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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/10/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 33, Whole Number 1321
Table of Contents
Jack Weaver at fanac.org (which archives the MT VOID) pointed out that the numbered for some of the 2006 issues was wrong. The correct numbering should be:
01/06/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 28, Whole Number 1316 01/13/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 29, Whole Number 1317 01/20/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 30, Whole Number 1318 01/27/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 31, Whole Number 1319 02/03/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 32, Whole Number 1320 02/10/06 -- Vol. 24, No. 33, Whole Number 1321
Organism (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
If a communist believes in communism, does an organist believe in organism? [-mrl]
Akira Ifukube (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Inextricably connected to the Toho science fiction films is the music that accompanied them. The composer of that music was Akira Ifukube. His music adds immeasurably to the tension of the 1954 film GOJIRA, better known in the United States as GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS. He was born in Hokkaido and strongly influenced by the music of the local Ainu people. During World War II he was a forestry officer in Hokkaido.
In 1954 he composed the score and some of the sound effects for GOJIRA. From that point on, he was the primary composer for Toho's science fiction films and their mainstream films as well. At times his music sounds strangely inappropriate to American ears, but it seems to work with a logic all its own. It can be big and brash. He can use local native music, strangely alien to Western ears, then throw in a military march or a piece of classical music.
Recordings of his music from the 1950s to 1970s still demand premium prices and are frequently rediscovered and re-released in this country.
31 May 1914 - 8 February 2006
Hearing Crickets In the Muslim World (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
In the film WEDDING CRASHERS, Owen Wilson is at a mammoth outdoor wedding trying to convince his girlfriend that a joke she is going to use in a toast is just not funny. "I think people are going to love this," she says. "I think you're going to hear crickets." It is an apt way to suggest that nobody is going to quite know what to make of the joke. I certainly have told my share of jokes that have been met with silence.
But that sound that you currently hear is certain anti-western Muslims groaning, trying to squeeze out the most offensive Jewish jokes they can manage. And behind that you can hear crickets. What is going on? Well, it is like this. You are probably aware that a privately-owned press in Denmark published some cartoons that reflected badly on Muslims showing Mohammed's turban with a lit fuse coming out of it. The suggestion was that Muslims could be a violent and dangerous people. The response has been riots, arson, killings, and a lot of public demonstrations and flag burnings. Apparently the rioters want Denmark to guarantee that no such anti-Muslim cartoons are ever going to be published again. But Denmark has freedom of expression and there is only so much that the government can do. They cannot tell people not to express ideas.
An Iranian newspaper has had the inspiration to give the West what they consider is a taste of its own medicine. They are sponsoring a contest for cartoonists to create the most offensive cartoons about the Holocaust to shock the West about the dangers of free speech. Read about it at
Why did they choose the Holocaust? Well, because more than half the people killed in the Holocaust were Jews. What does the Danish incident have to do with the Jews? Nothing as far as I can tell. But to the Iranian newspaper publishers mind the West is particularly protective of Jews. It's not true, but he is all the way over in Iran. If he were right it would make Jews appear the ideal target if the publisher wants to raise a commotion at first glance. At first glance, that is.
There are a number of reasons why the choice could have used a little more glancing. First of all, for anti-Jewish cartoons to offend people they have to be extremely unusual. For anyone who looks for them, very negative anti-Jewish cartoons are not exactly uncommon. They show up many places in the world almost on a daily basis. Jewish organizations like the Simon Weisenthal Center and the anti-Defamation League reprint them frequently for their members. Jews see it as a problem, but most are by now too thick-skinned to allow it actually to offend them. Many of these anti-Jewish cartoons come from the Middle East and are far more rabid than anything anyone has ever seen coming out of Denmark. If you listen for the uproar that they currently cause in the West you will end up hearing the crickets.
And it is not just smears in cartoons. MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, frequently monitors Iranian popular TV shows that dramatize blood libels against Jews claiming they are true or claiming that Israelis harvest organs from healthy and unwilling Palestinian children that they have kidnapped. MEMRI makes these broadcasts available internationally to anyone who wants to verify their authenticity at http://tinyurl.com/abeoc.
It is hard to imagine jokes and cartoons coming from Iran are going to be more offensive. Another reason those crickets are going to come through loud and clear is the source of this "humor." To be offended by a comment indicates some respect for the source. If an alcoholic in a gutter looks at you and says your jacket is ugly, does it really bother you? Probably not much. If the same comment comes from your mother you will take it more seriously. You have to respect someone to be offended by them. It reminds me of the exchange in CASABLANCA when Ugarte asks, "You despise me, don't you?" And Rick responds, "If I gave you any thought I probably would." Ugarte seems a little disappointed.
In any case, much worse things already coming from Iran do not currently offend people. Who really is going to care? There is a sound of desperation in saying, "We don't like what the Danish press is doing so we are going to take it out on the Jews. And it's your fault. So there." If anything, this will call attention to the hatred that is already a lot more common in the Muslim media than most Western people realize.
