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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 05/17/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 46, Whole Number 2067
Table of Contents
For the Trekkie Who Has Everything...:
Star Trek Klingon Alphabet Fridge Magnets:
It comes with 48 characters, and the Klingon alphabet has 26 letters, so there should be enough duplicates to actually form words. [-ecl]
My View of Alcohol and Tobacco (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
At one point some time ago I was comparing the effects of alcohol and tobacco on our society. In some ways I don't think that tobacco is nearly as bad on innocent bystanders, in spite of its current notoriety. What people are really complaining about is the discomfort of breathing someone else's smoke. There is the knowledge that it is unhealthy, but the irritation of smelling the smoke is what causes most of the anger.
I mean, I live in New Jersey where everybody knows there is unhealthy toxic waste in the water. We just try not to think about it. There is some low-level grumbling, but no overall panic. Not nearly so much as if the water tasted of acetone, even if it were not toxic. Actually the unpleasant aspects of tobacco are part of the reason I think it constitutes less of a threat. When I leave a building and have to walk through a noxious curtain of tobacco smoke that hangs just outside the door of so many public buildings these days, I pick up the pace of my walking. To me it is good that tobacco has an unpleasant smell, much in the same sense that it is good that an unpleasant odor is added to natural gas as it is piped to customers. It is a warning. And in truth I feel a little sorry for smokers who have to go through so much inconvenience for their habit.
Now, my attitude on alcohol is that having drinkers around really constitutes more of a threat to me than smokers. When people around me drink, I am not forced to taste their drink. But every time I step into a car, I am in danger from the prominence of alcohol in our society. I believe that about 31% of fatal car crashes involve someone who was drinking and in the early 1980s it was closer to 60% (yes, there is some improvement). Then there are the people injured or in some cases killed by abusive people around them who have been drinking. I think the reason that this society is so lenient on drinkers--and it really is--is that there is the feeling among law-writers and law-enforcers that they themselves occasionally abuse alcohol, or might some day, and they don't want to make things harder on themselves when they do. And so they have empathy for alcohol abusers. As an example, one late December when I lived in Detroit the police department, trying to improve their image, announced that if they found people driving drunk on New Year's Eve, they would get them off the roads by sending them home in taxi cabs. On the other hand, the Michigan State Police (who apparently have access to a much richer source of neurons) responded by announcing that if they found people driving drunk on New Year's Eve, the drivers would be given a ride to a nice safe jail cell. I don't believe that the Detroit Police ever repeated their kindly offer, thank goodness.
Now I realize that Prohibition was tried at one point. I am not advocating Prohibition. Everybody knows the Prohibition, when tried in the 1930s, was a dismal failure. Of course, like so many things that everybody knows, it is a false assertion. Based on current day estimates, Prohibition really did cut down on the use of alcohol in the United States. It did not eliminate it, as we all know, but what it was intended to do it did. The problem was that it also did a lot of things not intended like fostering organized crime. I am not suggesting any particular course of action; I am only looking at the problems like traffic accidents created by alcohol.
The thing is, there are apparently laws in society we intentionally do not enforce. As a society we just don't want to really enforce our own drunk driving laws. These are not the only laws we intentionally do not enforce. New York City has a horrible problem with gridlock and it also is tolerated. Go to Manhattan during gridlock hours and look at the cars entering an intersection when they know they cannot leave. When the light changes to red the way is not cleared for the legal traffic, every car stuck in the intersection is driven by a lawbreaker. I have often said that New York City does not really need to have *both* a financial crisis and a gridlock problem. One of those two problems should eliminate the other.
Similarly, if we all we want to do is catch drunk drivers we probably know where and when to catch them. You pick a bar, sit there at closing time, and catch cars as they are driving out of the parking lot. How many people leaving at that time are not doing it under the influence of alcohol? You still need breath tests, of course. But certainly leaving a bar at that time is reason to suspect the driver is under the influence. I cannot imagine that at closing time there are a whole lot of designated drivers in a bar. Well, there might be, but are they in any condition to drive? You probably would have to pick a different bar each night to not harass any particular bar. But then I don't have all that much sympathy for the bar owners since they almost certainly are making a profit by contributing to the drunk driving problem.
But the point is that cigarette smoke announces itself to innocent bystanders; drunk drivers usually do not. [-mrl]
ROOM FOR RENT (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Joyce, a woman recently widowed, finds she has been left deeply in debt by her late husband. Desperate for a source of income, she rents out her house as a bed and breakfast. She finds herself getting involved in the private lives of her guests. In some cases she likes what her snooping finds, but when she finds some people she does not like she interferes in ways that are most unwelcome. Tommy Stovall (SEDONA) directs a small cast led by Lin Shaye and by spectacular Arizona scenery. ROOM FOR RENT is a film that has few unfamiliar plot turns or touches. But that leaves open multiple possible paths and plotlines that the film may be following. Where the plot is going will very likely leave the viewer some guessing which path it will take. Directed by: Tommy Stovall; written by: Stuart Flack. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
In Sedona, Arizona, life can be as beautiful as the majestic geology around the town. (Tommy Stovall, director of SEDONA, makes no secret of his love of the town and its people.) But life is definitely no longer beautiful for Joyce, played by Lin Shaye. Joyce combats her loneliness with romance novels. She lost her husband three months back and is only now discovering just how much debt he left her, $8200 or more.
