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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 06/26/20 -- Vol. 38, No. 52, Whole Number 2125
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
Needless to say, everything here is tentative.
All Middletown meetings cancelled/postponed until further notice July 23, 2020: One or more of LAND THAT TIME FORGOT by Edgar Rice Burroughs, THE DARK FOREST by Cixin Liu, and CLIPPER OF THE CLOUDS by Jules Verne (a.k.a. ROBUR THE CONQUEROR, [Fr. title ROBUR LE CONQUERANT], published by Ace in 1961 in an omnibus titled MASTER OF THE WORLD, which is the title of the sequel), either Old Bridge Public Library or someone's backyard, socially distanced (TBA), 7PM https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/551 (Burroughs) https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3808 (Verne) September 24, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America, Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM November 19, 2020: Rudyard Kipling: "A Matter of Fact" (1892) https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16578 "The Ship That Found Herself" (1895) https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2569 ".007" (1897) https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2569 "Wireless" (1902) https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9790 "With the Night Mail [Aerial Board of Control 1]" (1905) https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/29135 "As Easy as A.B.C. [Aerial Board of Control 2]" (1912) https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/13085 "In the Same Boat" (1911) https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/13085 Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM Northern New Jersey events are listed at: http://www.sfsnnj.com/news.html
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for July (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I sometimes am rather surprised (and usually delighted) when a total stranger remembers what rating I have given a film or remembers a joke I had made in the MT VOID. Science fiction fandom seems to be one large group and not a bunch of individuals. As far as my film reviews go, there is one question I get asked possibly more than any other. The question is what films are my "guilty pleasures." People want to know what film can they sit in front of and laugh at the incompetence of its filmmakers. My official response is that I have no "guilty pleasures." If I enjoy a film, then I would be a hypocrite to say that pleasure is a guilty one. That is my official position. It is also a lie.
(Well, sort of)
I am willing to say a film I saw has enough bad touches that I can see why people would or even should be criminal. I just do not want to be the person who declares a film to be so bad it is funny. One such film is KONGA (1961)
KONGA draws us into the silly world of a mad scientist and his ape. The scientist found the ape in the jungle when the ape saved his life. And now the scientist is using the chimp, treating him, to test a seemingly magic serum that exponentially increases the ape's size. The ape starts out played by a baby chimp. When the story calls for a larger version, he is played by an adult chimpanzee. Another dose turns makes him into a man in a ludicrous ape suit gorilla with bug eyes. (You have to see it to believe it, or sufficiently disbelieve it.) Eventually the enormous gorilla is still a man in a suit, and an actor has to deliver the lines: "fantastic ... there's a huge monster gorilla that's constantly growing to outlandish proportions loose in the streets!"
KONGA (1961) [SATURDAY, JULY 25 @ 04:30 AM (ET)]
There is also a Tod Browning "celebration" on July 17:
7:00 AM West of Zanzibar (1928) 8:15 AM Thirteenth Chair, The (1929) 9:30 AM Freaks (1932) 10:45 AM Mark of the Vampire (1935)
A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE by Arkady Martine (copyright 2019, TOR, $25.99, hardcover, 462pp, ISBN 978-1-250-18643-0) (book review by Joe Karpierz):
Memory is one of the most important concepts that humanity has to deal with. It's something we cherish and nurture. It defines who we are, who we've been, and to a certain extent, who we will be. It plays an important role on certain days and at certain times of the year; as I write this, it's Father's Day, and while a great deal of us have complicated relationships with either one or both of our parents, I think it's reasonable to say that we remember the times we had with our fathers on this day. As we get older, we struggle with our memory. It's not as easy to remember certain things, or any thing at all. Loss of memory is a sad and difficult thing, especially when we lose loved ones to dementia and Alzheimer's. This underscores just how much we depend on memories.
Which brings us to Arkady Martine's first novel, A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE. Mahit Dzmare is an Ambassador to the Teixcalaan Empire from Lsel Station, a mining station that sits right in the path of the Empire's expansionist plans. She has recently been called to service to replace her predecessor, Yskander Aghavn, who has been murdered--and no one will admit to it.
Where does the subject of memory come in to this? The people of Lsel Station have a technology called the "imago machine", a device which records a person's memories and then may be passed down to the next person in line for which those memories may be useful. In this case, Mahit has an imago machine which has the memories of Yskander, but the problem is that the memories are fifteen years out of date. Yskander has not been home from the Empire in that period of time to update his memories for his eventual successor. Ideally, Mahit would have full access to Yskander's memories, and thus be able to navigate the complicated politics of the empire, and be able to follow up on what her predecessor had done.
