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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 08/06/21 -- Vol. 40, No. 6, Whole Number 2183
Table of Contents
A SCANNER DARKLEY Discussion Rescheduled:
The Middletown (NJ) Library discussion of the book and film A SCANNER DARKLY has been rescheduled from August 5 to August 12, still at 5:30PM, due to work on the library's HVAC system.
James Bond Films (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
We interrupt these opinions on James Bond films to give you another (unrelated) opinion on James Bond films, requested by Fred Lerner, who wrote, "I think I'd like to watch some James Bond movies this summer. Can you recommend a few that have held up well after all these years?"
Thank you for a nice succinct question. I would say the best, is CASINO ROYALE (2006)/QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008), which is really one story in two parts. The next would be SPECTRE, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, SKYFALL, and ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. After that would be DR. NO, but there is a big drop in quality between ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE and DR. NO. However, if you add DR. NO for historic reasons, the "rule-based" answer is "Watch the Daniel Craig films, watch the first two Sean Connery films, watch the George Lazenby film, then stop."
Remember that taken out of Cold War context, some Bond films lose a lot.
Len Deighton's "Harry Palmer" films came from much the same factory and would rank highly if they were on the same list, so just as a hint I would recommend THE IPCRESS FILE and FUNERAL IN BERLIN, and some people like the third (THE BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN). Avoid the last two (BULLET TO BEIJING and MIDNIGHT IN SAINT PETERSBURG), which were made-for-TV movies.
For the full answer on James Bond films, here is my list of all the Eon Bond films in descending order of quality:
My policy has been to start with DR. NO and watch them all in chronological order through SPECTRE. Only completists need to watch NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. Only super-completists used to need to watch the "Casino Royale" episode of CLIMAX (because it was so hard to find); now it's on YouTube, and worth a look out of curiosity if nothing else. Only masochists need to watch the Woody Allen CASINO ROYALE. [-ecl]
Ursula K. Le Guin Stamp:
The forward-thinking and genre-crossing writings of acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin, whose novels and short stories increased appreciation of science fiction and fantasy, are being celebrated with a new Forever stamp--the 33rd in the Postal Service's Literary Arts series. ...
As an author, Le Guin was interested in more than just science fiction and her prescient writings are now viewed as more than just fantasy.
"Ursula once said she wanted to see science fiction step over the old walls of convention and hit right into the next wall--and start to break it down, too," said Joseph Corbett, U.S. Postal Service chief financial officer and executive vice president, who served as the stamp ceremony's dedicating official. "She felt the ideas represented in her fiction could help people become more aware of other ways to do things, other ways to be and to help people wake up." ...
The stamp features a portrait of Le Guin based on a 2006 photograph with a background that references the wintry world and characters she created in "The Left Hand of Darkness." Designed by Donato Gionacola, with Antonio Alcala as art director, Le Guin's name appears along the bottom of the stamp. ... News of the Ursula K. Le Guin stamp is being shared with the hashtag #UrsulaKLeGuinStamp.
Pre-Crime Programs Are Here:
Those selected receive a letter that says in part:
"You may wonder why you were enrolled in this program. You were selected as a result of an evaluation of your recent criminal behavior using an unbiased, evidence-based risk assessment designed to identify prolific offenders in our community. As a result of this designation, we will go to great efforts to encourage change in your life through enhanced support and increased accountability."
It all sounds so positive. While there's really no evidence this is actually "evidence-based" or "unbiased," at least the Sheriff's Office is willing to "encourage change in your life." It sounds nice but "encouragement" probably just means "constant harassment" and "enhanced support" is probably a euphemism for suspicionless searches. "Increased accountability" may be part of this program, but it won't be applied to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Nope, there's a really good chance "increased accountability" means more fines, more citations, more arrests, and more jail time.
And later TechDirt says:
The stated goal of the Sheriff's "pre-crime" program was, in the department's own words, to make targets so miserable they either moved or sued the Sheriff's Office. Now that some targets have done both, the Office appears to be trying to rein things in just a bit, or at least pretend the program is not solely about vindictive, unjustified harassment of certain Pasco County residents.
