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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 04/21/17 -- Vol. 35, No. 43, Whole Number 1959
Table of Contents
Shades of Gray (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
"There's right and there's wrong. You got to do one or the other. You do the one and you're livin'. You do the other and you may be walkin' around, but you're dead as a beaver hat." That is Davy Crockett as played by John Wayne in THE ALAMO. That is where he gave his life for the Republic of Texas so the Republic would be free to allow slavery. He also was saving fellow Texans' lives. Now, was Crockett doing right or wrong? Did he pass theBeaver Hat test? [-mrl]
Geography and Martians (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Last week I wrote about Stephen Baxter's new sequel to THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, entitled THE MASSACRE OF MANKIND. I was also considering some issues related to adaptations of THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. I think you never find out in the novel (or in the Welles radio play for that matter) what is the scope of the invasion. Wells used nice comfy and (for him) familiar South England towns in the novel. But I am fairly sure he never mentioned any place outside of England (well, any place nearer than Mars).
But I think in this alternate universe, as far as Wells tells us, the Martians attacked only southern England. Wells never told the reader what was happening outside of that small area where Wells' home was located. At least the George Pal and Steven Spielberg versions give us some news from abroad that suggests that the same thing is happening elsewhere. But the novel THE WAR OF THE WORLDS leaves to the readers' imagination the question of just where the fighting is going on a little further from home.
Now, on one hand it is quite possible that Wells intended that the Martians were trying to conquer only England. He was actually modeling the invasion on incidents in which European countries pulled their gunboats up to some ill-fated island and conquered it with the power of guns against a culture at the bow and arrow level of technological warfare. A European power might conquer just one island or multiple islands only one island at a time. It is possible that the Martians wanted to capture the world, one country at a time.
It is, however, hard to imagine an alien race coming to Earth and then attacking only a postage stamp area of England while countries like France and Germany look on but are not attacked, and then they would remain isolationist and wait and see if England or the Martians win. That might make an interesting story but it seems unlikely.
Actually it might be of interest to see what would be the reaction of the other European powers, particularly those that have had conflicts with England in the past. Would they band together, figuring if the Martians were attacking England they would attack other countries soon after? The decision would be that they stood their best shot against the Martians having all Europe and perhaps the US uniting as a single power against the invading force.
But maybe a country like Germany would try to initiate a non- aggression pact with the Martians, a separate peace (no offense intended, Germany). And in all this there is the big unknown of what really are the global strategies of the Martians. They looked at Earth "with envious eyes." Wells tells us that much. They probably wanted the whole enchilada. It seems unlikely that the Martians would be happy to defeat just England after coming millions of miles. World invasion could never be very far from their plans. On the other hand it would be difficult to attack a whole planet and have every square (tentacle)-foot of its surface be behind enemy lines. That is probably why in science fiction invasions there is so frequently a mother ship that can act as a sort of refuge.
But it just strikes me that that his a very big loose end that Wells leaves the reader. [-mrl]
New NASA Discovery at Enceladus (comments by Gregory Frederick):
Gregory Frederick writes:
"There Are Hydrothermal Vents on Saturn's Moon Enceladus That Could Support Life"
The Cassini spacecraft has detected hydrogen gas in the plumes of water shooting out of cracks on the ice covered surface of Enceladus (moon of Saturn). NASA believes this hydrogen is coming from deep ocean smoking vents at the bottom of Enceladus' world ocean. These vents could be like the Earth's deep ocean vents that are covered with lifeforms which use the chemicals from the vents as food. So, this raises the chances for life on Enceladus.
POPULAR MECHANICS article at: https://tinyurl.com/void-popularmechanic-enceladus
THE WARRIOR'S APPRENTICE by Lois McMaster Bujold (copyright 1986 Baen, 2006 Blackstone Audio, 11 hours 16 minutes, ISBN-10: 0-671-65587-6, ASIN: B000ES16RO, narrated by Grover Gardner) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: an audiobook review by Joe Karpierz):
THE WARRIOR'S APPRENTICE, published in the same year as and right after SHARDS OF HONOR, introduces an unsuspecting science fiction reading community to Miles Vorkosigan, the son of Betan Cordelia Naismith and her husband Barryaran Aral Vorkosigan. Miles is arguably one of the most beloved characters in the history of science fiction, and we find out right away why this is the case. For the half a dozen or so of you who don't know, Miles mother was the target of a gas attack while she was pregnant with him. He was born small of stature with brittle bones. What he lacked in physical presence he more than made up for with charisma, charm, and outrageousness.