So, why hadn't Yskander come home in the last fifteen years? What was he hiding, what was he doing, and how would the fifteen-year- old memories be able to help Mahit as she tries to figure out just what is going on, including why someone would want Yskander dead? Well, even that 15 year out of date imago can't help because not long after Mahit arrives at the empire, the imago stops functioning.
At the beginning I talked about how important memories are to a person's life. Imagine how, when you're expecting to have someone else's memories in your head to help you through your job assignment, that not only are they out of date, but what you have is unavailable to you. Without any of those memories, Mahit is forced to navigate a complicated society that thinks of her as a barbarian and believes that the technology in her head is immoral. To go along with that, she has to figure out what Yskander was up to, and why it was so important that she replace Yskander immediately. Add on top of that aggressive expansionist plans and a budding civil war, and Mahit is clearly hip deep in issues with no help other than her deep interest in the Empire's society that she's been cultivating for years.
A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE is a terrific debut novel. I have a problem with calling it a space opera, which several folks have done. None of the story really happens in space--it happens on a single planet. There are no trappings of a traditional space opera. Developments near the end of the novel indicate that the sequel, A DESOLATION CALLED PEACE, due out in 2021, will be a space opera. Really, this complaint is a nitpick, but if that's the only thing "wrong" about the novel, then there's really not much wrong with it at all. [-jak]
Hot Food (letter of comment by Paul Dormer, Scott Dorsey, Robert K. Shull, and Sjouke Burry):
In response to Mark's comments on Indian restaurants in the 06/19/20 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:
I remember my first few experiences of going to Indian restaurants in the US were that the dishes were exceptionally mild compared to Indian restaurants in the UK. A group of us went out to one in Boston during the 1989 Worldcon, all of us English, and one of our number tried to convince the staff that we didn't mind spicy food. We all found it a bit mild.
Since then, I think things have improved. The meals I had on my last trip a couple of years ago, were not too bad compared to the UK restaurants.
There was a thing in the eighties for "curry macho", ordering the hottest dish on the menu to show you were man enough to eat it. The comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, written and performed by people of south Asian extraction, did a sketch about a group of Indians in Mumbai going out for English, ordering the blandest thing on the menu.
They reckon that the phal (or fal, or phall) is the hottest curry you can get in UK Indian restaurants and reputedly not usually served to westerners. A friend of mine told a story of going out to eat with someone and this person noticed they had phal on the menu and after a brief argument they did serve it to him. He gave up halfway through. My friend as an experiment dipped his finger in the sauce and licked it, and immediately regretted it.
Which reminds me that also around the time of the 1989 Worldcon, afterwards with a couple of friends we drove down to visit friends in North Carolina. On the way back we stopped of to visit Washington and stayed in Silver Spring. We went out to eat one night at a Korean restaurant and noticed a spiced crab dish on the menu. They refused to server it to us as it was too spicy, but would bring us a small taster dish of it. We found it about on par with a medium Indian curry. [-pd]
At the Indian restaurant, they probably they did not trust you to know what real piquancy was. It is a lot easier to doctor a bland dish and make it spicy than to doctor a spicy dish to make it spicy. [-mrl]
Scott Dorsey replies:
I believe that phal is actually not traditional Indian food, but was invented in the UK. Possibly it is merely a trick played on Westerners. Was this Woomi's or some other place? [-sd]
In 2005 when we were in London, we had dinner at Taste of India (across from King's Cross Station), which I had Pistachio Chicken and Mark had Lamb Phall. According to someone, Phall was invented when people in Britian wanted something hotter than Vindaloo, and when this was mentioned in rec.arts.sf.fandom, the reaction to something hotter than Vindaloo, was like Pippin's reaction in the film THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING: "It comes in pints?! [-ecl]
I like Phal, but the one I had in London was only a little spicier than Vindaoo. [-mrl]
Robert Shull responds to Paul:
What you get depends a lot on where in the US you are. There's an Americanized Chinese dish called "pepper chicken". I've seen it in Washington, DC with black pepper, in New Hampshire with bell/green pepper and on buffets in Texas it's usually a 50/50 mix of chicken and jalapenos. (New Hampshire is still the only place I've ordered Thai food "five star" spicy and still found no detectable trace of "heat".)