THE GOD EQUATION: THE QUEST FOR A THEORY OF EVERYTHING by Michio Kaku (book review by Gregory Frederick):
This is another great science book by the physicist and author Michio Kaku. I have now read four books by this author. He truly makes complex scientific principles understandable for an average non-scientific reader. As is typical for this topic of unification, the author takes us on a journey from the ancient past up to the present scientific understanding about what exactly comprises the elementary ingredients of the Universe. This journey starts with Democritus from ancient Greece and proceeds to physics discoveries by Newton, Faraday, Einstein, Bohr and others. The problem with unifying the four fundamental forces is that Gravity will not fit into the accepted Standard Model which contains the other three fundamental forces. Therefore a new theory is needed.
In a previous review of a book by another physicist, I talked about a Quantum Gravity theory which combines all field theories into only one entity known as Covariant Quantum Fields. That is a possibly unification theory or theory of everything which combines Gravity into a theory containing the other three fundamental forces. But Michio Kaku is a supporter of the more widely studied String Theory. String Theory is the other possible candidate for the theory of everything that combines all of the four fundamental forces. String Theory states that all particles are not points of matter but actually incredibly small strings which vibrate. They are much smaller than any sub-atomic particle, for example, so we can never actually view them directly. The type of vibration the string has will determine if the particle will be an electron or a quark, for example. But with further study it was determined that five different String Theories existed. This was confusing to many scientists until 1995 when M (membrane) Theory was developed and it was discovered that all five String Theories were actually all included in M Theory. So actually, M-Theory is the unification theory or theory of everything that Kaku really supports. Multi- dimensional membranes in M Theory can collapse into these strings in five different ways. That is why there were five different String Theories. The author, Michio Kaku, is extremely talented when it comes to translating complex subjects into information that is accessible for the lay reader, making this a very good book. [-gf]
James Bond Themes, THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD, THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020), THE STEPFORD WIVES and the MT VOID (letter of comment by Guy Lillian III):
In response to the MT VOID in general and various specific items in the 07/23/21 issue of the MT VOID and earlier in particular, Guy Lillian writes in ZINE DUMP #52:
Ever mutable, always readable and interesting, MT Void (get the pun? It took me years) features wise opinions on all sorts of stuff from Evelyn and Mark Leeper, and comes to its subscribers weekly via e-mail. Great way to insure frequent renewal of fannish spirit. Topics this issue include James Bond themes--FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and GOLDFINGER excel here, as in all other measures of 007 excellence--and past issues hit on THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (IMHO the only film fantasy arguably as grand as LotR), Evelyn's reading, the new (and quite excellent) INVISIBLE MAN, STEPFORD WIVES, and anything else you, the Leepers, or the sundry Chorus enlivening their letter column can think of. [-gl]
GIRL IN THE BASEMENT (letters of comment by Paul Dormer and Keith F. Lynch):
In response to Art Stadlin's review of GIRL IN THE BASEMENT in the 07/30/21 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:
Yes, I remember the Fritzl case when it hit the headlines. Quite creepy.
Not long after, English National Opera in London did a staging of Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle that obviously had echoes of this story. (I mean the staging had echoes, not the original story.) For those that don't know the opera, Bluebeard brings home his new bride, Judith. She finds the castle so dark, she persuades him to open up seven doors. Behind each door is a secret--a torture chamber and an armoury among them--each covered in blood. Finally he opens the seventh door to reveal three previous wives, all still alive. Judith goes to join them... [-pd]
Keith F. Lynch adds:
That also reminds me of the man who kidnapped three women and kept them locked up in his house in Cleveland for more than ten years. One of them gave birth and that child spent the first six years of her life locked in that house. Perhaps the most tragic part of the story was that one of the women watched, on TV, her mother consulting a psychic who falsely told the mother that her daughter was dead. The mother soon died of grief. The good news is that all three women and the child survived in good health, and that the perpetrator pled guilty to 937 counts of rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder (for induced miscarriages), and was sentenced to life plus 1000 years in prison without the possibility of parole. He hanged himself in prison. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_Castro_kidnappings.
