MT VOID, 05/27/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 48, Whole Number 2225

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May 29, 2022, 10:35:11 AMMay 29
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THE MT VOID
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/27/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 48, Whole Number 2225

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, mle...@optonline.net
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, ele...@optonline.net
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Topics:
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
Lectures, etc. (NJ)
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in June (comments
by Mark R. Leeper)
Nebula Award Winners
Reforming the Short Form Hugo: A Guest Post by Dale Skran
(reprinted in FILE 770)
Mini Reviews by Evelyn, Part 4 (HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR
HAPPINESS, APOLLO 10-1/2, THE BUBBLE, CAPTAIN NOVA)
(film reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper)
A Television in Your Head (request by Tom Russell)
MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM, THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY,
TCM Movies, THE EXTRACTIONIST, Reforming the Short
Form Hugo, and COMFORT ME WITH APPLES
(letter of comment by Heath Row)
Implausibilities in THE MARTIAN (letter of comment
by Jim Susky)
Reviewing (letter of comment by Joe Karpierz)
This Week's Reading (BEOWULF [book], BEOWULF [film],
BEOWULF & GRENDEL, THE 13TH WARRIOR)
(book and film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

===================================================================

TOPIC: Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
Lectures, etc. (NJ)

Meetings are still fluctuating between in-person and Zoom. The
best way to get the latest information is to be on the mailing
lists for them.

June 2, 2022 (MTPL), 5:30PM, in-person: A.I. ARTIFICIAL
INTELLIGENCE (2001) & short story
"Supertoys Last All Summer Long" (1969) by Brian Aldiss
<https://archive.org/details/supertoyslastall0000aldi/>
July 7, 2022 (MTPL), 5:30PM, in-person: THE LOST WORLD (1925)
and novel THE LOST WORLD by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(<https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/139> has various
formats available)
July 28, 2022 (OBPL), 7:00PM, Zoom: A PSALM FOR THE WILD-BUILT by
Becky Chambers

===================================================================

TOPIC: My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in June (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

In truth there are not a lot of werewolf films. In many the plot
could have been taken from a film about an escaped psychopath.
These films are too often not all that creative.

In 1973 Amicus Films (or horror writer James Blish) took the plot
of Agatha Christie's TEN LITTLE INDIANS and substituted the
trappings of a werewolf film. At an isolated English mansion and
grounds, the Christie plot is working itself out. There are
several dramatic touches gimmicks such as a five-minute break for
the audience to try to register their guesses as to who they think
the werewolf/killer is. It is not a great idea, but it is in one
stroke one of the more interesting attempts at cinema lycanthropy.
The film features British horror film regulars Peter Cushing and
Charles Gray.

[THE BEAST MUST DIE, June 18, 2:00AM]

Evelyn adds:

June also features Robby the Robot's two best-known films:

06/13/2022 11:00 AM Forbidden Planet (1956)
06/13/2022 01:00 PM Invisible Boy, The (1957)

Robby is one of the few non-living actors to have an IMDB entry:
<https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1119475/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1>

Other films of interest include:

06/06/2022 12:00 AM Wizard of Oz, The (1925) (95 minutes)
06/13/2022 12:45 PM Voyage to the Sky (1937) (11 minutes)

and the usual assortment of films they have run a zillion times
already.

[-mrl]

===================================================================

TOPIC: Nebula Award Winners

Novel: A MASTER OF DJINN, P. Djeli Clark (Tordotcom; Orbit UK)
Novella: "And What Can We Offer You Tonight", Premee Mohamed
(Neon Hemlock)
Novelette: "O2 Arena", Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki
(Galaxy's Edge 11/21)
Short Story: "Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather", Sarah Pinsker
(Uncanny 3-4/21)
The Andre Norton Nebula Award For Middle Grade And Young Adult
Fiction: A SNAKE FALLS TO EARTH, Darcie Little Badger
(Levine Querido)
The Ray Bradbury Nebula Award For Outstanding Dramatic
Presentation: WANDAVISION: Season 1
Game Writing: THIRSTY SWORD LESBIANS (Evil Hat Games)

===================================================================

TOPIC: Reforming the Short Form Hugo: A Guest Post by Dale Skran
(reprinted in FILE 770)

Dale Skran's column on Reforming the Short Form Hugo, which
appeared in the 05/13/22 issue of the MT VOID, has been reprinted
in Mike Glyer's FILE 770 at

<https://file770.com/reforming-the-short-form-hugo-a-guest-post-
by-dale-skran/>

And boy, are there comments...

