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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 03/15/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 37, Whole Number 2058
Table of Contents
Dilbert and Science Fiction (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
DILBERT is getting into real science fiction (probably not for the first time). https://dilbert.com/strip/2019-03-03 [-mrl]
Ian Fleming's James Bond (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
As some of you might be aware, the James Bond series is getting ready to change actors to play James Bond himself. I do not know if they intend to keep SPECTRE, their last film, as part of the James Bond canon. They dropped a real bombshell plot twist toward the end of the last Bond film. The producers may want to disavow SPECTRE for the sake of avoiding plot drift.
I saw an article about how they were looking for a new actor to play "Ian Fleming's James Bond." Calling this character "Fleming's" stokes a sort of pet gripe I have about James Bond films. What you see of Bond on the screen is not Fleming's James Bond. It is the movies' James Bond.
I don't care for attributing the movie James Bond to Fleming. The movie James Bond is actually quite different from what I would call "Ian Fleming's James Bond". The character of Bond has been considerably glamorized from the books. Fleming does tell us what Bond looks like, but he never looks like that in the films. According to Fleming, James Bond looks like Hoagy Carmichael.
Who? Well, there is a good chance that modern fans of James Bond do not know who Hoagy Carmichael was and those who recognize the name cannot immediate bring to mind what Hoagy Carmichael looked like. Okay, here is a big reminder.
That is surely not the wide-screen Bond I grew up with.
Carmichael was a singer and a songwriter, and he acted in a few films. His acting is best known for the piano player he played in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1946). His best-known song was "Stardust." He just does not look a lot like the handsome actors who play Bond.
The Bond books have occasional reminders that this was how Bond looked. I am sure that Fleming was aware that agents who are handsome and who attract attention have a very short useful life in the field. If you want to be a spy you really need to be forgettable. I see that that really applies to Hoagy Carmichael.
We can look at the website flemingsbond.com and see where Bond's looks are spoken of:
Vesper Lynd in CASINO ROYALE: "He is very good-looking. He reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless in his ..."
Bond in CASINO ROYALE: "As he tied his thin, double-ended, black satin tie, he paused for a moment and examined himself levelly in the mirror. His grey-blue eyes looked calmly back with a hint of ironical inquiry and the short lock of black hair which would never stay in place slowly subsided to form a thick comma above his right eyebrow. With the thin vertical scar down his right cheek the general effect was faintly piratical. Not much of Hoagy Carmichael there, thought Bond, as he filled a flat, light gunmetal box with fifty of the Morland cigarettes with the triple gold band."
Gala Brand in MOONRAKER: "Rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way. That black hair falling down over the right eyebrow. Much the same bones. But there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold."
You do not have to visualize Bond like that. He can look any way you want. But I thought you might want to see Ian Fleming's James Bond. Picture that man at 5'7" tall. That's Bond--James Bond. [-mrl]
THE FAVOURITE (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky):
In response to Mark's review on THE FAVOURITE in the 01/04/19 issue of the MT VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:
I saw THE FAVOURITE only recently. I had suspected it would turn out to be a travesty of history, and I turned out to be right.
It's possible this lurid and melodramatic story was based on a real history of a servant girl who connived and back-stabbed her way into becoming the confidante of a queen, in some obscure corner of the world. But movies like that tend to flop at the box office, unless they are set at the British royal court; so the filmmakers decided to shoehorn it into British history.
The real Abigail Masham was introduced to the Queen by her cousin, the Duchess of Marlborough (who was called "Lady Sarah" at no point in her life(*)); it should go without saying that the cousin of a Duchess is not set to scrubbing the floors. Thus, no need for the preposterous scene in which a scullery maid is allowed into the Queen's bedroom to anoint her legs with mud.
The real Abigail Masham did help the Tory leader, not because he pushed her into a ditch, but because he, too, was her cousin.
By this time, the Duchess of Marlborough was already one of the richest women in England; when she died in 1744 she was the equivalent of a billionaire. To imagine her taking to the highway alone, without a half-dozen armed footmen to discourage highwaymen--without several coaches, for that matter--is the filmmakers counting on audience parochialism.
Incidentally, I've wondered why the filmmakers chose to beclown a hard-working monarch like Queen Anne. Possibly, she's the one who united the United Kingdom, so Scottish nationalists don't like her.