And what sort of angry jokes can we expect? A Muslim group in Britain has already started with the offensive humor, as the New York Times reported an example at http://tinyurl.com/baumu.
"A small but vocal Muslim immigrant organization responded with a drawing on its Web site of Hitler in bed with Anne Frank. 'Write this one in your diary, Anne,' Hitler was shown as saying." I knew people in my high school who could be more offensive than that. If this is their best shot, people will be laughing at them for all the wrong (or rather the right but unintended) reasons.
There are a lot of people in the United States who are sympathetic or at least have some sympathy for Muslim issues. But most of them also prize very highly freedom of expression. There are some that will be on the side of free speech and certainly there will be a few on the side of the Muslims. But even the Muslim advocates in this country depend very heavily on freedom of expression. If they were to advocate limiting what people could say they would find it a self-defeating cause. Even our local anti-government radio station nicknames itself "Free Speech Radio." They will not look very good if they start advocating limits to freedom of expression because someone might not like what is being said.
The current conflict may educate a lot of people about just how different the Muslim world-view is from that in the West and not too many are going to side with the Muslim world, I suspect. Those that do side against free expression will not be much of a loss.
One unfortunate loser in all this might be Albert Brooks. His new comedy is called LOOKING FOR HUMOR IN THE MUSLIM WORLD. I am looking forward to seeing the film, but current events may give the title the feel of a hopeless quest.
For examples of anti-Jewish cartoons collected by the Anti-Defamation League from Arab media see http://tinyurl.com/d7sf8. [-mrl]
X-Treme Wheat Bread (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):
Mark wrote in the 02/03/06 issue of the MT VOID, "In actual fact the bread is not Extreme Wheat Bread. It is 'X-treme Wheat Bread'." [-mrl]
Fred Lerner suggested, "You can trademark 'X-treme Wheat Bread'. I suspect that "Extreme Wheat Bread" might not be a defensible trademark." [-fl]
Mark responds, "Perhaps. I would think there is not a lot of competitors who would want to call their bread 'extreme'." [-mrl]
Zines (letter by Guy Lillian):
Guy Lillian writes, "My zine, CHALLENGER, is available at http://www.challzine.net, and hardcopies can be had. Just drop me a line [at firstname.lastname@example.org]. If any of you publish a zine, I hope you'll pass it along. Snail mail address is 8700 Millicent Way #1501, Shreveport LA 71115. Hope to see you at L.A.Con . . ." [-gl]
DOWN THESE DARK SPACEWAYS edited by Mike Resnick (published 2005 by the Science Fiction Book Club, 424pp, hardcover, ISBN 1-58288-164-2) (book review by Joe Karpierz):
Mike Resnick loves to edit themed anthologies--he's done a lot of them. He also loves mysteries as well as SF, so he pitched the idea of a book of six SF mystery novella-length stories to the Science Fiction Book Club and received an enthusiastic response. As a result, Resnick commissioned six of the bigger names in the field today to write these mysteries. The result is DOWN THESE DARK SPACEWAYS, an intriguing but uneven collection of stories.
The first story is Resnick's own "Guardian Angel", a very straightforward, standard story, probably designed to whet the reader's appetite, or maybe just introduce the reader to the kind of story that was in this book. It deals with a detective searching for a lost son at the request of the boy's mother--and, as it turns out, father as well. It was okay, nothing that spectacular.
The next piece is David Gerrold's "In the Quake Zone", which if I'm not mistaken is set in the same universe as THE MAN WHO FOLDED HIMSELF. A pretty good story, really, when you come right down to it--I love stories that deal with time travel and trying to unravel things that you run into when time travel is involved. The story deals with an operative for a "crime preventative" agency who gets personally involved in his latest job. The big problem I have with this story is that the reader is beaten about the head and shoulders with a message of tolerance for diversity. It is a good and worthwhile message, to be sure--make no mistake. But to overdo it, as I think Gerrold does, makes the story less enjoyable. Still a good one, however.
Catherine Asaro's "City of Cries" takes place in her "Skolian Empire" universe. It's a nice little tale of the search for a missing prince of a family in which society sequesters its men. This is also a terrific story, although not quite a mystery in the terms that I think of it. I've read at least one other story set in the Skolian universe, and this one makes me want to read another one.
Robert Reed's "Camouflage" is set in the vast world-ship from the novel MARROW--a book that's been on my to-read stack for years now. While it's a decent story, I liked it the least, I think. Our detective, an exiled Captain of the ship, must figure out the story behind the murder of a man, and her client is a very powerful person indeed.
The last two stories are the best, I think. Jack McDevitt's "The Big Downtown" is a very nice murder mystery where any number of folks could have done the deed, and it's not clear who is involved and who did it. The murder takes place on a boating trip just hours before a hurricane sweeps through the area, and while the person being sought is small potatoes, the culprit ends up being a very big fish. Nice story.
