarke Ellen Datlow Jonathan Strahan Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas Sheila Williams Best Editor, Long Form 752 ballots cast for 148 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 83 to 201. Vox Day Sheila E. Gilbert Liz Gorinsky Devi Pillai Miriam Weinberg Navah Wolfe Best Professional Artist 817 ballots cast for 387 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 53 to 143. Galen Dara Julie Dillon Chris McGrath Victo Ngai John Picacio Sana Takeda Best Semiprozine 857 ballots cast for 103 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 80 to 434. Beneath Ceaseless Skies Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine GigaNotoSaurus Strange Horizons Uncanny Magazine The Book Smugglers Best Fanzine 610 ballots cast for 152 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 53 to 159. Castalia House Blog Journey Planet Lady Business nerds of a feather, flock together Rocket Stack Rank SF Bluestocking Best Fancast 690 ballots cast for 253 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 76 to 109. The Coode Street Podcast Ditch Diggers Fangirl Happy Hour Galactic Suburbia The Rageaholic Tea and Jeopardy Best Fan Writer 802 ballots cast for 275 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 80 to 152. Mike Glyer Jeffro Johnson Natalie Luhrs Foz Meadows Abigail Nussbaum Chuck Tingle Best Fan Artist 528 ballots cast for 242 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 39 to 121. Ninni Aalto Alex Garner Vesa Lehtimaki Likhain (M. Sereno) Spring Schoenhuth Mansik Yang Worldcon 75 has elected to exercise its authority under the WSFS Constitution to add an additional category for 2017 only: Best Series 1393 votes for 290 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 129 to 325. The Craft Sequence, by Max Gladstone The Expanse, by James S.A. Corey The October Daye Books, by Seanan McGuire The Peter Grant / Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch The Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold [Note that this category may become a permanent one if so voted at Worldcon this year.] The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2014 or 2015, sponsored by Dell Magazines. (Not a Hugo Award, but administered along with the Hugo Awards.) 933 votes for 260 nominees. Votes for finalists ranged from 88 to 255. Sarah Gailey (1st year of eligibility) J. Mulrooney (1st year of eligibility) Malka Older (2nd year of eligibility) Ada Palmer (1st year of eligibility) Laurie Penny (2nd year of eligibility) Kelly Robson (2nd year of eligibility) Declined/Ineligible The following nominees received enough votes to qualify for the final ballot, but either declined nomination or were found to be ineligible. Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Game of Thrones: "The Winds of Winter" (No more than two episodes of any one show may be finalists in this category) Best Professional Artist: Tomek Radziewicz (No qualifying publications in 2016) Best Professional Artist: JiHun Lee (No qualifying publications in 2016) Best Semiprozine: Lightspeed Magazine (Not eligible) Best Fanzine: File 770 (Declined nomination)
Hugo Finalists (correction):
Okay, so the list of Hugo finalists can be found *almost* at the end of this issue.
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Much of what I make is geometric, and has a kind of almost mathematical logic to the form. --Anish KapoorTweet
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