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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 09/27/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 13, Whole Number 2086
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
October 21, 2019: THE HAUNTING and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson, Middletown Public Library, 5:30PM (**note date change**!) November 21, 2019: THE SLEEPER AWAKES by H. G. Wells (1910), Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/12163 https://librivox.org/the-sleeper-awakes-by-hg-wells/ (audiobook) January 23, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Canada, Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM March 26, 2020: TBD by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM May 28, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Canada, Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM July 23, 2020: 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), Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3808 September 24, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Canada, Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM November 19, 2020: Rudyard Kipling: "A Matter of Fact" (1892) "The Ship That Found Herself" (1895) ".007" (1897) "Wireless" (1902) "With the Night Mail [Aerial Board of Control 1]" (1905) "As Easy as A.B.C. [Aerial Board of Control 2]" (1912) "In the Same Boat" (1911) 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 October (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Well, it is almost October, my favorite month on TCM. Anywhere else the TCM programming lineup for October would be spectacular. But more each year most of the films are familiar or common. As with other years I suggest you look over the lineup and you will know which films are not familiar. Look for the films you have never seen before. This year only one of my recommendations is Halloween programming.
I don't know why it took me so long to see NIGHT AND THE CITY. I had seen most of the best-known films done in the style of Film Noir, but never got around to seeing this one. If you have any interest in noir-ish films, this is one of the best. Richard Widmark plays London low-life Harry Fabian who will do nothing unless he stands to profit from it. He can have a charismatic style, but is willing to cheat anyone, friend, enemy, whatever, to realize his ridiculous moneymaking schemes. He never gives any thought to whom he is hurting, including his own wife. By chance he runs into a classic-style wrestler and immediately he knows how to exploit him.
But what makes this film work so well is whom Widmark hurts. Jules Dassin directs the film. The film turns on just a request to open a window, and that scene is heartbreaking. The film was beautifully shot by one Mutz Green Baum. The noir elements are enjoyable but the plot makes this a classic. Mutz effectively uses Dutch corners to create an effective noir mood. This is my choice for best of the month.
[NIGHT AND THE CITY, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13 2019 @ 09:45 PM (ET)]
Back in 1971 when Hammer Films ruled the international roost of the horror film Tigon Films, a very small me-too production company, was making some quality history/horror films. They made WITCHFINDER GENERAL, a.k.a. CONQUEROR WORM. And immediately following it they make BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW a.k.a. SATAN'S SKIN.
In the 1600s a farmer plowing his field overturns something seeming alien, a piece of Satan's skin. It can corrupt those people around, particularly students at the local church-school. This pits the possessed students against religious authorities. Giving orders to the rebellious teens is the beautiful Angel. A friend of mine who was a student of history was very impressed that this film had a strong period flavor of its 17th century setting. Originally this was to be an omnibus film but the stories blended into each other so that it now is a single story.
[BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10 2019 @ 02:00 AM (ET)]
Trick or Treat!
THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman (copyright 2019, Tachyon Publications, ISBN: Print: 978-1-61696-291-3; Digital: 978-1-61696-292-0, ASIN B07RJ19XGH) (book review by Joe Karpierz):
Depending on whom you talk to, short form science fiction is either dead or thriving. Those who espouse the theory that it is dead must be basing their opinion on the fact that the print magazine appears to be dying, or at least hanging by a thread. Circulation figures for the big three--ASIMOV'S, ANALOG, and FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION--are either dropping annually or staying level. However, there is a huge online presence for short fiction. I won't list all the online magazines here, mostly because there are way too many to do so. And a lot of the fiction is free. There are more sources for short science fiction than there have ever been, more stories than there have ever been, and more writers than there have ever been. And I'd guess many readers who follow short fiction might not even know who some of those writers are. THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman--both highly respected people in the field--contains a treasure trove of short fiction published in roughly the last five years. Among the stories in this book you will find award finalists and winners. These writers are just making their impact felt in the field, and every one of these stories is a gem.