[-ecl]

===================================================================

TOPIC: Mini Reviews by Evelyn, Part 5 (film reviews by Evelyn
C. Leeper)

HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS: HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR
HAPPINESS is a very hard-to-categorize film. Director Peter
Chelsom calls it a fable, which may be as good as anything, and I
like movies that are fables: JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO, INTERSTATE 60,
THE INVENTION OF LYING. In this film, Hector (played by Simon
Pegg) is a psychiatrist who seems to be content, but is really just
stagnant, and is not "happy". So he decides to travel the world to
lear what happiness is and how to achieve it. Pegg strikes just
the right balance of humor, confusion, fear, and, yes, happiness.

Released 2014. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10.

Film Credits:
<https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1626146/reference>

What others are saying:
<https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/
hector_and_the_search_for_happiness>

APOLLO 10-1/2: A SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD: It starts out as the story of
a young boy chosen for an Apollo mission because the lunar lander
was accidentally built too small for an adult astronaut. In
actuality, it is a reminiscence of growing up in the 1960s,
specifically in Houston, but almost everything would strike a chord
with anyone of that age, which includes Mark and me. It is
animated in the same style as writer/director Richard Linklater's
earlier films WAKING LIFE and A SCANNER DARKLY, and the script,
consisting mostly of narration by the first-person character, has
the same philosophical and psychological elements as those. A
wonderfully nostalgic film, and recommended.

Released on Netflix streaming 04/01/22. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4)
or 8/10.

Film Credits:
<https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7978758/reference>

What others are saying:
<https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/
apollo_10_1_2_a_space_age_childhood>

THE BUBBLE: This is "filming in the time of COVID." The "bubble"
of the title is an English country manor in which the entire cast
and crew of a "Jurassic Park" rip-off are living and working. The
fact that many of them are not the brightest bulbs in the Klieg
lights merely adds to the confusion and humor, although even with
that element it is fairly lame. This may be because, according to
Hollywood insiders, there is more truth to the film than one might
think. Look for some unexpected cameos.

Released on Netflix streaming 04/01/22. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)
or 6/10.

Film Credits:
<https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13610562/reference>

What others are saying:
<https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_bubble_2022>

CAPTAIN NOVA: This is a Dutch film release on Netflix streaming
with English-language audio and/or subtitles. The premise is that
someone from a eco-disaster future travels back to 2025 to try to
prevent the disaster, but somehow gets regressed to being twelve
years old, and looks remarkably like real-life climate activist
Greta Thunberg. The story is fairly predictable, probably
comparable to an after-school special. (For what it's worth, if
this were a book, it would be labeled "Young Adult", the TV-14
rating notwithstanding.)

Released on Netflix streaming 12/01/21. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)
or 6/10.

Film Credits:
<https://www.imdb.com/title/tt14915608/reference>

What others are saying:
<https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/captain_nova>

[-ecl]

===================================================================

TOPIC: A Television in Your Head (request by Tom Russell)

Tom Russell asks:

Many years ago l read about lecture in which the speaker asked,
"Does anyone have an idea how human vision works?" Someone from
audience offered, "It's like we have a little TV in our heads."
The lecturer replied, "Good ... but who is watching the
television?"

Perhaps you (or one of your readers) know who the lecturer was? I
would like to reread the account of the lecture. [-tr]

===================================================================

TOPIC: MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM, THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY,
TCM Movies, THE EXTRACTIONIST, Reforming the Short Form Hugo, and
COMFORT ME WITH APPLES (letter of comment by Heath Row)

In response to Dale Skran's comments on MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM in
the 04/22/22 issue of the MT VOID, Heath Row writes:

Having recently received several new issues of MT VOID via the
National Fantasy Fan Federation's franking service--and having had
a letter of column printed and even responded to by a fellow reader
(Hello, R. Looney!)--I see fit to write again after reading
#2220-2223.

The reprint and discussion of Dale Skran's review of MOTHERLAND:
FORT SALEM is intriguing. Given the current anti-woman and
anti-reproduction rights leaning in the United States, I'm not sure
if I'd enjoy the television program right now, but I did recently
read Margaret Atwood's THE HANDMAID'S TALE. Perhaps the fantastic
elements of the show will dull the parallels sufficiently. Last
weekend, my wife and I participated in a reproductive rights rally
in downtown Los Angeles. We definitely don't need another witch
hunt right now. Skran's review also reminded me slightly of THE
NEVERS, which is streaming broadly--and an excellent television
program. Have you watched THE NEVERS? You and Mr. Skran might
also get a kick out of the Image comic book limited series
MAN-EATERS: THE CURSED. Its precursor (MAN-EATERS) was an amazing
story, and the subsequent miniseries quite good as well, swinging
the title's attention from women as lycanthropes to witchcraft.

