MT VOID 04/22/05 (Vol. 23, Number 43, Whole Number 1279)

MT VOID 04/22/05 (Vol. 23, Number 43, Whole Number 1279)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/22/05 -- Vol. 23, No. 43 (Whole Number 1279)

Table of Contents

  El Presidente: Mark Leeper, The Power Behind El Pres: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Pulgasari Is the Talk of New York (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

In our May 7 issue last year I told the strange story of the North Korean monster movie PULGASARI. My account was nicely reprinted by Stephen Hunt's SF CROWSNEST. CROWSNEST does what I could not do and includes two pictures, one of me and one of Pulgasari. I am the ugly, mean-looking one at the site below:

My account tells of a director who was kidnapped was forced to make this giant monster movie with a Marxist political message. If you were at all skeptical, now the story is being told by the New Yorker magazine:

What was the talk of the MT VOID is being repeated almost a year later in the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town". All I can say is that the town could have been talking about it sooner had they been readers of the MT VOID. [-mrl]

This Year's Nebula Award Nominees (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Some of this may be old new to most of our readers, but we have a lot of new readers who are not aware of the basic lore of science fiction. The Science Fiction Writers Of America will award the Nebula Awards the last weekend of this month. Like the Hugos the Nebulas are awarded annually but unlike the Hugos, an item is eligible for two years, not one. The Awards will be announced at the 2005 Nebula Awards Weekend this year in Chicago, Illinois from Thursday, April 28 - Sunday, May 1. For those unfamiliar with the awards see . The Nebula Award itself is a block of plastic or glass with a picture of a nebula embedded in it. (I always wondered how they did that.) This is the 41th year of the Nebula awards. In 1965 the first Nebula for a novel was awarded to Frank Herbert for some story he wrote about some desert planet. I am sure it was quickly forgotten. In any case--OK, I have not checked all the cases so I cannot be sure that is strictly true--In most cases anyway (or some ways) the nominations this year are:




Short Stories


You have to hurry if you want to get even second class Nebula fandom. Long-timers will know that I have defined classes of fandom, though I usually refer to Hugos. As a refresher:

First class fandom goes to people who read the Hugo-winning novel before it was even nominated.

Second class fandom goes to people who have read the Hugo-winning novel after it was nominated but before it won.

Third class fandom goes to people who have read the Hugo-winning novel after it won but before the end of the year.

Fourth class fandom, awarded retroactively, goes to people who have read the Hugo-winning novel after the year it won.

Fifth class fandom goes to someone who can give the name of someone, real or fictional, associated with the Star Wars films or books.

Sixth class goes to people like your great-aunt Tilly and anyone else who is not in a higher class. (I suppose there are distinctions like greater and lesser Aunt Tillies.)

I usually define it in terms of the Hugo novel, but I guess we can split it up as having a Hugo Class of Fandom and a Nebula Class of Fandom. [-mrl]

Geeks and Brevity (letter of comment by John Hertz):

John Hertz responds to Mark's comments on geeks (in his comments on the new show "Numb3rs") in the 01/21/05 issue:

"About geeks: If you let people accuse you of your virtues you can't be surprised by the result. I suggest this handy little acronym:

Grapes are sour.
Emperor has no clothes.
Each put-down of you means I win.
Kornbluth didn't tell the half of it.

About FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON: The bloated novel is a sad example of not leaving good alone. Shorter, it was great." [-jh]

Movies about Books and Bookstores (letters of comment by Barbara Cormack and by Jerry Ryan):

Regarding movies about books and bookstores (in the 04/01/05 issue), Barbara Cormack writes:

"About movies about books and bookstores, how about 84 CHARING CROSS ROAD? (I loved it, and the short book is delightful too.) And of course THE NINTH GATE which you mention below. I did not know it was based on a book itself, thanks for that.

Does THE PRINCESS BRIDE count? It has the framework of the grandfather reading the storybook to the young boy. A book figures fairly importantly in the 1999 remake of THE MUMMY, to say nothing of the shy librarian who becomes the archaeologist- adventurer.