Three of the stories in the collection were the stars of the 2018 Hugo ballot. "The Secret Life of Bots" by Suzanne Palmer won the Hugo for Best Novelette, while "A Series of Steaks" by Vina Jie-Min Prasad was a runner up in the same category that year. Meanwhile, Rebecca Roanhorse, whose 2018 novel TRAIL OF LIGHTNING was a finalist for the Best Novel Hugo this year, won the Hugo for Best Short Story in 2018 for "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM". "The Secret Life of Bots" was good the first time when I was reading for the Hugos, but it was much better the second time around. "A Series of Steaks" was just as sly the second time around as it was the first. "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian ExperienceTM" did not disappoint upon a second reading as well.
The rest of the stories are outstanding in their own right. "Openness", by Alexander Weinstein is a tale of trying to make a relationship work in a time when you know everything about your partner--and they know everything about you. Jameie Wahls' "Utopia, LOL?" is a tale of AIs, virtual reality, and the future of mankind. It's an amusing and lighthearted story that has a nice ending.
A story that I had read in another collection, "Mother Tongues", by S. Qiouyi Lu, is a sad tale of what a mother will do for her child when she wants the best for her. A really tough ending. Rich Larson, who is as prolific a short story writer as any and who won the Dell Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing (that's mouthful) in 2014, gives us "Ice", a story of sibling rivalry on, what else, an ice planet. It's been hard to avoid Larson, so I've read quite a few of his stories and I have never been disappointed.
One of my absolute favorites in the book is "Our Lady of the Open Road" by Sarah Pinsker. I love music, and I love going to concerts, and I'm old school. This story hit all my buttons. It tells the tale of a band of aging rockers who continue to tour and play live shows in the face of modern virtual reality entertainment. The band does what it does for the love of music, the love of the road, and their version of integrity. This story is barely science fictional, but it doesn't need the genre trappings to make it an emotionally touching story. Much like Larson, I never met a Sarah Pinsker story I didn't like.
Another terrific story is E. Lily Yu's "The Doing and Undoing of Jacob E. Mwangi", about a gamer who believes that he can be the best of the best in his world until he finds out that he can do so much more by leaving his life behind and joining the makers and doers. It's a wonderful tale. Another engaging story is "Toppers" by Jason Sanford. It tells the tale of people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic New York City, and the strange things that live in the strange mist that engulfs the metropolis. It's good stuff.
The book has many stories that deal with parenting and parent/child relationships. A good one is "The Need for Air" by Lettie Prell. It's the story of a mother and son trying to adapt to living in a virtual reality environment, but the son just isn't ready for that. A different take on child rearing is Amman Sabet's "Tender Loving Plastics", in which children are raised by AIs. "The Shape of My Name" by Nino Cipri is a story about a strained family relationship using time travel as a way to try to make things work. Quite touching.
Another particular favorite is Amal El-Mohtar's "Madeleine", a disturbing tale about a woman voluntarily taking part in a medical trial. She encounters all sorts of side-effects, including what appears to be time travel and hallucinations. The tale takes a creepy turn at the end. I love it.
The list goes on. "One Hour, Every Seven Years" by Alice Sola Kim, "Robo-Liopleurodon!" by Darcie Little Badger, "Calved" by Sam J. Miller, "In the Sharing Place" by David Erik Nelson, "Strange Waters" by Samantha Mills and "A Study in Oils" by Kelly Robson would all be worthy of inclusion in a Year's Best Anthology for whatever year they were originally published. Then again, this is a sort of "Best of" anthology, so in a sense they are already included in one of those types of volumes.
Rajaniemi and Weisman have done an outstanding job compiling some of the best short science fiction by up and coming (although I would argue that if you've won the Hugo you're past that point) new writers. In a collection like this, I usually find one or two that aren't to my taste. Not this time. To me, every one is a winner. The future of short form science fiction is in good hands. [-jak]
Classical Music (letters of comment by Keith F. Lynch, Paul Dormer, and Fred Lerner):
In response to comments on classical music in the 09/20/19 issue of the MT VOID, Keith F. Lynch writes:
[Evelyn wrote], "Keith adds: Columbia was, prior to The Revolution, King's College, and founded by Anglicans, so having a song that mirrors a CofE hymn isn't odd. [-kfl]"
That was Kevrob, not me.