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of THE KAIJU PRESERVATION
SOCIETY in the same issue, Heath writes:

I also recently read John Scalzi's THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY
and appreciated Joe Karpierz's review. My review appeared in "The
N3F Review of Books"' April 2022 issue and is available at
<https://tinyurl.com/scalzi-kaiju>. I read it, while Karpierz
listened to it, but I can imagine how enjoyable Wil Wheaton's
narration must have been. Very cool.

In response to Evelyn's reviews of TURN BACK THE CLOCK and AS THE
EARTH TURNS in the 04/29/22 issue, Heath writes:

The reviews of relevant movies recently aired on Turner Classic
Movies were welcome--but I wish I'd been aware of their scheduling
beforehand so I could watch them, too! I'll have to pay more
attention to their schedule. I usually do in October for their
active classic horror lineup leading up to Halloween. Maybe it's
something my alter ego Cathode Ray could work into his "Celluloid
Sentience" movie and DVD release column for "FanActivity Gazette".
Not a bad idea, and one for which I thank you. (As a side note,
I've been enjoying the MT VOID mini-reviews that Philip De Parto
circulates to the The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County.
Another pleasant surprise in my in box!)

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of THE EXTRACTIONIST in the
same issue, Heath writes:

Karpierz's review of Kimberly Unger's THE EXTRACTIONIST doth
compel, but the book isn't even out yet! (Now, that's science
fiction for you.) The reviewer, lucky fellow that he is, must have
received an advance reading copy. Evelyn's consideration of Arthur
Conan Doyle's A STUDY IN SCARLET was also inspiring. I'm curious
whether you're active in Mrs. Hudson's Cliffdwellers or The Priory
Scholars of NYC. It looks like The Sherlock Breakfast Club in Los
Angeles hasn't met since 2017, but The Curious Collectors Of Baker
Street are still active. Thanks for the inadvertent nudge!

In response to Dale Skran's comments on reforming the Dramatic
Presentation, Short Form Hugo Award in the 05/13/22 issue, Heath
writes:

And I found Skran's "Reforming the Short Form Hugo" of high
interest. The N3F and its directorate has been having a similar
discussion about the categories and approach to nominees for the
National Fantasy Fan Federation Speculative Fiction Awards, or
Neffy Awards, which while not as notable or visible, still run
slightly parallel. I agree with Skran's proposal: a Dramatic
series Hugo focusing on series from the last year. We could even
take some cues from the Emmy Awards, which offers useful precedent.
My preference--for the Neffy Awards at least--is to focus on shows
that premiered during the previous year. But my Neffy thinking
hasn't gone further than that. For the Hugos, the Emmys' attention
to any six eligible episodes for final-round judging might be a
useful standard. Skran's three is also a reasonable number.

The Emmys also concentrate on episode length. They consider Short
Form series as having episodes with an average running time of two
to 20 minutes, Half-hour series as 20-40 minute episodes, and
Hour-long series as 40-75 minute episodes. Taking that approach
could still allow room for other shorter-form content. And I think
Skran's general concern about the Hugo category being potentially
biased toward large streaming platforms (or network or cable TV,
for that matter) has merit. The N3F Directorate has had similar
conversations about conventionally published, print-on-demand, and
self-published books. I'd advocate for breaking them all out and
including them all, while we currently lump them all together and
have a slight bias against conventionally published books in some
quarters.