(*) If you've read your Dorothy Sayers, you will remember that when Harriet Vane marries Lord Peter Wimsey she becomes, not Lady Harriet, but Lady Peter. [-tw]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN CENTRAL AMERICA, CHIAPAS AND YUCATAN by John L. Stephens (illustrated by Frederick Catherwood, two volumes, ISBNs 978-0-486-22404-6 and 978-0-486-22405-3) was an obvious book to read after JUNGLE OF STONE (reviewed in the 03/01/19 issue).
In Stephens's day, these ruins were known to the local inhabitants, but there were only rumors and vague hints outside of the region. "It is impossible to describe the interest with which I explored these ruins. The ground was entirely new; there were no guide-books or guides; the whole was a virgin soil. ... The beauty of the sculpture, the solemn stillness of the place, ..., the desolation of the city, and the mystery that hung over it, all created an interest higher, if possible, than I had ever felt among the ruins of the Old World."
As you can tell, Stephens manages to convey some of the "sense of wonder" he feels in seeing these ruins. At Copan, he wrote, "We sat down on the very edge of the wall, and strove in vain to penetrate the mystery by which we were surrounded. Who were the people that built this city? In the ruined cities of Egypt, even in the long-lost Petra, the stranger knows the story of the people whose vestiges are around him? America, say historians, was peopled by savages; but savages never reared these structures, savages never carved these stones. We asked the Indians who made them, and their dull answer was, 'Quien sabe?' 'who knows?'"
But Stephens goes on to speculate about what race built the cities, not quite accepting the idea that it was that same race who had no idea it was their own ancestors. I can't help but think that had Stephens known the truth, he would have said something like Carl Denham did in KING KONG (1933): "Built so long ago that the people who live there now have slipped back, forgotten the high civilization that built it." In part, this is because Stephens still seemed to believe in the "young earth"; he writes of the Pacific Ocean at one point, "The sound was grand and solemn, giving a strong impression of the immensity of those waters, which had been rolling from the creation, for more than five thousand years, unknown to civilized man." It's hard to come up with a timescale for the rise and fall of a complex civilization in the Americas that is consistent with all the events of the Bible, and of known history.
Stephens speaks of "buying" Copan for $50, but it is clear that he at most leased it. For starters, he made this transaction not with the owner of the land (the government of Guatemala), but with someone who was merely leasing the land. And the lease still had three years to run at $80 a year, so why would it be sold for less than a single year's lease?
Stephens's plan was to remove some of the "idols" (as he called the pillars and other carvings and take them back to New York to form the basis of a "great national museum of American antiquities." And his justification for this? "Very soon their existence would become known and their value appreciated, and the friends of science and the arts in Europe would get possession of them. They belonged of right to us, and, though we did not know how soon we might be kicked our ourselves, I resolved that ours theu should be..." Stephens's suggestion that they might be kicked out could mean that he realized that the people of Honduras might see visitors from the United States in the same way Stephens saw Europeans, but it also reflected the political upheaval in Honduras at the time that might get all foreigners of any occupation ejected.
Stephens seems to consider the commercial value of everything he sees, though sometimes his writing permits an interpretation of irony: "At home this volcano would be a forune; with a good hotel on top, a railing round to keep children from falling in, a zigzag staircase down the sides, and a glass of iced lemonade at the bottom. Cataracts are good property with people who know how to turn them to account. Niagara and Trenton Falls pay well, and the owners of volcanoes in Central America might make money out of them by furnishing facilities to travellers."
I wrote in my review of JUNGLE OF STONE about the inaccurate drawings and descriptions that preceded Stephens and Catherwood. In this book Stephens quotes one, writing, "Huarros, the historian of Guatimala, says, 'Rancisco de Fuentes, who wrote the Chronicles of the Kingdom of Guatimala, assures us that in his time, that is, in the year 1700, the great curcus of Copan still remained entire. ... At the bases of these pyramids were figures, both male and female, of very excellent sculpture, which then retained the colours they had been enamelled with, and, what was not less remarkable, the whole of them were habited *in the Castilian costume*. ... [Also] figures of men, likewise represented in *Spanish habits*, with hose,and ruff around the neck, sword, cap, and short cloak.'" [emphasis by Stephens] Needless to say, the pre-Columbian Maya did not carve figures dressed as Spaniards.
In addition to all the writings about the ruins, Stephens writes at great length about the geography of the areas he is traveling through (he was, after all, hoping to promote a canal across the isthmus), and also about the civil war/revolution in which he found himself caught up. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: In politics people give you what they think you deserve and deny you what they think you want. --C. Northcote ParkinsonTweet
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