If we branch out into librarian books and movies (I collect both), there are of course the movies DESK SET, PARTY GIRL, and THE GUN IN BETTY-LOU'S HANDBAG. I am also fond of the light-but- fun mystery novels by Charles Goodrum, who worked at the Library of Congress, which are set in a mythical special library in D.C. (DEWEY DECIMATED, BEST CELLAR, CARNAGE OF THE REALM, A SLIP OF THE TONG - BEST CELLAR contains the story of how the L.C. originated) For similarly lightweight mysteries featuring a public librarian in the Pacific Northwest, we have Jo Dereske's Miss Zukas mysteries. None of these have been made into movies, though.

I have a special fondness for THE NAME OF THE ROSE. In my first class in library school, we were given an assignment, to choose a reading from a list of selections and prepare and deliver to the class a report on that reading. When I saw THE NAME OF THE ROSE was on the list, I snapped it up immediately, and if I do say so myself, I delivered a rousing presentation. People were coming up to me for days afterward telling me how much fun it was.

I'm sure there are tons of others; I'll have to think about it some more." [-bc]

Jerry Ryan also writes, "Isn't THE PRINCESS BRIDE a movie tied into a book (well, reading a book aloud)?" [-gwr]

Star Trekkin' (letters of comment by Dan Kimmel and by Charles Harris):

Regarding Mark's comments on trekking to the stars, Dan Kimmel writes, "I'm sure I won't be the only one pointing out to you that Roddenberry pitched his show to network executives as being 'Wagon Train to the Stars.'" [-dk]

Mark responds, "I not only know that, I remember reading that in TV Guide before the show was ever on. (They used to have a page in yellow with TV news.) It made sense in that 'Wagon Train' usually dealt with timeless human problems as opposed to Western specific problems. They were implying that 'Star Trek' was to be about everyday human issues like father-son relationships, salt vampires, and dealing with co-workers with difficult personalities." [-mrl]

Charles Harris finished Mark's comment "When I hear the name 'Star Trek' I think of someone taking an interstellar ox-cart across the galaxy" with "... as in this month's Old Bridge Library SF Group book, TUNNEL IN THE SKY." Mark responded by noting that the plaque at NASA commemorating the death of the Apollo I astronauts bears the phrase "It's a hard road to the stars."

Mark then added, "But no, TUNNEL IN THE SKY is more reminiscent of the film SUBWAY TO THE STARS," so Charles elaborated "No, I was alluding to a specific scene in TUNNEL IN THE SKY that closely matches your description, s/ox/horses/:

Gate four had been occupied by a moving cargo belt when he had come in; now the belt had crawled away and lost itself in the bowels of the terminal and an emigration party was lining up to go through.

This was no poverty-stricken band of refugees chivvied along By police; here each family had its own wagon ... long, sweeping, boat-tight Conestogas drawn by three-pair teams and housed in sturdy glass canvas ... square and businesslike Studebakers with steel bodies, high mudcutter wheels, and pulled by one or two-pair teams. The draft animals were Morgans and lordly Clydesdales and jug-headed Missouri mules with strong shoulders and shrewd, suspicious eyes. Dogs trotted between wheels, wagons were piled high with household goods and implements and children, poultry protested the indignities of fate in cages tied on behind....

(Gate four is, of course, an interstellar gate.)" [-ch]

MELINDA AND MELINDA (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Woody Allen shows us how the same inspiration can inspire either a comedy or a tragic love story. We see the creative process at work as a comedy director creates a comic story and a more serious director takes the original story in the direction of tragedy. The only trouble is that occasionally we cannot tell which is the comic and which is the tragic story and neither story is particularly engaging. This is more an interesting idea for a film than an interesting film. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

More so than with any other director, when Woody Allen makes a new film I feel compelled to put the new film on the curve of Allen's career and see how this film stacks up against his recent films. That is because after CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS Allen seems to have stopped making films for his audiences. Certainly his films have been much less audience pleasers. Most people I know have at least one film they like from this last period, but there is no consensus that any of his films have been good. I moderately enjoyed BULLETS OVER BROADWAY and ANYTHING ELSE. But Allen's films are no longer reliably good and some have been quite bad. MELINDA AND MELINDA is being acclaimed as Allen's return to greatness, but I just do not see greatness in this film.

