MT VOID, 06/17/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 51, Whole Number 2228

8 views
Skip to first unread message

evelynchim...@gmail.com

unread,
Jun 19, 2022, 10:13:37 AMJun 19
to
THE MT VOID
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/17/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 51, Whole Number 2228

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, mle...@optonline.net
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, ele...@optonline.net
Sending Address: evelynchim...@gmail.com
All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the
author unless otherwise noted.
All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
inclusion unless otherwise noted.

To subscribe or unsubscribe, send mail to ele...@optonline.net
The latest issue is at <http://www.leepers.us/mtvoid/latest.htm>.
An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at
<http://leepers.us/mtvoid/back_issues.htm>.

Topics:
Juneteenth and LINCOLN (film comments by Mark R. Leeper
and Evelyn C. Leeper)
12 YEARS A SLAVE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN by Becky Chambers
(audio book review by Joe Karpierz)
BLADE RUNNER (letters of comment by John Purcell
and Keith F. Lynch)
2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (letter of comment by John Purcell)
BY FORCE ALONE (letters of comment by John Purcell,
Keith F. Lynch, and Gary McGath)
This Week's Reading (MAKING HISTORY) (book comments
by Evelyn C. Leeper)

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

TOPIC: LINCOLN (a film retrospective by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn
C. Leeper)

Juneteenth (officially Juneteenth National Independence Day) is our
newest Federal holiday. It commemorates the emancipation of
enslaved African-Americans.

President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January
1, 1863, but that freed only slaves in states still in rebellion.
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston
to enforce that Proclamation, and this is seen as the end of
slavery. However, until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was
ratified by the required twenty-seven states on December 6, 1865
(Georgia being the last of these), slavery was still legal in
Delaware and Kentucky.

(The last states to ratify the amendment were Delaware (1901),
Kentucky (1976), and Mississippi (ratified 1995, but not until 2013
was the US Archivist officially notified).)

In celebration of Juneteenth, here are some observations about the
film LINCOLN, which focuses on the passing of the 13th Amendment by
Congress.

Capsule: In LINCOLN, with very interesting release timing and with
considerable historical accuracy, Stephen Spielberg tells the
history of the two great conflicting goals Abraham Lincoln had
toward the end of the Civil War. He wanted both to free the slaves
and to end the fighting. Spielberg does not simplify the issues.
Much of the film is talk. He respects his audience's intelligence
enough to tell the complex story and maintain a great deal of
historical accuracy. The film even looks very authentic to the
period. The viewer may have to work hard to catch all that is
happening, but the task is worth the effort. This is a film for an
intelligent audience.

It is impressive to see so many art house actors playing even in
small roles in this film.

At the beginning, there is an implication is that soldiers--black
and white--had memorized the Gettysburg Address. This is probably
not likely.

Lincoln easily slips into the middle of a joke, making it his joke,
and then returning to the topic. These jokes and Lincoln's
humorous analogies are a distraction and a slyly used tool.
However, not all of Lincoln's humor strikes the modern viewer as
hilarious. But there is no lack of modern humor as the
abolitionist's President's agents search out Congressmen who would
vote against Lincoln and try to change their minds.

Mary Todd Lincoln's self-promotions of her own interests make her
seem more of a liability to her husband than an asset. She might
be interesting enough if she had her own film, but in this film she
seems merely to interrupt the main story. (On the other hand,
maybe the idea is that Lincoln has more than just the 13th
Amendment to deal with.)

This is Daniel Day-Lewis's second-to-final film and a role for
which he will probably be remembered well. His voice, however, is
not as high-pitched as Lincoln's was reported to be.

The military use of the telegraph and its use in general is the
highlight of the civil war rarely discussed in film.

Even though Spielberg and his audience know the political result of
these issues, Spielberg manages to create real suspense as to the
outcome. Spielberg's talent covers many types of films, and many
styles. Here he colors his photography with a darkness of film
noir.

The scenes of the aftermath of the war are drawn out. They may be
historically correct, but they do little to advance the story of
the film. (There is, however, a slight trick placed on the viewer
in them.) Perhaps it would have been better for the film to have
ended either with Lincoln walking away from the camera and out the
door of the White House, or with the announcement of the
Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston (although Lincoln makes it
quite clear early in the film why the Emancipation Proclamation is
of questionable legality, and uncertain to stay in effect after the
end of the war, and hence *why* the 13th Amendment is needed).

Rating: high +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

Film Credits:
<https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443272/reference>

What others are saying:
<https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/lincoln_2011>

[-mrl/ecl]

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

TOPIC: 12 YEARS A SLAVE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

[In honor of Juneteenth, our newest Federal holiday, we are
re-running Mark's review of 12 YEARS A SLAVE, which originally
appeared 12/06/13. Note that an earlier version of Northup's
story, SOLOMON NORTHUP'S ODYSSEY (1984), will be running on TCM
on July 14, 2022 at 7:00AM. This starred Avery Brooks [Captain
Sisko in "Star Trek:Deep Space Nine"] in his first television
role.]