[Evelyn wrote], "And in response to Gary, Keith writes: Now listen to "Himno de la Agrupacion de Commandos". [-kfl]"
That was me, though I wish I could blame someone else for misspelling the Spanish word "Comandos." [-kfl]
The part of "On, Wisconsin" that sounds like the theme from THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE is the two bars (eight notes) at 0:07 on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOYus1BE7jk. [-ecl]
Paul Dormer writes:
[Mark writes,] "He did use the Panzerlied theme, but that is not the part that sounds like "On Wisconsin". I do not have a good way to point out specific parts of the music." [-mrl]
Well, here's one way. I've ripped the first track of the disc and loaded it to google:
This is called Prelude and appears to be the music for the opening credits.
I went back and read the programme notes in the booklet that accompanied the CD and they are quiet detailed. The prelude contains the four main themes of the music.
It starts with the Action motif. Then, at about 30 seconds, you hear the Panzerlied on the tuba. This is followed by Guffy's Tank Theme (which is described as a sort of hoe-down) at 1' 05". Finally, after a development section, you hear the Victory Theme at 1' 50".
I can't say any of those sound like On Wisconsin to me, so it's possible you're thinking of a later theme. There is nearly 80 minutes of music on the CD.
Finally, the programme book contains musical examples of all the main themes. You might be able to spot the theme you are talking about here: http://drive.google.com/open?id=1JbGRIocPNFO0bTfe9ZxYFwkYXsbp58Fs
"Panzerleid", "On Wisconsin", and the prelude to THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE movie can all be easily found on YouTube. (Along with lots of other random stuff, including every national anthem, children's alphabet songs for every major foreign alphabet except Chinese, and (new today) a cartoon version of the 1325 War of the Bucket.)
The prelude is a medley, which includes "Panzerleid". [-kfl]
Fred Lerner writes:
It used to be (and perhaps still is) the custom of the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square to show CASABLANCA during exam week. When the Germans singing "Die Wacht am Rhein" were outshouted by "The Marseillaise" a large cheer would be heard in the theater. I suspect that it was not entirely an expression of solidarity with the French.
Not only is the tune of "Stand Columbia", the Columbia University alma mater, taken from a German-language original, but the words of "Sans Souci", the Columbia College alma mater, are a direct translation of an old German student drinking song whose tune it also uses. [-fl]
Retro Hugos, "The Man Who Sold the Moon", and TYPEE (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky):
In response to Evelyn's comments on the Retro Hugos in the 05/31/19 and 06/07/19 issues of the MT VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:
A few months back, Evelyn wrote, "I recognize that applying 2019 standards to a 1943 story is unfair ... they often have the additional problem ... of their being original then and trite now. ... Are we supposed to vote as we feel in 2019, or as we think we would have felt in 1944?"
I think the answer has to be the latter. Otherwise we're like the naive theatergoer who criticizes Shakespeare for using "too many cliches".
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and THE LORD OF THE RINGS are monuments of world literature, even if, were they submitted today, neither would be considered publishable.
That's why, when I read a story in an anthology or a collection, I always want to know when (and where) it was originally published.
Take C. L. Moore's jaw-droppingly prescient 1934 story, "The Bright Illusion" (which got a rave review from H. P. Lovecraft). At a time when "computer" meant a woman with an adding machine, Moore foresaw the problem of insufficient processing power to completely render a virtual reality.
Should we disregard that astonishing achievement because--eighty-five years later--this is something every child understands?
Now, if we were putting together an SF anthology, instead of voting on a historical award, we might be right to ignore historical context and importance.