As for deliberate errors in movies based on true events, see this well-written thread by Amanda Knox, who is not happy about the new movie STILLWATER, "based on the Amanda Knox saga":
I recently watched THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA, which is largely about the Dreyfus case. The movie was full of deliberate errors, including having no mention of anti-Semitism. I learned that the non-mention of anti-Semitism was so as to not offend Nazis. (The movie was released in 1937, when Nazis were still considered just another political party.) [-kfl]
I remember watching that film on TV when I was at university in the early Seventies. [-pd]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
KLARA AND THE SUN by Kazuo Ishiguro (Borzoi, ISBN 978-0-593-31817- 1) has the "Subjects" on its copyright page as "Science fiction" and "Love Stories". but your chances of finding this in the science fiction section are slim to none. Even my library, which at least used to hone strictly to the copyright page classification, has filed this in "Fiction".
I have talked before about how Jose Saramago was a Nobel laureate who had written at least a dozen stories of the fantastic, at least two of which are absolutely science fiction rather than fantasy, as well as few fantastical short stories. In spite of this body of work, when (from the audience) I recommended Saramago's work at the "Things You Should Read (But Don't Know about Yet)" panel at the 2015 Philcon, not only had no one in the audience heard of him, no one *on the panel* had heard of him.
Kazuo Ishiguro is the new Saramago.
On the (highly recommended) Coode Street podcast, they talked about how a lot of SF (i.e., speculative fiction) was marketed/positioned as literary or mainstream fiction rather than SF. This is definitely science fiction, but you won't find it in the science fiction section of your bookstore. If you did, it would have a cover that showed Klara, and would have "In the grand tradition of Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury" blazoned across the cover. (Well, maybe not--Asimov is not well known to the current generation of science fiction readers, and most of those who know of him also know of his reputation as a sexual harasser. And while so far as I know Bradbury's reputation remains intact, his is no longer a name to conjure with either.)
Anyway, the connections to Asimov and Bradbury are obvious. Klara is an "AF"--an "artificial friend", i.e., a robot/android that serves as a companion for a child. This is a world where most people keep their children in isolation, apparently schooled via some equivalent of Zoom, but the children also have "interaction meetings" (in-person get-togethers where the children presumably learn how to live in society with others)--shades of "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster, and Asimov's spacemen in THE CAVES OF STEEL and THE NAKED SUN as well as Asimov's "Robbie" and Bradbury's "I Sing the Body Electric", a.k.a. "The Electric Grandmother", I suppose.) I should note that this was almost definitely conceived before the COVID-19 lockdowns, remote learning, and so on, but it seems eerily familiar now.
But there is more to KLARA AND THE SUN than that. For one thing, Klara has a religion. And of course, from our perspective this religion is entirely misguided, based on Klara's misperceptions of the world. Which of course leads the reader to ask if *their* religion is entirely misguided, based on *their* misperceptions of the world.
There are definite parallels to Ishiguro's earlier novel, NEVER LET ME GO. In both, people rely on "constructs" to fulfill tasks that should be done by other people, or perhaps not at all. Calling the clones in NEVER LET ME GO "constructs" may seem demeaning, since they are clearly fully human beings. But they are treated by everyone else in the novel as "constructs", and it is defining the clones as not human that lets humans decide what tasks can be foisted off on them. In both NEVER LET ME GO and KLARA AND THE SUN, humans have used technology to create a class of slaves. That the reader is horrified by this in NEVER LET ME GO, but only somewhat bothered by it in KLARA AND THE SUN says something about our attitudes.
The reliance on technology in care-giving, in education, and in other aspects of life is obviously something that concerns Ishiguro, but most specifically when it involves creating sentient beings who are not given self-determination. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: Logical positivists have never taken psychology into account in their epistemology, but they affirm that logical beings and mathematical beings are nothing but linguistic structures. --Jean PiagetTweet
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