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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 02/07/20 -- Vol. 38, No. 32, Whole Number 2105
Table of Contents
Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category (General and Long Form) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the "science" contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible
Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.
Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me "classic." By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.
Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.
CAPTAIN AMERICA (serial): The Scarab, an evil master criminal (played by Lionel Atwill) is manipulating members of the wealthy class with something that has been called "The Purple Death". With it, Scarab can telepathically order people infected with the Purple Death to commit suicide. The Scarab and his minions know each other because they carry a jeweled scarab beetle. (The jewel has four pairs of legs, but scarabs are insects and so have only three pairs of legs; scarabs are beetles and so have six pairs of legs, not eight.
THE GREAT ALASKA MYSTERY (serial): In the 1940s it was cheap to have and reuse the plot of bad guys being Nazis trying to get their hands on some sort of American super weapon. And what was the weapon? It was usually a death ray. That was a really cheap effect to create. A film is easy to stretch to distort. That gives an impression of melting rock. (I have seen only the first chapter.)
THE UNINVITED: In the middle of these weak B-movies is a true A- movie classic. It is a film that tells a good story and at the same time has comedy, drama, horror, a good mystery, and romance. Director Lewis Allen has given one of s small handful of the best English-language cinematic ghost stories ever made. (By the rules, this could be relocated into Short Form.)
Next week I will start on the Short Form nominees. [-mrl]
Novella Reviews ("Auberon" and "In an Absent Dream") (reviews by Joe Karpierz):
AUBERON by James S.A. Corey (copyright 2019, Orbit, ISBN 13: 9781549170096)
"Auberon" is the latest novella set in the Expanse universe. It takes place between PERSEPOLIS RISING and TIAMAT'S WRATH, books 7 and 8 of Corey's popular and commercially successful series (I say commercially because, while the first novel, LEVIATHAN WAKES, was a Hugo finalist, the series has been, in my opinion, unfairly snubbed in awards circles since that time. The writing is engaging, the characters terrific, and the stories are top of the line.
"Auberon" is no different. As with most stories in the Expanse, there is more to the story than meets the eye. On the surface, the story is simple, at least at the start. The planet of Auberon is one of the most important colony worlds on the other side of the ring gates. Because of that Duarte--who is still at full power at the time of this novella--has decided it's time for the planet to be added to the Laconian Empire. He sends Rittenaur to be the new governor of the planet and to bring its politics and society into line with that of the Laconian Empire. Auberon, on the other hand, has its own corrupt structure in place, and the "old man" that is running the place has different ideas.
What this story is really about is how an honest person tries to change a corrupt system and how complex family relationships turns that attempt on its ear. Corey deftly makes the reader see both sides--well, all three sides--of the story, and somehow makes the reader see that there are some powers stronger than the government one serves.
IN AN ABSENT DREAM by Seanan McGuire (copyright 2019, Tor, ASIN B079DVJV2W)
"In An Absent Dream" is the fourth entry in Seanan McGuire's thoroughly engaging Wayward Children series. I first encountered the series in "Down Among the Sticks and Bones", the second entry in the series which was a Hugo finalist. The series is a portal fantasy, and while I don't read a lot of fantasy, and even less portal fantasies, honesty compels me to say that in Wayward Children McGuire has written the best portal fantasies that I've ever read.
"In An Absent Dream" is a prequel to "Every Heart a Doorway" in that it introduces the character of Lundy, who the reader meets elsewhere in the series. Lundy is studious and serious. Her parents want her to grow up to be a housewife and behave the way they think a girl should behave. Of course, when she needs to find it, Lundy finds a doorway to an alternate world that is based on rules, logic, and reason. She feels that she's found the place she needs to be, but of course there's more to this place, and the Goblin Market, than meets the eye.
"In An Absent Dream" is a story of friendship and love, and the consequences one faces when you try to game the system in the name of that friendship and love. While Lundy's tactics seem to work all the way to the bitter end, the end is indeed bitter for her. Because as we know, love and friendship usually don't work with rules, logic, and reason.