We meet Miles as he is attempting to pass the physical tests necessary to be accepted into officer's training. Aside from his physical limitations, he has a lot of self-imposed stress by feeling he has to live up to his father's standards. As a result, Miles relies on wit and bravado more than most normal people would. Miles fails his test, of course, setting up an adventure that introduces the reader to the Miles we've come to love. He heads off to Beta Colony to visit his grandmother. Tagging along on the trip are his personal bodyguard Bothari and Bothari's daughter Elena. Miles, of course, is smitten with Elena. Bothari is an old fashioned man, wanting nothing but the best for his daughter (who is his daughter as a result of somewhat distasteful and shady circumstances, so he feels extra protective of her) and feeling that after all is said and done, there probably really is no one good enough for her.
Like Miles himself, THE WARRIOR'S APPRENTICE is something of a maniacal, twisting, turning, complicated, and hilarious story that while not particularly difficult to follow but is somewhat hard to explain and summarize. Miles ends up the owner of a broken down and obsolete freighter. Along the way he acquires a pilot for said freighter, a crew, and cargo destined for a war zone. In order to make all this work, Miles makes up (on the fly, mind you) the Dendarii Mercenary Fleet. There really is no such thing of course, but the fleet grows until there really is one. All along the way, Miles employs what he calls "forward momentum", but what is actually a young man solving problems on the fly that are coming up in front of him in a sort of controlled chaos. One thing leads to another, and another, and another, and yet another, and the reader may or may not how we got to the point we were--and I'm not sure Miles does either--and the mission is successful, but not without heavy costs.
This is pretty much the way it is with all the Miles stories. Miles starts at position A, and at the end of the story he does get to position B, but the route he takes to get there is circuitous as best, convoluted at worst, and everyone around him is either dumbfounded at how it all worked out or they simply marvel at his style, guts, and panache. To top it all off, the situations that Miles gets himself into and out of are both humorous and hair- raising. I'm not sure, once all is said and done, whether the reader is laughing with him or at him. But there is laughter, oh yes there is. Lots of it.
In the annals of Miles, the story told in THE WARRIOR'S APPRENTICE is one of the most well-known, as the subject of the Dendarii Mercenary Fleet comes up time and again in later books, and it's this story that molds his character for the fun we have with his later adventures.
And therein, I think, is the difference between the early Miles books and the later books in the Vorkosigan Saga, most notably CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE and GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN: the fun has gone out of the series. We all read genre fiction for different reasons, but even within our own reading we have different tastes for different times. We read fun books, somber books, literary tales, cautionary tales and a whole lot more. We expect certain types of stories from different authors, and when we want a particular type of story we as readers head to certain authors. I suppose it's unfair to pigeonhole authors into a particular category; some writers thrive on writing different types of stories depending on what they're trying to accomplish. However (and this is my justification for the point whether it's valid or not), if a series or universe has a particular tone and feel, the reader expects every book in a particular series or universe to have that tone and feel. If that expectation is not met, the reader is generally disappointed with the book. I believe that is what happened with the later Vorkosigan books; they just aren't fun.
THE WARRIOR'S APPRENTICE? Now that's fun.
Grover Gardner is like an old friend. His narration of this novel is comfortable and familiar. He hits all the right notes, and makes us laugh, cry, and suffer other emotions right along with the characters in the novel. As I've said previously, he never intrudes into nor takes the listener out of the story, and that's the way it should be.
Enough Vorkosigan for awhile, I think. Time to move on to other stories. The Hugos are calling. [-jak]
HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This is the story of the lives of a Hollywood couple, Lillian and Harold Michelson, who were the barely-sung heroes of the Hollywood film industry for six decades. Harold had an instinct for how films should look and created pitch-perfect storyboards, often transforming the director's whole vision of the film being shot. Lillian had a huge and well-collected research library to find authentic visions from around the world, from all of history, and into the future. The story of their private lives is a love story of a perfect marriage. Their visual style and knowledge shaped the look and feel of surprisingly many classic films. This film was written, produced, and directed by Daniel Raim. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Though they only rarely got any screen credit, Harold and Lillian Michelson upgraded the quality of American filmmaking. Their instincts for how to speak visually created many of the most iconic images in film. Harold designed image compositions such as Dustin Hoffman framed by Anne Bancroft's leg in THE GRADUATE or the visual compositing of the birds on the jungle gym behind Tippi Hedren in THE BIRDS, both of which were originally suggested by Harold. People believe that Alfred Hitchcock did his own storyboarding, but apparently Hitchcock would describe a scene and Harold would think out the action and the camera angles and would turn his mental images into sequences of storyboards. Hitchcock contributed the idea, but Harold would very quickly turn it into a sequence of images as full-sized storyboards. Harold went from being a storyboard artist to being a production designer and art director, creating the look and atmosphere of a film. Harold's natural instinct for how to show a scene transformed innumerable films.