Joyce appears at first to have few saleable skills. As the film title suggests, she knows how to care for her house and how to cook so the perfect plan for her is to turn her house into a small bed and breakfast.
At first that works well for her, but she feels she needs to know more about her guests and their private lives. That conflict leads her once again into trouble. Do her guests have a right to privacy or does Joyce have the right to know what goes on in her own home? Joyce investigates one of her guests even to the point of attempting to seduce him by asking him to retrieve a newspaper for her and hand it to her while she is covered by nothing but soap bubbles in a bathtub.
Lin Shaye has a good face for just this sort of film. She projects a sort of brittle vulnerability. Even when Joyce is wrong, the viewer is pulled into her defenselessness. I rate ROOM TO RENT a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
[This 2019 film should not be confused with the 2017 Canadian film of the same name.]
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6747818/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/room_for_rent_2019
Wah Chang and Retro Hugo Finalists (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to Mark's comments on Wah Chang in the 05/10/19 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
First off, I have to get something taken care of:
EVERYBODY WAH CHANG TONIGHT!
There. I feel much better now.
Yes, indeed, I agree that a documentary about his extensive work in visual design for assorted science fiction movies and television programs would be interesting. I had no idea he was behind all of those fantastic movies and shows of my youth, and still enjoy. Wah Chang is without a doubt an unsung and underappreciated contributor to the genre. [-jp]
In response to Evelyn's comments on the Retro Hugo finalists, John writes:
Evelyn's reviews of the retro Hugo nominees are, as always, excellent. I would have to agree that CONJURE WIFE is top of the line and would earn my initial vote, but I also like GATHER DARKNESS, EARTH'S LAST CITADEL, and THE WEAPON MAKERS. Some good choices.
Until next time, keep your stick on the ice. [-jp]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
This week I'll cover the Retro Hugo Best Novella category:
There's always one on each ballot--one finalist that is totally unavailable--and this year it is "Attitude" by Hal Clement. This will not stop it from winning, of course; Clifford Simak's "Rule 18" won a Retro Hugo in 2014 for its 1939 publication, and it had been reprinted since only once--in Italian. I think I can safely say that he won on name-recognition, and the same could happen with Clement. ("Attitude" is available in NESFA's Clement collection, but I have no access to it.)
"Clash by Night" by Lawrence O'Donnell (Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore) is a tale of mercenary armies on Venus 1400 years in the future from when it was written. As such, its references to Dickens, Wagner versus Strauss, the Crusades, the Charge of the Light Brigade, and the Knights of Malta fighting Saracens serve as constant stumbling blocks, snapping the reader out of the far future. It is as if people today made references to Beowulf, Khosrovidukt versus John of Damascus, the Punic Wars, the Battle of Zama, and the legions of Rome fighting the Seleucids. Oh, and spelling it "uisqueplus" is cute, but frankly, spelling tends to simplify, not complicate. Moore has written stories with strong females; this is not one of them. In fact, though its treatment of gender was fairly standard for the time (and certainly in keeping with supporting the wartime situation of the time), it rings false now as a picture of the future.
"The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" by H. P. Lovecraft, according to the ISFDB is actually a novel (being more than 42,000 words), though even it calls it a novella, and it is within the 20% that allows relocation. It is full of Lovecraft's style, and devoid of any dialogue. Somehow I had no patience for it; if I returned to it in six months I might react differently.
THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (ISBN 978-1-840-22760-4) represents half of a first: the first time someone has been nominated in both a fiction and an art category on the same Hugo ballot (or, I suspect, any Hugo ballot). While this is a classic, and has been in print since its publication, it doesn't do anything for me. (Nor do the drawings--I cannot believe there were not five professional science fiction/fantasy artists--or even ten--who did better work than this.)
THE MAGIC BED-KNOB by Mary Norton (ISBN 978-0-152-02456-7 for the omnibus volume BED-KNOB AND BROOMSTICK) would probably not be considered even "young adult"; my library classifies it as "juvenile." As someone who is well past the target age of even young adult novels, I have difficulty rating this. It does seem however, that most of the other finalists have more substance to them.
"We Print the Truth" by Anthony Boucher is a clever idea, perhaps dragged out a little too long, but definitely enjoyable. If the idea of a supernatural wish that makes everything a newspaper prints comes true sounds familiar, it may be because the "Twilight Zone" episode "Printer's Devil" had the same plot, although that was credited as being based on a story by Charles Beaumont titled "The Devil, You Say". Maybe it is just a very common idea. Or maybe not. At any rate, Boucher seems to have gotten there first.
The two novellas that seem to have survived the test of time are the two least "traditional" of the novellas: THE MAGIC BED-KNOB and THE LITTLE PRINCE. This is not surprising, because only be being so successful would something not from within the science fiction world be able to gather enough nominations to make the ballot. But whatever has kept them popular has failed to enthrall me. Rankings: "We Print the Truth", "Clash by Night", no award, THE MAGIC BED-KNOB, "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath", THE LITTLE PRINCE, "Attitude"
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all the answers. --James ThurberTweet
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