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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 01/27/17 -- Vol. 35, No. 31, Whole Number 1947
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
February 9: GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) and "Doubled and Redoubled" (short story by Malcolm Jameson), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM February 10: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N Northern New Jersey events are listed at: http://www.sfsnnj.com/news.html
How Soviet Writers in 1960 Envisioned 2017:
From memri.org comes the following:
In 1960, V. Strukova and V. Shevchenko wrote a story, illustrated by L. Smekhov, about the Soviet Union in 2017. The date was not fortuitously chosen--it marked the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution that brought the Communists to power. The authors believed that people in 2017 would be fortunate to live in a world liberated by Soviet science, where the climate could be controlled, the flow of the northern rivers could be controlled, and Alpha Centauri was a flight destination. ... In 1960, the Soviet movie studio 'Diafilm' released a filmstrip titled 'In the Year 2017'...
The filmstrip can be seen in its entirety, with English translations for the subtitles, at:
Revisionist Recipes (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
We were serving a friend some of Evelyn's Green Chicken Chili. He asked was there any way he could have cheese on it. As we keep kosher we do not mix meat and dairy. I told him, yes, there is a way, but first he has to find an anti-matter chicken. [-mrl]
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for February (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
February 1 begins TCM's 31-day series called "31 Days of Oscar." Every day in February and for the first three days of March TCM will run only films that have been nominated for (and possibly won) an Academy Award. This year, the 31 days of films will be shown in strict alphabetical order. There will be no mini-fests of Robert Wise films or 1950s science fiction. The alphabet will decide when films will be played.
On February 1 this year, they begin with ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS (1940). They end on March 3 with the political thriller Z (1969). (Z is a good film. I expect to say something about Z next month.)
I am surprised that the film FURY is not better known than it is today. In 1936 it was considered very good and was strong stuff, even if it was somewhat toned down by MGM so that it would not be too shocking. It was the first film made in America by Germany's master filmmaker Fritz Lang, director of FRAU IM MUND, METROPOLIS, and M. Spencer Tracy starred as a man wrongly convicted of kidnapping. A lynch mob is ready to hang him, but instead the jail burns down and the convicted man is able to escape and leave evidence that he had died in the flames. The leaders of the lynch mob are put on trial for murder while the Tracy character looks on but will not save his accused murderers. Mob violence was a serious threat in 1936, but is less so now, so the story lacks some of its original punch. Still it has plenty left. [Thursday, February 9, 4:30 AM]
INHERIT THE WIND (1960) This is a film adaptation of the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E Lee inspired by the famous 1925 Scopes Tennessee Monkey Trial. The film takes place in a state where it is illegal to teach in school biological evolution rather than creationism. Two of the most prominent legal minds in the country, old friends, are recruited to try the case arguing for the defense of Bertram Cates (Dick York). Prosecuting is Matthew Harrison Brady (Frederic March). Defending is Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy). The trial becomes a national focal point. Much of the play is not accurate to the court trial, but much is. The courtroom discussion is taken directly from the Scopes trial court proceedings. This was a pivotal moment in the relations between religion and science and the play is just excellent. Henry Drummond is based on Clarence Darrow. Matthew Harrison Brady is based on William Jennings Bryan. Frederic March's Brady is uncannily accurate to Bryan. His posture and his gestures are extremely accurate to newsreels of Bryan. There is good acting all around. [Monday, February 13, 8:00 PM]
OF MICE AND MEN (1939) This is a great movie and in previous months I have not listed it since I thought it was a little too well known to fit under my charter. This month its competition on TCM is also well known, all having been nominated for Oscars. That is all the excuse I need. John Steinbeck first wrote this story as a play and then novelized his own play. It was adapted for the screen by Eugene Solow. I have never seen the story in any form that it did not pack quite a wallop. The story, set in the Great Depression involves two migrant farm workers who travel together with a bond stronger than family. Lenny (played by Lon Chaney Jr.) was rendered a mental defective by an accident he had in his youth. George (Burgess Meredith) looks after Lenny because, well, there is just nobody else to do it. This is particularly troublesome because Lenny does not know how to stay out of trouble. If you have seen a version of this story before you may be excused. If you do not know the story (and you get TCM), for gosh sakes do not miss it. This was Chaney's first major role and he really built his career on it. [Sunday, February 19, 2:00 PM]
Best film of the month? Right now I would go with OF MICE AND MEN. [-mrl]
THE FOUR THOUSAND, THE EIGHT HUNDRED by Greg Egan (copyright 2015 Greg Egan, 2016 Subterranean Press, Limited Edition Hardcover Novella, $40, 89pp, ISBN 978-1-59606-791-2) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz) :
I've never really gotten around to reading much of Greg Egan's material. I suspect it really has mostly to do with the fact that I have a huge to-read list and the thought of picking up yet another author that I haven't read much, if any of, is a bit daunting. I did read 2008's Incandescence, but found it difficult to engage with. I suppose that based on that one somewhat negative experience I found it easy to ignore the Egan that I have on my Kindle or my bookshelves waiting to be read.