I will admit that the hottest Indian I've had was in London. I don't recall the restaurant, but it used a pepper I wasn't familiar with at the time called a "naga viper". [-rks]
Around here (central NJ) the authentic Sichuan restaurants serve "Three Pepper Chicken", which has long hot green peppers, dried red chilis, and Sichuan brown pepper (the one that numbs your mouth". The New Hampshire "Pepper Chicken" you describe is just "Pepper Steak" with the beef replaced by chicken. [-ecl]
Paul later adds:
Must have taken this article to heart, because I made chilli beef ramen from the Wagamama cookbook last night and nearly blew the top of my mouth off. Hadn't been able to get standard red chillis during the week and I substituted birds eye chillis, which apparently are hotter than jalapenos, but I didn't know that until after I'd started eating. [-pd]
Sjouke Burry asks:
Did you finish eating the dish????????? [-sb]
More or less. I ate all the meat and most of the veg, but left a lot of the broth. (The dish is beefsteak, beansprouts, noodles and various raw vegetables--chillis, spring onions, onion--covered in chicken stock flavoured with a sauce made from vinegar, sugar, chilli sauce and nam pla.)
For some reason, the recipe is available on the RTE website in Ireland although in the recipe book I have the chilli sauce is more elaborate than shop bought sauce.)
AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek):
In response to Joe Karpierz's review of AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS in the 04/10/20 issue of the MT VOID, Andre Kuzniarek writes:
I'm a bit late in responding, but just read Joe Karpierz's review of AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. That's certainly a case where the concept seems far cooler than the execution. I have not read all that much of Lovecraft, but in response to all the recommendations in the Fantasy/SF world, I started with "The Colour Out of Space", which leans more SF. I found it surprising chilling for an old story, the style of prose and embellishment seemed to fit the goal of spooking the reader quite well, so respect. YMMV. [-ak]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I just re-watched THE MARTIAN for the first time since 2017 and I was surprised at how much of Andy Weir's book they had left out that I had forgotten that they left out: the death of Pathfinder, the sandstorm during his trip, the rover flipping, not to mention many small things. And of course all the info-dumps about planting potatoes, calculating battery power needed, and so on are gone. I've listened to the audiobook *many* times and watching the movie again made me realize how much all the missing material added to the story. And, of course, they changed the ending in a couple of ways: who goes out and what Watney does. Also, Watney's "voice" in the book (not his actual vocalization, but his style in his logs) was very distinctive, and considerably reduced in the movie. The movie is good, but it's no substitute for the book.
THE LOST CONTINENT (a.k.a. BEYOND THIRTY) by Edgar Rice Burroughs has an intriguing premise: the Great War caused the Americas to quarantine themselves from the Old World (though the action seemed mostly caused by the United States than any real push by, say, Bolivia). Eventually, there were firm dividing lines: 30 degrees west and 175 degrees west.
Our hero, Jefferson Turck, finds his combination airship/ship/ submarine tossed by weather east of this Atlantic barrier (hence "Beyond Thirty") and he visits England and then mainland Europe and beyond. England has descended into barbarism, Europe is controlled by "Abyssinians". These Africans keep slaves and--no surprise-- these slaves are white. Now, if someone wrote this today, Turck would see in this reversal how unjust slavery was, etc., but this was written in 1915, the same year that BIRTH OF A NATION was released, and Burroughs was not the most enlightened writer of his time. So eventually we get the following a guard threatened Victory (the woman Turck loved), "My blood boiled. To stand there, inactive, while a negro struck down that brave girl of my own race!" Apparently it would have been okay--or at least better-if she was threatened by a white man.
Eventually, the Africans are defeated in Europe by the Chinese from the east, and Burroughs closes with, "A new era for Europe is inaugurated, with enlightened China on the east and enlightened Pan-America on the west--the two great peace powers whom God has preserved to regenerate chastened and forgiven Europe. ... I have won two great laurel wreaths beyond thirty. One is the opportunity to rescue Europe from barbarism, the other is a little barbarian, and the greater of these is-- Victory." Evidently, Burroughs is less worried about the "Yellow Peril" than about what the Africans might do.
William Morris once wrote, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." This pre-dates Marie Kondo's notion that everything you own show "spark joy" by about 150 years. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: My theory is that all of Scottish cuisine is based on a dare. --Mike MyersTweet
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