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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 11/01/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 18, Whole Number 2091
Table of Contents
Correction and Request:
Dale Speirs's name was misspelled in the 10/25/19 issue. As he says, "My name is spelled with an 'ei'. That's why I always put it in the message text, to improve the odds it won't be retyped with an 'ie'." Needless to say, this failed, because I still retyped it incorrectly.
Also, Fred Lerner writes, "When you mention books in this section, could you give the publisher as well as the ISBN? This would help me (and perhaps other readers) to have a sense of the book's origins. My expectations of an SF novel comes from Baen or Tor Might differ from those of a novel from a mainstream publisher or a small press. I would like to know if a nonfiction book comes from a university press or a self-publisher." I will try to remember to do this in the future. [-ecl]
The Great Magdeburg Air Hoax (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
It appears that one of the oldest hoaxes in science has finally been revealed. Much of what we assume in modern physics is based on assumptions made explaining why helium balloons float. In 1654 Otto von Guericke took two large hollow metal hemispheres and put them together, creating of them a single hollow sphere weighing a total of 8.32 tons. Then he supposedly pumped the air out of the resulting sphere. In spite the metal weighing 8.32 tons the combination floated away. It later developed a leak and fell from the sky, nearly killing a dairy cow. It has now been discovered that von Guericke intended the stunt to be no more than a prank. von Guericke was remembered as having a wild sense of humor. The heavy sphere was actually operated by a dwarf. [-mrl]
The V-1 and V-2 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
In high school I was really thrilled by space and science fiction. Naturally the interest spread to rockets and even to missiles. My imagination had V-1s putt-putting through the sky and V-2s which flew so fast you heard them making sound backwards.
That made me interested in accounts of World War II. That combination brought me around to being fascinated with the V-1 and V-2, flying bombs. Late in the war the Germans had these two missiles, which had little to do with each other except that they both flew to targets a relatively long distance away. Their real names were the F26 and the A-4 respectively. And their respective propaganda names were the V-1 and the V-2.
I was a fan of pictures the two German vengeance weapons which I thought looked much like what spaceships might look like. They were airborne forerunners of the rockets that would help mankind to step into space. The question never came up if there was not something funny about this little Jewish kid who was fascinated with German secret weaponry.
The V-1 you heard putt-putting as they were approaching. If the sound went silent you knew the engine had cut off and the bomb was about to strike. The V-2 did funny things like reverse sound. As they approached they were silent and you heard their sound only after they detonated.
I thought the V-1's design with an elevated ramjet engine was a perfect example of this new 1950s' slang word: "cool." The two flying weapons were a real threat to the allies in the late days of the war. The British and Americans worked jointly to fight back against the production and use of these long-range rocket weapons. In 1965, inspired by the then popular wave of spy films as much as by actual history of the military operation Michael Anderson directed OPERATION CROSSBOW a film that tells the story of the Allied effort to destroy the German rocket program. The film begins with an introduction to Hanna Reich, the hero of the German rocket program. She was a German aeronautic engineer who risked near certain death riding on a V-1 to debug the V-1 flying bomb. The British and the Yanks put together a team of operatives to destroy the rocket production facilities. That operation was codenamed Crossbow, Operation Crossbow. [-mrl]
THE DEAD DON'T DIE (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: The Dead are yet once again back from themselves when the Earth pitches a little off its axis and in zombie movie scientific logic this causes the Dead to return to life in a rural central US town. Seeing this all happen around them two cop car police (played by Bill Murray and Adam Driver) are trying to maintain peace while Driver pessimistically reminds Murray that any situation looks like it will end badly. Jim Jarmusch writes and directs. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
This was probably more fun to make than it to was watch.
The so-called "zombie" sub-genre of horror film has become firmly entrenched in the national consciousness since George Romero booted it up in 1968 with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. So many zombie films have been made in that the fund of potential ideas has been depleted and now satiric send-ups of the zombie films are much more numerous enough to constitute their own sub-genre. Comedic zombie films almost certainly outnumber the serious ones. Part of the reason is that a zombie film costs a pittance to produce one. It takes very little resource to make a zombie film. You need some old clothing and some stage makeup. After that small investment all you need is the camera and a makeup artist. It is a very low starting investment.
It is probably impossible to copyright invented zombie lore so we see ideas freely flow from one film to another. For example, in DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) the Dead continue to desire the same merchandise they wanted in life. That idea has rarely reappeared in the interim, but the same idea returns in THE DEAD DON'T DIE.
There are a few high-profile cameo parts so the viewer can call out when he recognizes someone like a Danny Glover or Steve Buscemi. For the most part the cameo segments do very little to tell or advance the story. The story can be presented cheaply and filmed in a party atmosphere.
I rate THE DEAD DON'T DIE a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8695030/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_dead_dont_die_2019
THE FALL by Tracy Townsend (copyright 2019, Pyr, $18.00, trade paperback, 464pp, ISBN 978-1-63388-498-4) (book review by Joe Karpierz):
Uh oh. Stuff just got real.
Okay, I'm being cryptic and I guess jumping ahead a little bit. THE FALL is the sequel to THE NINE, the first book in the "Thieves of Fate" series and the debut novel from Tracy Townsend, which I reviewed back in May of 2018. If THE NINE is the appetizer, then THE FALL is the main course, and it is indeed sumptuous. In my opinion it certainly doesn't suffer from "second book in the trilogy" syndrome. Indeed, it takes what was presented in THE NINE an builds upon it, expands upon it, and then turns things upside down. It answers a great deal of questions from the first book, but raises a whole bunch more.