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of COMFORT ME WITH APPLES in
the 02/11/22 issue, Heath writes:

But why I'm really writing to you is because I read Catherynne
M. Valente's COMFORT ME WITH APPLES last night. I'd requested the
ebook from my local library, missed the first hold release, and
wanted to jump on the subsequent hold release. So I read it in one
sitting lest my 21 days pass uneventfully. What an absolutely
wonderful and surprising read. Thank you, Mr. Karpierz, for
recommending it. Given my remarks in the letter of comment in
#2221, it did not end up being the book I was expecting. Though it
was wholly unlike THE CABIN AT THE END OF THE WORLD, THE COUPLE
NEXT DOOR, or LYING IN WAIT---though still a domestic thriller---it
was even better than I'd imagined. More along the lines of Ira
Levin's THE STEPFORD WIVES reimagined by Neil Gaiman. I'm not sure
what Looney would make of it. The COMFORT ME WITH APPLES he
mentioned (by Peter DeVries) is described as "a laugh-out-loud
novel about teenage pretensions and adult delusions from an author
whom the New York Times has called 'a Balzac of the station wagon
set.'" Valente's book, a serious doozy of a read, is not that
comic, for sure. Instead, it is darkly fantastic, mundane and
mythic in its scope, and subtly shocking at times. I would not
have read it were it not for MT VOID. Thank you.

I hope you and yours are well. [-hr]

===================================================================

TOPIC: Implausibilities in THE MARTIAN (letter of comment by Jim
Susky)

In response to Evelyn's comments on THE MARTIAN in the 05/20/22
issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

"I love THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir, although I have often nit-picked
various details"

No comment on Weir's "inspiration", but I found quite a few nits in
the film (no comment on the novel).

I was primed by two things regarding scientific/technical veracity
in THE MARTIAN:

In 1968, Kubrick, Clarke, his NASA guru, his thousands of hours of
reading, and others conspired to make his art film/sci-fi-epic
technically unimpeachable.

The hype on NPR about how "rigorous" they were making THE MARTIAN
(expect those two windstorms--two! one wasn't enough)--and that
they had informed "help".

If I'd have helped them I'd tell them:

1) An overnight run on a 2040-2050 "supercomputer" would not be
required to recalculate the ballistics on the rescue ship. All of
us have the requisite computing power at home--and there is
undoubtedly much more computing power on the ship itself.

Weir himself wrote back to say:

"Considering I, personally, calculated the trajectory on my PC at
home while writing the book I knew it was a bit of an
overstatement. But I figured Purnell was running all the abort and
failure scenarios as well, and also checking which of several
variations of his idea would work best."

2) Did they address fuel for that ship? I don't recall. If not
that's a big #3 for not accounting for a suicide mission.

3) To scrap that feeble "solar farm"--not close to big
enough--especially at 60% of the solar flux at similar earthly
latitude. Sure--that was "fashionable" but you're not foolin' me.

Weir stated:

"In the book, the Hab was a single domed room about eight meters
across and the airlock was about the size of a phone booth. The
solar farm required about 100 square meters of lightweight paneling
to keep everything running. And all that stuff was sent in advance
by 14 pre-supply missions before the astronauts even got there.
Solar panels are considerably more reliable and require much less
maintenance than a nuclear reactor."

At this writing I wonder how feasible scalable RTG power generation
would be? Comparing the tiny 1960s versions for probes with the
2005 solar-plus-batteries that failed on the comet probe ESA
sent--I suspect the mass penalty would be comparable.

Although I asked Weir what energy-density he'd used for
batteries--I got no answer.

4) The EVA with improvised thruster--the filmmakers had the
thruster spraying perpendicular to the direction-of-travel, which
would have blown the astronaut off the frame.

Weir: "Yeah, that was ridiculous. And it wasn't in the book. In
reality, if you poked a hole in your suit, the impulse you got
would be really, really small. Nothing like what was shown."

IIRC only 2001, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, and GATTACA are
scientifically credible in the SF-genre.

I'm sure you both (and readers) know of others. [-js]

Evelyn replies:

Mark and I both immediately thought of CONTAGION.

For all the various nit-picking columns on THE MARTIAN that I
wrote, see <http://leepers.us/evelyn/reviews/weir.htm>. [-ecl]

===================================================================

TOPIC: Reviewing (letter of comment by Joe Karpierz)

In response to Heath Row's comments on Joe Karpierz's reviews in various issues of the MT VOID, Joe writes:

My thanks to Heath Row for his kind words about my reviews of THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY, COMFORT ME WITH APPLES, and THE EXTRACTIONIST.

With regard to me having an advance reader copy of THE EXTRACTIONIST, yes, I did have one. My fortune in being able to get ARCs from various publishers stems from two people. First is Evelyn, who encouraged me to review for the the MT VOID back in the 1990s when I discovered that she, Mark, and I all worked for the same company (AT&T at the time, although it may have been Lucent Technologies by the time we made that discovery) by way of a comment in one of Roger Ebert's movie reviews in which he mentioned Mark. So yes, I've been reviewing here since sometime in the 1990s. Second is Robert J. Sawyer, who, while he, I, Rick Wilber (I think), and Jacob Weisman, owner of Tachyon Publications, among other authors (man, that's a lot of commas--I probably used them wrong) were sitting at a bar at Chicon in 2012 when Sawyer turned to Weisman, pointed at me and said "Jacob, you should have him review books for you".