CAPSULE: This is the truly horrifying true story of Solomon
Northup, a free-born black man who in 1841 was kidnapped and sold
into slavery. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is based on his eyewitness account
of his years of slavery, what he saw, and what he experienced. As
one character puts it, "the story is amazing and in no good way."
It is a powerful and important film, an unflinching look at some of
(what we would hope is) the worst cruelty of human slavery in the
Antebellum South. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

[Spoiler warning: I discuss one shocking sequence in the film that
really needs to be commented on. I do not think that it diminishes
the viewing experience.]

Over the years we have seen films about crimes against humanity
committed in history. There are many very good films about the
European Holocaust. There simply have not been very many films to
depict the nightmarish cruelty of slavery in the United States. No
doubt part of the reason is financial. Selling the idea that the
country allowed the horrendous crimes that occurred under slavery
would not sell well to the American public. The narrative film
that came the closest was probably the television mini-series
ROOTS, made under the eyes of the network censors. That film
handled the subject considerably more gently than the subject
really deserved in order not to offend the television-watching
public. This may be the first narrative film to show slavery this
realistically. Not all slaves were treated so cruelly under
American slavery as we see in the film, and some no doubt had it
considerably worse, though how that could be strains the
imagination. What we see in this film is credible and damning
enough.

Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) was a well-educated,
free-born black man living in Saratoga, New York in 1841 when he
was offered a supposed job with a circus. He accompanied two men
to Washington, DC, where instead they drugged him and sold him as a
slave. He was forced to hide his education and take a name he was
given, Platt. Periodic beatings were part of his treatment from
the beginning. He was treated hellishly and so were the other
slaves around him.

In truth, not everybody in the South's slave system is portrayed as
being sadistic and cruel. Northup's first "master," William Ford
(Benedict Cumberbatch) seems to be a decent man of conscience who
appreciates Northup's intelligence and talents. However, the
racial system is stacked against blacks and abhors even the
mutually beneficial relationship Northup and Ford enjoy. Ford's
carpenter (Paul Dano), white and jealous of Northup's position, is
able to destroy the relationship. Northup has to work for a new
and less scrupled master, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender). For the
slaves working for Epps is a constant parade of beatings, rape, and
torture, physical and mental. All of this is sanctioned by
Scripture, as Epps tells his slaves.

In the film we see a spectrum of decency or lack thereof among the
slave owners. Though as with Ford even a decent master is no
protection from the system. And perhaps the most shocking sequence
has Northup nearly lynched and left hanging from a tree limb
standing tiptoe to breathe. As he stands there slaves around him
go about their daily business doing there best not to look at him
and none daring to help him or even visibly react to his peril
apparently for fear of being made to share his fate. This goes
beyond injustice and cruelty to the point of dehumanizing the
innocent. It is a scene reminiscent of some of the worst of the
European Holocaust.

The screenplay by John Ridley is based on Northup's own book and
had to be carefully written to avoid melodrama. Recounting this
story of slaves in the hands of decadent slaveholders, it would
have been tempting to go overboard. The horrors of slavery are
many, but it would be too easy to go to extremes and end with the
cheap and unreal effect of Richard Fleischer's melodramatic
MANDINGO. Even Quentin Tarantino's DJANGO UNCHAINED felt a little
false on the subject of slavery. At no point does one feel this
film is exaggerating.

The film has an impressive cast with familiar actors in even some
relatively small parts. One suspects that as with Stanley Kramer's
JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG actors were willing to accept minor roles
just to be associated with an important film. Also, the right
director had to be chosen, not just for his dramatic talent, but
perhaps to fit the right profile. When Steven Spielberg made THE
COLOR PURPLE, in some quarters it was held against him that he was
a white man and a Jew making the film about the black experience.
Director Steve McQueen is black but British so he is also an
outsider to the American black experience.

Like Steven Spielberg's LINCOLN from last year, and for which this
is a good companion piece, this film is required viewing to
understand the United States as it was in the 19th, 20th, and 21st
century. I rate it a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10.

Film Credits: <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024544/combined>

What others are saying:
<http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/12_years_a_slave/>

[-mrl]

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

TOPIC: THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN by Becky Chambers
(copyright 2021, Harper Audio, 9 hours and 55 minutes, ASIN
B08BPLNBQZ, narrated by Rachel Dulude) (audio book review by Joe
Karpierz)

THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN, is Becky Chambers' latest (and
possibly last, although I don't really know that for sure) entry in
her "Wayfarers: series, which won the Hugo Award for Best Series in
2019. Chambers does not disappoint those who love her fully
fleshed out characters, her beautiful writing style, and the
situations that make her novels so endearing.