Rowena Downshire is no longer a black market courier. Now she's a clerk in the Alchemist's apothecary shop, the Stone Scales. The Alchemist, Anselm Meteron (also from THE NINE), and Rowena are once again together in an adventure, but this one much more interesting and dangerous. The Alchemist and Anselm are presented with an offer to go to the Grand Library in Nippon and meet with Philip Chalmers, one of the characters that started the whole thing to begin with back in THE NINE. Rowena goes along, of course, as a member of the team assigned to the task. But the task turns into so much more as Rowena discovers a computing machine called the Aggregator, which is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reveals that THE FALL gives us.
There are a *lot* of things going on here as Townsend delves more deeply into the world of these books. We find out more about Rowena's mother, who has the ability to see into the future (which is probably the easiest way to describe it). We get what amounts to an infodump, but a welcome one, that tells the reader the background and genesis of how religion and science were melded into one. We learn a whole lot more about the aigamuxa, and discover that they're not all bad, and in fact once we see the world through their eyes, we might just become a little sympathetic to them.
Oh yeah, we learn a whole lot more about the Grand Experiment, in which God the Scientist will be deciding the fate of the human race based on what he (or she, I suppose) learns about the Nine creatures being written about in the book that was causing so much trouble in THE NINE. Well, one of the books anyway. And once we find out that not all the Nine are humans, well, that takes the story in a whole different direction. Who doesn't like a little war now and again, a war in which all of humanity will be destroyed, and not by that God Scientist fellow? And oh yes, what does Anselm's father have to do with the entire thing? It certainly doesn't seem to be anything very good.
Townsend really fills out the world in THE FALL. The novel takes on a very steampunk feel as Nippon, as well as the Grand Library, are populated by mechanical creatures, and there are all sorts of flying contraptions that makes the reader feel as if they've landed somewhere in the middle of a Girl Genius storyline. The characters seem fuller and richer at the end of this book. Rowena has become someone who is a force to be reckoned with, and I cared what was happening to her at the end.
Townsend left all her main characters in a very deep pickle. There was a lot going on in THE FALL, but there looks to be a whole lot more going on in the third and (I presume) the last book of the series. There aren't many books these days that keep me in the dark or leave me with the feeling that I don't know where the story is going. This is one of them, and I look forward to the next book.
As I write this, I have the book in front of me. My goodness is the cover art gorgeous. Adam S. Doyle's cover is outstanding, and something that in the old days would make me pick up the book and look at it if I ran across it in a book store. Really, THE FALL is the entire package. Let's hope the final book lives up to the first two. I think it will. [-jak]
Private Rocketry (letter of comment by Jim Susky):
In response to comments on private rocketry, Jim Susky writes:
In case you are interested you might look for updates on SpaceX.
"What about it", on YouTube, claims to post two-per-week updates--others have been closely following SpaceX as well.
The word "amazing" is so-often used for the ordinary and mundane these days, that it's almost meaningless--but to witness SpaceX's various first stage Falcon 9 boosters "land on their feet" is amazing in its un-diminished sense.
So far, SpaceX has placed a number of satellites in orbit and several times resupplied the ISS. If all goes well, they will retrieve ISS astronauts in Q1/2020.
Currently SpaceX is testing, in the same careful, incremental, fashion as Falcon 9, a much larger booster, said to have roughly double the thrust of the Saturn V. A seeming difference is that the SpaceX increments are accomplished with mere weeks between tests--compared with months for Apollo.
The biggest difference, however, is the cost/launch and cost/payload-mass--which is approaching a small fraction of the cost using "throwaway" boosters. [-js]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
A bunch of short takes this week:
A RUSSIAN JOURNAL by John Steinbeck (Penguin, ISBN 978-0-141-18019-9) is an account of his travels in the Soviet Union in the first years after World War II. Not surprisingly, Steinbeck concentrated on the common people, who end up seeming not all that different from the sort of people he has written about in the United States.
DIAMONDS IN THE SKY edited by Mike Brotherton (CreateSpace, ISBN 978-1-978-23392-8) is an anthology of "fact-based" space science fiction (it was funded by the NSF). It reads like the sort of science fiction one would have found in the 1950s, and may have been intended as a young adult book. The e-book is available free online.
THE DEPARTMENT OF SENSITIVE CRIMES by Alexander McCall Smith (Pantheon, ISBN 978-1-984-84738-6) is probably intended to be the first of a new detective series by him. Set in Sweden, the book seemed to have a lot of puns that work in English, but would not work in Swedish. I have never really warmed to any of McCall Smith's books other than the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series.
WASTE TIDE by Chen Quifan (translated by Ken Liu) (Tor, ISBN 978-0-765-38931-2) takes place in the near future on Giuyu Island in China dedicated to recycling materials from electronic waste. The island sounds like a horrific dystopia; the fact is that Guiyu is a real place now. (A few years ago it was the largest e-waste recycling site in the world.) WASTE TIDE is definitely a novel in the category of "if this goes on." [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my glass. --David Lee RothTweet
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