The concept is the best thing about MELINDA AND MELINDA. Two successful film directors are having dinner at a fancy restaurant with some of their friends. Sy (played by Wallace Shawn) is known for his bright comedies. Max (Larry Pine) makes films that are tragic looks at life. A friend tells a story that we do not hear. Each of the directors tells what he would do if he were adapting this story as a film. We see the two stories play out using elements from the unheard story in different ways. Each story tells of how Melinda (Radha Mitchell) arrives unexpectedly from out of town to visit her friend. The two sub-films have different characters and tell nearly different stories, though each has Melinda as a character, and in each Mitchell plays her. Each tells how she is the catalyst to ruin the relationship of her friend, her friend's husband, and two of their friends. The relationships do go wrong, but so does the film because each of the stories is not engaging and fails to make us care for the characters.

We are distanced from the characters because the two filmmakers, who obviously represent two sides of Allen's personality, use much the same style for their films. Speaking for myself it is not a style that works well. Part of the problem is that most of the action of the film is not shown to us but we are told. The sex scenes we do get to see, but most of the rest of the scenes consist of characters getting together and discussing what is happening in their lives. The film tells us far too much and shows us far too little. And because we do not see much of the characters in action, we do not know who they are. And not knowing who they are we do not care much about what happens to them. And when Allen fails to involve us in the characters we do not really who ends up bedding whom. It all seems like gossip about people we do not know. Ironically, the film shows us a small piece of Edgar Ulmer's THE BLACK CAT. This is a film in which the major action took place years before and there are plenty of scenes of talking about the past. But the interest never flags because there is plenty of action in the present, unlike in MELINDA AND MELINDA. As an aside, I think THE BLACK CAT is an under-appreciated gem of delightfully morbid black comedy. It may be the best film of Universal's creative period from 1930 to 1935.

Woody Allen's screen personality always seems to be present in his films even if he himself is only behind the camera. Here the Woody Allen figure is Hobie (Will Ferrell) who in spite of very different physical stature has the Allen patented personality and mannerisms. Some of the other characters do not seem human at all. Who do you know who would say "Life has a funny way of dealing with great potential" or "My sad tale should come from my lips"? That is another reason it is hard to get into these characters' lives and care who is getting into each other's beds. For my money this is another Allen misfire. I rate it a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. [-mrl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

If you liked Arturo Perez-Reverte's THE CLUB DUMAS, you will definitely want to read Carlos Ruiz Zafon's THE SHADOW OF THE WIND (ISBN 1-59420-010-6). This is another story about the mysteries surrounding a book, set in Barcelona before, during, and after the Spanish Civil War. When Daniel was a child, his father took his to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a labyrinthine repository for books that have been abandoned. "When a library closes down, when a book is consigned to oblivion, those of us who know this place, its guardians, make sure that it gets here," Daniel's father tells him. The Cemetery itself sounds like a cross between Borges's Library of Babel and the Cairo Genizah. And everyone who knows about the Cemetery chooses one book to "adopt", so there's a possible reference to Ray Bradbury's FAHRENHEIT 451 as well.

Daniel chooses THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Julian Carax, but he soon discovers that someone else remembers this book, and all of Carax's other books--and seeking them out to destroy all of them. There are hidden family secrets, and vicious policemen (one of whom reminded me of Victor Hugo's Inspector Javert--yet another reference), and uncanny parallels between Carax's plot and Daniel's life, and even similarities to Franz Kafka. I haven't read the original, but as far as I can tell, translator Lucia Graves (daughter of poet Robert Graves) does a very good job of keeping a mysterious atmosphere throughout. Highly recommended.