The fact that I review for the MT VOID got me accepted at NetGalley, which Jacob suggested would be a good place for me to be so they wouldn't have to ship me physical ARCs as that is so expensive. Since then, things have changed a bit in that Tachyon does offer to send me widgets directly, but I go to NetGalley to get them so I can build up my review portfolio (for lack of a better term) so that I can get ARCs from other publishers. Tachyon knows that I only request books from them that I'm pretty sure I will like, which means they will get good reviews. Side note is that I'm auto-approved on NetGalley for ARCs by Tachyon. Another side note is that Tachyon has asked me to read and review NEOM, the new book from Lavie Tidhar, to be published in November. I have that ARC now, but the earliest I will get to it will be after I've finished my Hugo reading.

I do get ARCs from other publishers. They are always small publishers, like Subterranean, Rebellion, and Gallery. My presumption is that my audience is too small for a large publisher to consider me for reviewing their books. I've never been able to get an ARC from Tor, for example. In fact, one of my next reviews will be of "The Dark Ride, The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel", out in July from Subterranean. So yes, another ARC. [-jak]

===================================================================

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

I was reading the Norton edition of BEOWULF (translated by
E. Talbot Donaldson) and had the chance to pick up the Neil
Gaiman/Robert Zemeckis/Roger Avery 2007 film version of the story
(BEOWULF) cheap at a library sale.

As far as the book goes, though it is formatted as prose, it is
obviously a blank verse translation of a poem. It is rife with
the compound nouns (and adjectives) of the original poem:
whale-road, house-dweller, wolf-slopes, guest-building,
sea-booty, life-injury, water-sport, ... We still have many such
nouns, but nowhere near as many, and certainly not in common
usage.

But the film was a total disappointment, both in the script and in
the visuals. The filmmakers have said that they were trying to
restore the pagan roots of the poem, which had been buried under a
layer of Christianity by later writers/copyists. The problem for
me was that this was no longer a film of the poem, but a film
inspired by the characters and events in the poem. This can be
done well, but in this case, the heroes end up much more unpleasant
than they were in the poem, and the villains (at least Grendel's
mother) less unpleasant. I suppose that may be truer to life, but
it doesn't make for a great epic. And the visuals, while possibly
cutting-edge ion 2007, now appear in that "uncanny valley" of
almost-realistic animation that just looks creepy.

On the other hand, BEOWULF & GRENDEL (2005) was fairly decent. It
removed a lot of the mythical parts, and the Icelandic locations
and actors made it much more realistic. And THE 13TH WARRIOR
(1999), starring Antonio Banderas and based on Michael Crichton's
EATERS OF THE DEAD, while munging together bother the Beowulf story
and the actual travelogue of Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan, an Arab who
traveled among the Vikings in the 10th century. While obviously a
bit of a mish-mash, it has been praised for its depiction of Ahmed
learning Old Norse by having the spoken dialogue by the Vikings
start out entirely in Norse (and unintelligible to the viewer),
then gradually having a few words of English creep in as Ahmed
starts to pick them up, and eventually switching entirely to
English. [-ecl]

===================================================================

Mark Leeper
mle...@optonline.net


Education is what survives when what has been learned
has been forgotten.
-- B. F. Skinner

Peter Trei

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May 30, 2022, 8:30:29 PMMay 30
to
On Sunday, May 29, 2022 at 10:35:11 AM UTC-4, ele...@optonline.net wrote:
>
>
> In 1968, Kubrick, Clarke, his NASA guru, his thousands of hours of
> reading, and others conspired to make his art film/sci-fi-epic
> technically unimpeachable.

Not quite.

It always bugged me that they didn't attempt to simulate lunar gravity.
This is most obvious in the motions of the photographer moving
around the conference room, and somewhat less so in the movements
of the astronauts at the dig site. They missed a great chance too; when
they pour coffee in the shuttle to the dig, the shot cuts just before the
liquid appears. A slow motion shot of it pouring would have been great.

Finally, that shuttle is shown flying over the lunar landscape about 100
meters up. While low orbits are possible, that's ridiculously low, given
mountains, etc.

Pt
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