Lillian's specialty was research and collecting reference books. She built this into a very large library of reference books that remains to this day a major Hollywood filmmaking asset. If a filmmaker needed to know what Egyptian battle chariots looked like for THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, she could put her hands on a book that would describe it. For FIDDLER ON THE ROOF director Norman Jewison needed to stage the song "Matchmaker". For it Jewison needed to know what young Jewish women wore for underwear in a Russian shtetl. Lillian actually found someone who had lived in the shtetl. She once interviewed a Bolivian drug lord. He was so anxious to talk to her he wanted to send his private jet from Bolivia to pick her up and travel to Bolivia to interview him. Lillian always seemed to have the needed information at her fingertips. Or if she did not, she knew where to find it. She gave films nuance and texture and an authentic period feel.
The story of the Michelsons' long career together is told in interviews with the two, as well as with Danny DeVito, Francis Ford Coppola, and Mel Brooks. The story is profusely illustrated in storyboard art in Harold's style. They tell the story of the Michelson's marriage and their career. Harold's attitude is 100% of the time that his wife is beautiful, brilliant, and just wonderful. With the exception of Harold's one-time drinking problem Lillian's attitude is just about the same towards him.
HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY is full of anecdotes-- some amazing, some amusing. It will appeal to film historians and film buffs. It is also a romance in its way. And Harold and Lillian have the talent for being instantly likeable, and so does the film about them. I rate it a low +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10. HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY will open in New York April 28 and in Los Angeles May 12.
These are some of the dozens of films that benefited from the Michelson Touch provided by one or both of the Michelsons and were mentioned in the film. This is really only scratching the surface:
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, BEN-HUR, SPARTACUS, THE BIRDS, MARNIE, THE GRADUATE, CLEOPATRA, BONNIE AND CLYDE, CAPE FEAR, SCARFACE, EASY RIDER, WEST SIDE STORY, STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, TERMS OF ENDEARMENT
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4683668/combined
What others are saying: https://tinyurl.com/void-rt-harold-lillian
THE DAWN OF INNOVATION by Charles R. Morris (book review by Gregory Frederick):
This history book covers the changing era of America during the 1800s when this country went from a rural economy with little internal transportation to become a growing industrial powerhouse. This story encompasses many people who contributed inventions, ideas and financial backing to make this change happen. Oliver Evans and his better steam engine design is one such person. Evans high-pressure steam engines were cheaper and easier to build then a Watts and Boulton low-pressure steam engine from England. Evans high-pressure engine weighed 1000 pounds and had a nine-inch diameter, 40-inch-long piston. A Watts and Bouton engine weighed 4 times as much and had a 20-inch diameter, 5-foot-long piston. Only a few machine shops in America could make a huge Watt and Boulton piston by 1820. The Evans steam engines were more powerful, weighed less and were simpler to build then the Watt and Bouton steam engine. Evans engines would be used in many situations from providing power at small sawmills in a forest setting to powering river steam boats which needed a quick burst of power to overcome swift currents. Samuel Colt's gun making business eventual made guns with essentially interchangeable parts. That is, most of the parts could be interchangeable with minimal filing and cleanup. This concept of interchangeability of parts would become the foundation for all mass production manufacturing in the USA including automobiles and appliances. Matthias Baldwin was a jeweler who was a talented mechanic. He built a stationary steam engine to power his shop in 1824. It was very efficient and soon other shop owners wanted to buy his engines. Later the Philadelphia Germantown Railroad contracted him to build a steam engine for a railroad. Baldwin incorporated better designs into his railroad locomotive engines immediately. He used a 4-wheel swiveling truck at the front of the train engine to better follow the curve of the tracks. He used a more robust and bigger 3-axle engine design and added a power train to the 4-wheel truck. Locomotives became bigger and faster in a few decades and the miles of track laid in the USA quickly outpaced that effort in the United Kingdom. By 1860 America had 3 times the miles of track laid compared to the UK. This fun to read book helps one to better understand how America became an economic superpower. [-gf]
ANDROMEDA NEBULA (Correction) and HIDDEN FIGURES (letter of comment by John Hertz):
John Hertz writes:
Thanks for printing my 24 Feb letter in [the MT VOID issue] 1954 (vol. 35, no. 38; 17 Mar 17).