The last story in the collection is Robert J. Sawyer's "Identity Theft". "Identity Theft" is on this year's short list for the Nebula, so his peers think a lot about this story. If I'm not mistaken, Sawyer has written mysteries in the past, long before he turned to SF. This is a very nice little tale set on Mars in what seems like an extension of or modification to his world of MINDSCAN. Cassandra Wilkins is missing her husband. They are both "transfers", having had their consciousness/minds transferred from a biological to a new body for the purposes of having a longer, happier life. However, the husband turns up dead, but it doesn't seem as if a mind has been transferred into the brain of the body. So, where did it go, and what's going on? Also a terrific story.
SPACEWAYS is a nice little diversion--especially if you like mysteries. [-jak]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
THE SEVEN HILLS by John Maddox Roberts (ISBN 0-441-01245-0) is the middle book of a trilogy in which Carthage has defeated Rome in the First Punic War, but Rome has withdrawn to north of the Alps, regrouped, and is now returning to re-take its lands, and Carthage as well. Even though it is a middle book, it reads pretty well by itself, although since I did read the first book (HANNIBAL'S CHILDREN last year I may not be an impartial judge. I do think, though, that there are some problems with Roberts's description of Judea, which he describes as having the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The problem is that the Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E., the Kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C.E., and neither was restored in our timeline. The First Punic War was not until 264-241 B.C.E. I suppose one could argue that without a strong Rome, the Maccabee Revolt in 168 B.C.E. might have led to the restorations, but if so, that is left unexplained. Still, it is a minor point, and Roberts has lots of detail on Roman and Carthaginian customs and military matters to keep the reader interested. (Note: There are those who claim that Roberts's descriptions of the Carthaginians are based on what was written in our timeline by the Romans, their enemies, and is not really accurate.)
(Shame on Ace Books for not indicating anywhere that this is indeed a middle book of a series. Yes, it can probably be read on its own, but it is not an entirely self-contained work.)
THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova (ISBN 0-316-01177-0) has gotten a lot of good reviews, but I gave up after a hundred pages. It seems to have been written to be of the same genre as THE DA VINCI CODE, with people tracking a mystery across Europe through old books and documents, but it reads very flatly. In the part I read there are three viewpoint characters (narrators) --a young girl, her father, and his mentor. Three different types, three different generations, yet they all sound alike. In addition, it was so slow-moving that it began to feel very padded.
And to top it off, sitting on my shelf tempting me was THE TIME SHIPS by Stephen Baxter (ISBN 0-061-05648-0). I had read this sequel to H. G. Wells's TIME MACHINE when it came out in 1995, but it came up in a conversation recently and I decided to re-read it. I enjoyed it as much as when I first read it ten years ago (my review is at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper/reviews-b1.htm#timeships, and am pleased to note that it did in fact get the Hugo nomination it deserved.
Another book that "jumped the queue" was A YEAR AT THE MOVIES by Kevin Murphy (ISBN 0-06-093786-6). Murphy set himself a goal of watching a movie in a public presentation every day. This allowed him to count films on airplanes, which was necessary because he was flying to Cannes, Australia, Canada, and other exotic places to find the world's smallest cinema, a cinema built out of ice, etc. His chapters (one per week) are not so much about the movies--though he does include some comments on some of them--but on various aspects of movie-going. Why are theaters so poorly designed? Why do the audiences have the attention span of goldfish? Can you survive entirely on movie concession stand food? (And conversely, how much food can you sneak into a theater at any one time?) Since Kevin Murphy was one of the hecklers from "Mystery Science Theater 3000", he may be as much to blame for noisy audiences as anyone, but his points are in general well-taken. Murphy makes no startling new discoveries, but he does summarize what we know about the joys and pitfalls of movie-going.
ACTS OF MERCY by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg (ISBN 0-843-92219-2) was written in 1977, and set in 1984, with its main character someone who rose from being a senator from California to having been elected President in 1980. So given this was written *before* Reagan became President, it is all the more interesting that the authors wrote of a rival candidate, "Kineen was a reactionary, considered by many to be a dangerous man: a latter-day Ronald Reagan." Because it's set in the future of when it was written, I guess it could be called science fiction, but it's more a mystery and political thriller.
PROSE BOWL by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg (ISBN 0-312-65194-5) is a wonderful satire of the world in 2051 in which instead of football games or even chess matches being the main sport people watch, writing competitions are. The narrator, the Metaphor Kid, reminisces about "the almost legendary confrontation between The Cranker and Three-Finger Luke Waddell, in the old Metro Stadium back in '37. Culp's two-word victory with an incredible last-ditch sixty-line simile was the most exciting thing I'd even seen in my life." "Pulpeteers" compete in such categories as Quality Lit, Blazing Western Action, Suspense Fic, Futuristic Fic, and Space Opera. The Hackensack Hack has "his own special combination of exposition and shattering multiple plot twists." And not surprisingly, there is a passing reference to Frederik Pohl and Cyril M. Kornbluth's THE SPACE MERCHANTS as a landmark in 20th century literature. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: A prudent question is one-half wisdom. -- Francis Bacon
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