UNDERLAND: A DEEP TIME JOURNEY by Robert MacFarlane (book review by Gregory Frederick):
This book is a recent science book which looks into the amazing things that are buried underground. The author discusses prehistoric art in caves, Bronze Age funeral chambers, ancient mining sites, a dark matter experiment in a mine shaft, a labyrinth of catacombs under Paris, massive fungal networks connecting trees in a forest, deep storage locations for nuclear wastes and the interior of a glacier in Greenland. The author is a well-known nature writer and relates his observations and scientific information plus informs the reader with myth, legend and history.
An example of one underground entity is in Oregon's Blue Mountain region and it is a honey fungus which covers 4 square miles and is estimated to be between 1,900 and 8,600 years old. The relationship between fungi and plants is about 450 million years old. It's largely a relationship of mutualism. Trees, other plants and underground fungi are linked together as a huge underground network connecting many plants by means of fungi strands. The fungi siphon off carbon produced by the tree in the form of glucose and the trees obtain nutrients like nitrogen which the fungi obtained from the soil. This mutualism is actually a form of symbiosis which benefits both organisms. This network has other benefits, too. A tree in trouble may be supported by other trees which transfer resources to the tree in need by way of the fungi network. The fungi network also allows plants under an insect attack to send immune signaling compounds to other plants to warn them of this attack.
This is an interesting book told in a very different way from most science books I have read but it is very enjoyable. [-gf]
Plurals (letters of comment by Paul Dormer and Dorothy J. Heydt):
In response to Evelyn's comments on plurals in the 01/31/20 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:
[Evelyn wrote,] "However, when McWhorter listed examples of 'is' words that just added 'es', he included a lot that I would pluralize by changing the 'is' to 'es', including 'axis', 'oasis', and 'diagnosis', I noted in an email that I would also include 'prognosis', 'analysis', 'emphasis', and 'exegesis'."
Did he include "arsis"? It amuses me because I'm British and the plural is a bit rude in UK English. (It has several meanings listed in Chambers, but it originally meant a lift, hence an up- beat in classical prosody.)
I remember reading an article many years ago about a crossword in a UK paper where that plural was the answer and it got some complaints. (Of course, it wouldn't raise an eyebrow these days. [-pd]
Dorothy J. Heydt responds:
Note also that the genital equipment of [some?] male snakes are described as "hemipenes."
I think ['arsis' is] safe; even Brits who (when the occasion warrants) say "get off your arse"* are statistically unlikely to see "arses" in a document and be taken aback by it. Statistically, because very few people who speak any variety of English are unlikely to read analyses in classical prosody.
In the US, of course, one would say "get off your ass," if one were inclined to rude language. A more polite locution would be "get a move on" or "quit stalling" or the like; or my husband's favorite remark to slow-moving drivers on the freeway, "Move it or milk it, Doc!" A less polite locution would be "piss, or get off the pot."
*For example, the DOCTOR WHO episode "Heaven Sent," which first aired 28 November 2015. Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor is completely alone in a castle, joined only by a monster called "the Veil" which never speaks, and the occasional image of his late companion Clara, who occasionally writes hints on a chalkboard. As the Doctor reaches the bottom level of despair, Clara's image turns to face him and says, "Get off your arse and win." Note that this is officially a children's program.
Magnificent performance by Capaldi, by the way. One reviewer remarked, "Tom Baker would have killed to get a role like that." [-djh]
What's acceptable changes over time. This crossword was, I think, in the Seventies when "arse" would not be written in a UK paper. Yes, now it probably wouldn't get a second look. Also, consider, it was the answer to a crossword clue. Imagine the next day happening to look over the answers to the previous day's crossword and seeing "arses" with no context.
(I'm reminded of a joke doing the rounds in the Seventies about the clean-up television campaigner Mary Whitehouse:
"Yes," says the person from the BBC, "You did here him says 'Tits like coconuts.' And if you'd kept listening, you'd have heard him say, 'And sparrows like breadcrumbs.'")