Back in December of 2015 Asimov's published Egan's novella "The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred". I was hearing enough positive commentary about it that I decided I wanted to read it. Last year, Subterranean Press published a very handsome limited run volume of the novella, and while it was pricey I decided to take the plunge.
The story takes place on two asteroids, Vesta and Ceres. The original settlers of Vesta decided that the best way to share the profits was to do so equally, which seems fair enough. However, one of the originally settling families, the Sivadier clan, contributed intellectual property rather than solid goods. While this intellectual property was invaluable in the development of the asteroid, the other settlers have been clamoring for the Sivadier's share to be cut, taxed, or otherwise affected so they no longer received an equal share. Ceres is a well-established asteroid colony. Anna is a new port director for the asteroid who is on the receiving end of "riders" from Vesta, people who are disenchanted with what is happening on Vesta and travel to Ceres in small cocoons attached to ships traveling from Vesta to Ceres.
The story shuttles back and forth between the present, in which Anna is dealing with the riders as well as her own personal situations, and the past and present on Vesta. Egan spotlights Camille (who we meet as a rider at the beginning of the story) and her companion Olivier back on Vesta, and uses Olivier as the link between the past and the present as Olivier is a rider who makes it to Ceres before Camille does. Anna is caught in middle when the political situation on Vesta spills over to Ceres, and in the end has to make a decision that is not good for anyone.
"The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred" is not just your run-of-the- mill science fiction space opera adventure story; it provides a view of a volatile situation in which perceived inequities cause a majority to turn on a valuable minority--in this case, the Sivadier clan. It's also reflective of today's climate in which science is not necessarily respected or trusted. The mining knowledge that the Sivadiers brought to the table is just as valuable, if not more so, than what was brought to the table by the rest of the settlers. The other side of this is Anna, who has to make decisions she doesn't want to make, and finds herself in an untenable position. We see this all the time in current society; Egan is taking it to the asteroid belt and raising the stakes.
This is a great novella, and I'm disappointed I didn't read it when it came out and that it didn't make the Hugo ballot last year. This is a great, accessible read from Egan. Maybe it's time for me to start reading some of the other Egan I have around here. Who knows what I've been missing? Oh, wait, it's all of you. [-jak]
THE DAUGHTER (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: With this Australian production, stage director Simon Stone directs his first feature film, adapting his own modernization and re-imagining of Henrik Ibsen's "The Wild Duck." The story is of a man who returns to his home to find the key to many locked family secrets. The story might easily have settled into melodrama, but it manages to keep its head above water. Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, and Miranda Otto star. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Just in case there was any question of what story is being told, we see a wild duck being shot and injured in the first shots of the film. Writer/director Simon Stone is updating Henrik Ibsen's 1884 play, "The Wild Duck." One of the essential weaknesses of the film is that in updating the original Stone had to create too many characters for the viewer to keep straight. Watching the film I felt I could have used a list of characters to keep them all straight and to help sort their relationships. Stone has made a film that is harder to follow than the original play it was based on.
An Australian town--never named--lives in the shadow of one man. The town lives or dies under the control of Henry Nielsen (played by Geoffrey Rush) who owns the lumber mill that has been the lifeblood of the town. Just at the moment the mill and the town are both dying. The mill has lost its last contract and most of the town has been laid off. Particularly in Henry's shadow is Walter Finch (Sam Neill) who used to be Henry's partner and who went to prison for shady dealing with Henry but for which Henry went unpunished. To contrast his character from that of Henry, Walter maintains a little sanctuary to nurse animals, including the wild duck, back to life.