On German tolerance for nudity in the movie MUNCHHAUSEN, many years ago I read about the woman who was West Germany's chief purveyor of "adult toys". She explained her sexual frankness on her "thorough Nazi education".
In response to Evelyn's comments on "The Man Who Sold the Moon" in the 07/26/19 issues of the MT VOID, Taras writes:
Evelyn on "The Man Who Sold the Moon": "The main character has a dream of going to the moon, yes, but he is still basically a greedy capitalist. ... he's definitely a flawed hero." Personally, I greatly esteem greedy capitalists: their presence is what distinguishes a rich country from a poor one. However, as the story makes clear, D. D. Harriman makes money to go to the Moon, he does not go to the Moon to make money.
Of course, a "flawed hero" is a realistic hero. Consider, for example, what recently came out about Martin Luther King, Jr. So far at least, nobody is abolishing his holiday.
Richard Dengrove had a great couple of lines (this is from memory):
"As you get older, you discover that your heroes have feet of clay.
"Then you get still older, and discover that everyone has feet of clay!"
On the subject of feet of clay, let's grant that everyone alive during the first half of the 20th century was a racist (at least as the word is commonly used today); and this emphatically includes the scientific community. And the legal community, too: for more than 30 years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was convinced that the real motive behind the Roe v. Wade decision was to reduce population growth in "undesirable" populations, though she later changed her mind.
In response to Evelyn's comments on TYPEE in the 09/20/19 issues of the MT VOID, Taras writes:
Finally: Smithsonian magazine recently had an article about Herman Melville and TYPEE that you might want to read.
On the subject of South Sea polyandry, the consensus seems to be that this rare practice is correlated with female infanticide. However, in the Himalayas, brothers--it's always brothers--marry the same woman to avoid dividing their farm.
Thus, the Himalayan version of that famous musical would be, ONE BRIDE FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. Howard Keel brings home Jane Powell. The End. [-tw]
Kasha and AUGGIE (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to Mark's comments on kasha in the 09/13/19 and 09/20/19 issues of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
Before I get into doing a batch of online grading this morning, I do have a couple comments on your latest issue. Your ongoing tail--er, I mean, tale--of Kasha reminded me not only of the times when dinner for us humans had a questionable smell, but one of our friends here in town had a dog by that name. She was actually a very sweet dog, too, unlike the food that Evelyn scooped out and nuked in the microwave. Yes indeed, sometimes canned food does have the look and smell of dog food, but once in a great while it can surprise you by actually being good. For the most part Valerie and I don't do that very often anymore, and our noses--and digestive systems--are grateful.
I will have to check the local movie theater listings for AUGGIE; it sounds interesting, but the problem is that the title is practically the same as the nickname of the Texas A&M University football team, the Aggies. In a rather odd coincidence the team mascot is a dog: a sheltie named Reveille IX. She is the ninth mascot named thus to keep the name alive; the original Reveille was a mutt that wandered into the Cadet barracks back in the 1930s early one morning, and so received that most appropriate name. Because this is the land of Aggie Tradition, the team mascot has been a dog ever since, although they settled on shelties because it is a rather handsome breed of dog. Maybe they should be grateful they never named the dog Kasha. Then again, maybe they should have: like that canned food, this year's football team smells. [-jp]
The name might have been inspired by TV cartoons: Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN GREECE, TURKEY, RUSSIA, AND POLAND by John L. Stephens (ISBN 978-1-142-12313-0) is an earlier work by Stephens, who is best know as an early traveler/explorer of Mayan ruins in Central America and the Yucatan. As I noted a couple of weeks ago, it is often true that the more one knows about someone, the less one likes or admires them. It has certainly been true of politicians, but the principle applies to all walks of life.
In the case of Stephens, while he is fairly positive towards the (oft-maligned) indigenous people in his Mayan books, his inherent sexism and racism--particularly anti-Semitism--comes out in INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN GREECE, TURKEY, RUSSIA, AND POLAND.