I've just seen a children's book on sale called I NEED A NEW BUM, and the cover illustration shows a young boy trying to look at his own arsecrack.
I've often thought that the American ass is the same as the UK arse. (Chambers says that ass meaning buttocks comes from the English arse, from the Old English for ears.) There are words in UK English that change their vowel as you move north. So in London, the word bath has the same vowel as in car, bar, and laugh. In the north east, where I grew up it has a shorter vowel sound as in cat and bat. Ass meaning a donkey now has the short vowel throughout the UK, but some older accents, ass is pronounced arse.
Some years ago there was a programme on the radio comparing recordings of William Walton's "Facade". This piece involves someone reciting poems by Edith Sitwell. One of the poems has grass/pass/ass all apparently supposed to rhyme. But only two recordings this actually happens. One was an American reciter who used a short vowel for all three words. The other was Sitwell herself who used a long vowel, pronouncing ass as arse.
Back in the sixties there was a popular ventriloquist called Ray Alan who had a doll called Lord Charles, an upper-class toff. His catchphrase was "What a silly ass", but is sounded like "What a silly arse". I think Alan was able to get away with that only because arse was an acceptable pronunciation of ass.
I've usually heard the less polite locution Dorothy refers to as "sh*t or get off the pot." [-ecl]
SEVEN SURRENDERS (letter of comment by Gary McGath):
In response to Joe Karpierz's review of SEVEN SURRENDERS in the 01/31/20 issue of the MT VOID, Gary McGath writes:
I really liked TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING, but I found the first couple of chapters of SEVEN SURRENDERS too squicky and couldn't continue. [-gmg]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
In the Great Courses episode on THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS (in "Great Utopian and Dystopian Works in Literature"), the professor talks about how someone on Gethen could both "mother" and "father" children. The problem, of course, is while the words may seem parallel, their connotations say so much about attitudes about gender roles up until recently. To father a child means to get a woman pregnant, and there it ends. To mother a child had nothing to do with pregnancy or giving birth, but to the care one gives a child after the child is born.
I was listening to another Great Course, "Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis", and decided I should read some of Lewis's non-fiction works. I started with MERE CHRISTIANITY (ISBN 978-0-060-65292-0) but could not get past page 40. Lewis's writing was readable (the book was taken from lectures), but after hitting a logical fallacy and a false parallel in two pages, I gave up.
The first was the claim(s), "If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of truth." An atheist saying that the main point in all the religions is false is not the same as saying that these religions do not contain some hint of truth.
The other is Lewis's statement, "Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, 'If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this is also God.'" A Christian, he say, would say that these are not God, but things that we should put right. Maybe that works with slums, but "putting cancer right" is definitely problematic, and as for tornadoes, earthquakes, and meteor strikes, saying that God wants us to put them right means God thinks we are gods too. (Not to mention the common Christian response when bad things happen to good people is that God has sent these trials to test us--which certainly is not what Lewis is saying.)
Meanwhile, we have been watching Ken Burns's "Country Music", but apparently sixteen hours of documentary was not enough for us, so after the second episode we just had to watch O RROTHER WHERE ARE THOU?, and after the fourth, WALK THE LINE. I debated watching DUMPLIN' after the seventh (we don't have 9 TO 5), but decided to give it a pass. What we learned, in the seventh episode in particular, is that William Goldman was right, "Nobody knows anything." George Jones recorded a song as a favor, but said it was so depressing that "nobody'll buy that morbid son of a bitch." "He Stopped Loving Her Today" was number 1 on the charts for 18 weeks, and won several major awards. Willie Nelson cut an album that he had creative control over, the producers all said it would flop but they said if they let him release it he would go along with their ideas next time, and then "Red Headed Stranger" went multi-platinum. Nelson then wanted to record an album of old pop songs. Again, the producers were sure it would flop. "Stardust" "flopped" onto the charts and stayed there for ... wait for it ... ten years. And on it goes. [-ecl] Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: If you don't want your dog to have bad breath, do what I do: Pour a little Lavoris in the toilet. --Jay LenoTweet
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