It is a moment of mixed emotion as Henry is soon to be married to Anna (Anna Tov) his former housekeeper, young enough to be his daughter. Henry's son Christian (Paul Schneider) is returning home from America to attend the wedding. Shocking secrets are about to be revealed. I will not reveal who the real villain is, but of course this is an adaptation of a play by Henrik Ibsen.
In the hands of a director who knew less about how to stage dialog this would have been a bit talky and feel like a lot of soap opera melodrama. Stone takes what could have been taken as exaggeration and leaves it with a realistic feel.
It is not clear why Stone chose to rename this work the nondescript THE DAUGHTER. One would think that among the film's intended audience there would be more marquee value in using the original classic and familiar title. I rate THE DAUGHTER a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. THE DAUGHTER will get its wide release January 27 of this year.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3922816/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_daughter_2015
LA LA LAND (letter of comment by Art Stadlin):
In response to Mark's comments on LA LA LAND in the 01/20/17 issue of the MT VOID, Art Stadlin writes:
[Warning, the following contains film spoilers. -mrl]
I'm wondering if Mark and I saw the same movie! Not a sad ending? Our two lead characters were very much in love. They appreciated each other's passion for their career goals, and they supported each other through the low spots. A happy ending would have been for them to realize their dreams while staying together. But that's not what happened. They needed to *sacrifice* their love for each other in order to pursue their passions. And they both succeeded, individually. So when they met again by chance 5-years later, with our leading lady married to some other guy, the audience is left to wonder where this will lead. We get that extended dream sequence of what might have been between our two original lovebirds: marriage, family, and all that goes with it. An alternate reality to be sure, and done so well it just about ripped my heart out. No, Mark, to me this was a very sad ending.
I completely agree with Mark that the music was nothing special, and neither were the dancing and singing. Frankly I think billing this film as a musical only sets people up for disappointment. This was a love story, and in that regard I think LA LA LAND was one of the best I've seen in a long time. [-as]
I admit I probably misspoke. I was saying that this was not "Pagliacci" or "La Boheme" where the ending is irreversible. They had still kept their feelings for each other alive and there is still hope for their relationship to rekindle. I should have said that the ending is bittersweet but not tragic. I think the ending will probably be interpreted as tragic. But as I say that is not how the ending will be interpreted by most.
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
ISAAC'S STORM: A MAN, A TIME, AND THE DEADLIEST HURRICANE IN HISTORY by Erik Larson (ISBN 978-0-375-70827-5) is the story of the Galveston hurricane of September 8, 1900. It is also the story of the U.S. Weather Bureau, and how it was transformed by the hurricane. In that regard it is a cautionary tale, and a depressing one, because it is not the story of how the Weather Bureau rose to the occasion, but rather how the incompetence and hubris of the Weather Bureau led to over 6000 deaths.
In brief, the head of the Weather Bureau was convinced he knew everything there was to know about hurricanes, and to this end he not only refused to listen to other people's theories, he actually forbade the telegraph service to carry any hurricane warnings from anyone in Cuba (which was under U.S. control at that time) except the U.S. Weather Bureau.
Larson also emphasizes the rivalry between Isaac Cline and his younger brother Joseph throughout their careers. While detailing their losses in the storm, Larson also questions Isaac's own account of his actions during the storm. After the storm, Isaac claimed he had personally driven around, warning people to evacuate, and that he was responsible for saving at least 6000 lives. (Later, his number increased to 12,000.) Yet apparently no survivors remember seeing or hearing him giving any warnings, and reports often placed him at locations other than those where he claimed to be.)
Larson also covers the storm, of course. A large part of the description is of the storm itself, almost in the mode of George R. Stewart in STORM, although more scientific. (In this regard, the book is similar to TWELVE DAYS OF TERROR by Richard Fernicola, in which the author makes the shark of the 1916 New Jersey attacks a real character in the story.) The interaction of storm and city, though is more traditional, with descriptions of what people saw, and of what damage the storm caused and how it caused it. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs. -- Aldous HuxleyTweet
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