But he is not always consistent, or perhaps more charitably, he can change his mind. First she writes, "I could not believe that a woman belonging to a Turk could be otherwise than unhappy." But then later he writes of women in Turkey, "... here the 'twig is so bent' that they become as gentle, as docile, and as tractable as any domestic animal. I say again, there are many exceeding good points about the Turks." I do not think he is being sarcastic here, but the result is to put women on the level of domestic animals.
While he may say Turks have some good points, he also writes, "Time was when the word of a Turk was sacred as a precept of the Koran; now he can no more be relied upon than a Jew or a Christian." At least here he is an equal opportunity denigrator.
The voice of colonialism and white superiority comes through loud and clear here: "The Turks are a sufficiently intelligent people, and cannot help feeling the superiority of strangers. Probably the immediate effect may be to make them prone rather to catch the faults and vices of Europeans, but afterward better things will come; they will fall into our better ways, and perhaps, though that is almost more than we dare hope for, they will embrace a better religion." (Although if he is complaining that the Turk has sunk to the level of the Christian, that doesn't say much for the Christian.)
His attitude toward slavery seems to be that it's bad, but if it's only blacks who are enslaved, well, that's not as bad as if whites are. For example, "Bad, horrible as this traffic is under any circumstances, to my habits and feelings it loses a shade of its horrors when confined to blacks, but here whites and blacks were exposed together in the same [slave] bazar."
And later, "Such is the force of education and habit, that I have seen hundreds of black slaves without a sensation, but it struck rudely upon me to see white men slaves to an American, and he one whose father had been a soldier of the revolution, and had fought to sustain the great principle that "all men are by nature free and equal."
Stephens does have the character to recognize that he has been misled in his upbringing, since he later writes, "I do not hesitate to say that abroad, slavery stands as a blot upon her national character. There it will not admit of any palliation; it stands in glaring contrast with the spirit of our free institutions; it belies our words and our hearts; and the American who would be most prompt to repel any calumny upon his country withers under this reproach, and writhes with mortification when the taunt is hurled at the otherwise stainless of the free republic. I was forcibly stuck with a parallel between the white serfs of the north of Europe and African bondsman at home."
But still he makes a distinction between black and white: "... before I went abroad I almost despised a white man whom I saw engaged in a menial office. I had outlived this feeling, but when I saw a tall, strong, athletic white man kneel down and kiss my foot, I could almost have spurned him from me."
And certainly he is ant-Semitic. He claims (I am not sure with what justification), "The slave-dealers were principally Jews, who buy children when young, and if they have beauty train up the girls in such accomplishments as may fascinate the Turks." He describes Jews as "dirty and disgusting." And, again complains, "Many of the postmasters along this road were Jews, and I am compelled to say that they were always the greatest scoundrels we had to deal with, and this is placing them on very high ground, for their inferiors in rascality would be accounted masters in any other country."
(In fairness, he does attempt to give them an excuse: "Outward degradation has worked inward upon their minds, confined to base and sordid occupations, their thoughts and feelings are contracted to their stations, and the despised have become despicable." But that is like saying, "Well, of course all [X] are criminals; that is what society has made them.")
There is an irony to some of his writings about Jews. that they are found in all countries, but "after Palestine, Poland is regarded as their Land of Promise." In 1726, Catholics condemned to death many Lutherans in the town of Thorn, and Stephens writes, "This was the last act of religious persecution in Poland." This was not true of the persecution of the Jews before the partition of Poland in 1795, it was certainly not true of the part of Poland ruled by Russia after the partition, and it became appallingly clear in the 20th century that religious persecution had not ended in 1726. (Stephens's statement was written in 1838.)
At the end, he writes of the reader: "... in return for his kindness in accompanying me to the end, I promise that I will not again burden him with my incidents of travel." Then in 1841 he writes INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN CENTRAL AMERICA, CHIAPAS AND YUCATAN and in 1843 INCIDENTS OF TRAVEL IN YUCATAN. Promises, promises! [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: "Classic". A book which people praise and don't read. --Mark Twain, FOLLOWING THE EQUATORTweet
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