You omitted part of a citation, which may confuse readers. I wrote
About s-f written in the U.S.S.R., you may have seen (e.g. http://www.File770.com 29 Oct 16) that one of the Classics of S-F book discussions I led at Loscon XLIII was on Yefremov's ANDROMEDA NEBULA (1957; Hanna tr. 1959 as ANDROMEDA). My "trailer" was:
Poetic, lyrical. Sold 20 million copies. Changed Soviet science fiction. A thousand years in the future when Earth is a Communist paradise, starships at 5/6 the speed of light meet alien challenges and we struggle against Time.but you gave the first parenthesis only as "(e.g. 29 Oct 16)".
Mea culpa. However, the error was only in the web and printed versions; the plain text sent to the mailing was fine, but I made a mistake in converting it to HTML. [-ecl]
Speaking of File770.com, you may've seen my note there (3 Mar 17; reprinted from VANAMONDE 1237) on the HIDDEN FIGURES book. I'd love to feel no cause for suspecting the book didn't reach the Hugo ballot, while the film did, because hardly anyone took the trouble to read the book. I still haven't seen the film, but Bridget Landry, who should know (at cons she sometimes wears a badge "In fact, I *am* a rocket scientist"), says it's spectacular. [-jh]
Well, I did review the book back in the 12/30/16 issue of the MT VOID. I will admit that I read the book after the film, but while I found it more accurate, I also found it less engaging. There was a lot of history of both the social structures of Virginia's Prince Edward County and the aeronautics and space programs, and while interesting and undoubtedly pertinent, it is not directly connected to the women, and often their story comes to an abrupt stop while Shetterly gives us an info-dump about (e.g.) housing around the facility. The result is a rather disjointed narrative. [-ecl]
Tripod Ambulation and Other Topics in THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (letter of comment by George Phillies):
In response to Mark's comments on tripod ambulation and other topics in the 04/14/17 issue of the MT VOID, George Phillies writes:
How do tripods walk?
Less so than once upon a time, but many people have seen dogs, cats, or foxes that have lost the use of one of their front legs, to amputation or breakage and bending. These animals are able to walk and run; I have seen it myself several times.
The Serviss novel was a full-length novel published in hardback by a Pittsburgh SF group; I have read a copy. An abridgement appeared in the English Perry Rhodan novel translations.
In addition, note the Boston Post edition of Wells' WAR OF THE WORLDS, as condemned by Wells. There have been some minor editorial changes, notably all the pointless philosophy was cut out, and more healthy American mega-violence was inserted. Also, the Martians land in Massachusetts and march on Boston, including two engagements with American warships. The Maine gets sunk.
For a current series, note Washburn, in which the Martians make a second set of landings all around the world. (The ones who landed in Antarctica do especially poorly.) They are up against Teddy Roosevelt.
There is a critical edition, including several segments that Wells took out, notably the English Republic sending men armed with satchel charges against the war machines. [-gp]
I guess 186 short pages still might make a novel, though much of those pages is illustratons. The story, complete with illustrations can be found at
Grammar (letter of comment by Keith F. Lynch):
In response to Mark's comments on grammar in the 04/14/17 issue of the MT VOID, Keith Lynch writes:
[Mark writes, "] I have to disagree with Keith Lynch (rarely a smart thing to do)," -mrl
Thank you. [-kfl]
... when he says, "Not an ad, but the parody of the East German national anthem has stuck in my head. "Do not think that I'm a Nazi, actually we're Communists..." because of the mid-sentence change of voice from singular to plural."Keith responds:
Suppose you have four Communists in a room and one gets called a Nazi. Would it be a grammatical error to point out that the four people in the room are all Communists? He would not be going from talking for one person to talking as four people. Certainly one person can report that all the people in his room are Communists. [-mrl]
It's a (parody) anthem. As such, the singer is speaking for the whole nation (or pretending to).