(Ruiz Zafon now lives in Los Angeles, so maybe his future books will be published here faster. THE SHADOW OF THE WIND took a while, but being on the bestseller list in Spain for over a year probably helped.)

Charles Dickens's AMERICAN NOTES FOR GENERAL CIRCULATION (ISBN 0-14-043077-6) is about Dickens's 1842 trip to the United States, during which he visited prisons, workhouses, orphanages, and asylums, and wrote about them. Sometimes he found them models that England should emulate; other times he found them horrific. He says very little about society or social events. I'm sure she attended some, but his goal in describing his trip was more social reform than to write a 19th century "People" magazine. He spends far more time describing the clothing of the working class than of the cream of society, and points out the flaws he sees. For example, he notes "Some Southern republican that, who puts his blacks in uniform, and swells with Sultan pomp and power." And as the book goes on, he finds more to complain about, from the practice of chewing (and spitting) tobacco to the practice of slavery, which he finds abhorrent. (Yet he too has his blind spots. He describes traveling through some areas where he was served by slaves, and also through women's prisons, yet later says, "Nor did I ever once, on any occasion, anywhere, during my rambles in America, see a woman exposed to the slightest act of rudeness, incivility, or even inattention" (page 192). What he seems to mean is no white woman, and for that matter, probably only those of the higher classes.

But I do love his description of the sleeping arrangements on one of the canal boats he took: "I found suspended on either side of the cabin three long tiers of hanging book-shelves, designed apparently for volumes of the small octavo size. Looking with greater attention at these contrivances (wondering to find such literary preparations in such a place), I descried on each shelf a sort of microscopic sheet and blanket; then I began dimly to comprehend that the passengers were the library, and that they were to be arranged, edge-wise, on these shelves, till morning" (page 193).

And Dickens, or rather his guide book, certainly disagrees with Attorneys General Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft when it says of the statue The Spirit of Justice in the Capitol, "the artist at first contemplated giving more of nudity, but he was warned that the public sentiment in this country would not admit of it, and in his caution he has gone, perhaps, into the opposite extreme" (page 165).

This book serves as a good way of seeing the social philosophy and attitudes informing Dickens's novels as well as an outsider's portrait of life in mid-19th century America. (Alexis de Tocqueville traveled a bit earlier, about 1831. He also came to inspect the prisons and workhouses, but wrote about considerably more.)

Jonathan Stroud's THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND (ISBN 0-786-81859-X) is the first of the young-adult "Bartimaeus Trilogy". In case, you're wondering, I'm reading this for the golem content (the second book, in fact, is called THE GOLEM'S EYE). Magic is real, and one of our main characters is a young magician in training. Sound familiar? Well, in Stroud's world, everyone knows magic is real. Governments employ magicians in large numbers. Prague, by virtue of its pre-eminence in magic, is a major world capital. And one of the first-person narrators of this book is Bartimaeus, a djinni. who delivers his asides as footnotes. (Example: As Bartimaeus is in the form of a mole, tunneling, he says, "No magical alarm sounded, though I did hit my head five times on a pebble," and then footnotes this with, "Once each on five different pebbles. Not the same pebble five times. Just want to make that clear. Sometimes you humans are so *dense*.") I like Bartimaeus as a character (he reminds me of C. S. Lewis's Screwtape), though I suspect some people with be less than thrilled with a demon as the sympathetic protagonist of a young-adult novel. This trilogy seems more in the tradition of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" than in that of J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter"--there is a darker side to magic (and life) that is more fully explored here. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           People have no particular age in Aslan's 
           country.  Even in this world, of course, 
           it is the stupidest children who are the 
           most childish and the stupidest grown-ups 
           who are the most grown up.
                       --C.S. Lewis The Silver Chair, Chap 16 p 212

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