It can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLju6RwUAws
There are 38 other parody national anthems by the same group. It's well worth listening to them all. [-kfl]
In response to various comments on confusing mathematics in the 04/14/17 issue of the MT VOID, more can be found following the MT VOID on Usenet at:
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
THE TRUE BELIEVER by Eric Hoffer (ISBN 978-0-060-50591-2) looks at mass political movements. (Hoffer professionally was a longshoreman, but he also was a political philosopher.) The book is valuable reading now, although one suspects that could be said at any time. Hoffer disagrees somewhat that it could be said at any time, and he explains why some periods are more conducive to mass movements than others, e.g., why the Protestant Reformation succeeded, but there was no successful mass uprising against the more corrupt Catholic Church of the tenth century or so.
Hoffer covers the topic in a very structured manner. His four main sections are "The Appeal of Mass Movements", "The Potential Converts", "United Action and Self-Sacrifice", and "Beginning and End". These in turn have subsections so, for example, "Unifying Agents" in the third section includes hatred, imitation, persuasion and coercion, leadership, action, suspicion, and the effects of unification.
Much of what Hoffer says seems self-evident or obvious, but Hoffer may have been the first to cover it in an organized fashion for a wide audience. (THE TRUE BELIEVER was first published in 1951.) Clearly, he had a lot of then-recent movements to use as examples: various Chinese revolutionary movements, Japanese militarism, Nazism, Communism, not to mention older examples such as Christianity, Islam, and the Protestant Reformation.
This has become a classic and makes a good companion book to IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE, on which I commented last week.
EL LIBRO DE LOS SALMOS: LIBRO PRIMERO (SALMOS I--XLI) by Jacob Benzaquen (ISBN 980-265-781-6) is Benzaquen annotations on the Psalms, along with excerpts from other rabbis through the ages. I'm a sucker for annotated books, so in spite of the fact that this is mostly in Spanish, although with many (transliterated) Hebrew phrases thrown in, I decided to give it a try.
One thing to keep in mind while reading it is that Benzaquen seems to have a very traditional approach. (I'm not sure if "orthodox" or "fundamentalist" are quite the words I am looking for, but they are close.) So, for example, he describes Psalm VI as a prayer for recovery from illness, and then says, "If one wants to pray for recovery from an illness, that is an opportunity to recite this psalm, preferably in it original version. One can use a phonetic transcription [transliteration] if one does not know the Hebrew idiom [language/alphabet]." (He does not actually provide such a transliteration.] Saying that "reciting" this psalm in the original language, even if one cannot understand it, is more efficacious than reading it in translation into one's own language, seems to make it into a mere magic spell of specific syllables rather than a heartfelt wish for health.
Jacke Wilson (of "The History of Literature" podcast) recently did a podcast with Mike Palindrome titled "Overrated! Top 10 Books You Don't Need to Read" (#83). In the interest of saving people time (which was one of his stated goals), here's the list: - DON QUIJOTE by Miguel de Cervantes - Shakespeare's comedies (watch them, or if you must read one, it should be TWELFTH NIGHT or A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM) - FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce - "great male narcissists" (John Updike, Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, Jonathan Frantzen, David Foster Wallace) (read Saul Bellow instead) - THE ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach - "a rolling wall" (i.e., anything published in the last three years, or for poetry, five years) - THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway (read A MOVABLE FEAST instead) - any experimental or metafiction more than ten years old - ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac (read INTO THE WILD instead) - NAKED LUNCH by William Burroughs - any books beyond the saturation limit for prolific authors, which was defined for various authors: Charles Dickens (5), Saul Bellow (3), Toni Morrison (3), William Faulkner (1.5)
Yes, there are more than ten books. Kerouac and Burroughs were listed as one entry, and several entries are really categories. This merely supports C. P. Snow's notion of "two cultures"--the sciences and the humanities. As long as people discussing literature, or film, or other "artistic" categories persist in putting fifteen items on a "Ten Best" list, people with backgrounds in mathematics will believe that the artists are not worth listening to. (The one allowable exception is when the "Ten Best" list is voted on and there is a tie for tenth place. You are *not* allowed to take a tie for, say, eighth place, label them both #8, and then list a #9 and a #10.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: God cannot alter the past, though historians can. --Samuel ButlerTweet
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