The story takes place on the planet Gora, which, if I remember
correctly, means "useless". The only thing that Gora has going for
it is that it is near a confluence of the wormholes that connect
the various worlds of the Galactic Commons. As a result of this
fortuitous location, although it is essentially a barren rock, it
has become a way station of sorts for travelers to stop and rest
before moving on to their next destinations. There are multiple
places to stay and visit on Gora, but the novel takes place at the
Five-Hop One-Stop, a kind of all-in-one location for travelers and,
well, Wayfarers. The host/proprietor is Ouloo. With the aid of
her child Tupo, she runs the Five-Hop, trying her best to make all
her guests feel welcome, happy, and comfortable.

The story takes place just after an accident takes out satellite
communications and prevents travel to and from the planet until the
satellite network is repaired. As luck would have it, the Five-Hop
has three guests staying there at the time of the accident: Pei, an
Aeluon; Roveg, a Quelin; and Speaker, an Akarak. The only thing of
note is that none of the five characters in the novel are human,
although Pei may miss a rendezvous with her secret human lover,
Ashby (thus connecting this book to the first book in the series,
THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL ANGRY PLANET). The fact that none of the
characters are human is really not the point, and thus descriptions
of the various races are also not the point. The point is that
each of the four races is different, with their own problems, their
own thoughts, their own dreams, and their own concerns. These
differences are what drive the story, as Chambers plays to her
strength by describing the interactions of these characters, and
the growth all of them--even the child Tupo--xperience as a result
of the days they spend together waiting for the satellite network
to be repaired.

Back in 1983 I listened to Isaac Asimov talk about beginning the
process of writing FOUNDATION'S EDGE after Doubleday, I believe it
was, threw a semi-truck full of money at him for it. He said he
started by going back and reading the original "Foundation
Trilogy", and he realized that absolutely nothing happened in those
three books. It was just a lot of people doing a lot of talking.
While no one in their right mind can compare the "Wayfarers" series
to the "Foundation Trilogy"--Chambers is a significantly better
writer all the way around than Asimov was, and writes better
characters while asleep than Asimov ever did--the one comparison
that can be made between the two is that nothing happens in either
series.

To be fair, anyone who has stuck around for the entire "Wayfarers"
series *knows* that there is no plot in these books, and they go
into it with that knowledge and are perfectly okay with it because
of all the things I wrote earlier in this review regarding
character, situations, and style. Thus, this book is not for
everyone. Heck, her Hugo nominated novella of a few years ago, "To
Be Fortunate, If Taught", was an outstanding piece of storytelling
that I thought deserved the Hugo that year--and it had an actual
plot. I'm really not a fan of the three-day study of character
interactions, a "day in the life", if you will. I want my novels
to have a plot. Now there are those of you out there saying "wait
a minute, you like Kim Stanley Robinson's MINISTRY FOR THE FUTURE,
and it didn't have a plot". Fair. I think it not only had
something* of a plot, but it was intensely interesting. Your
mileage may vary, of course.

I'm not saying that THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN is a bad
book. Far from it, it has a lot going for it. Chambers' writing
is as impeccable as ever, and the characters and their interactions
are fascinating. It's a good book. It's just not my cup of tea.
Not all books are for everyone. This one isn't for me, but I can
see why people like it.

Another outstanding aspect of the audio book is the narrator,
Rachel Dulude. She changes voices with the characters. Tupo
sounds like a typical kid, and Ouloo sounds like a typical mom.
All the characters are distinguishable from each other by the
voices that Dulude uses. She makes all the characters and the
novel fun to listen to, even if it's not something I'd go out of my
way to read. [-jak]

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

TOPIC: BLADE RUNNER (letters of comment by John Purcell and Keith
F. Lynch)

In response to Mark's comments on BLADE RUNNER in the 06/10/22
issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

First up, it is hard to believe that BLADE RUNNER is twenty-five
years old this year. Unreal. I enjoyed this movie and its dark
film noir atmosphere. Very effective. Of all the versions of this
movie that have been released, I have only seen the original
version, so that is all I have to go by. Still, it was very well
produced and effective. Your comment that you wondered if the
Earth had stopped rotating kind of made me think of the physics
that would result, and it would be cataclysmic, to say the least.
The whole planet would be messed up, not just Los Angeles, and
likely everybody would be dead. Now *those* visual effects would
have been fun to create, but that's not exactly what PKD had in
mind. Still, a good movie. [-jp]

Keith F. Lynch writes:

You should have mentioned that the future it's set in--November,
2019--is two and a half years in our past. Instead of a dystopia,
2019 feels like a golden age, before anyone had heard of COVID-19.
(Actually, that's probably the month that that virus came into
existence.) [-kfl]

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

TOPIC: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (letter of comment by John Purcell)

In response to comments on the accuracy of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY in
the 06/10/22 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

As for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, I have always thought that the
accuracy of the science in that movie was pretty good. However,
here we are twenty-one years after the movie's setting, and things
did not exactly turn out as projected in this 1968 movie. Well,
that's why this kind of movie is called science fiction: it's not
trying to be an accurate projection of the future, just a
possibility of how things could be. For that matter, don't get me
started on the sequel movie and book 2010, starring Roy Scheider.
Man, did *that* one miss the bus by a wide margin! [-jp]

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

TOPIC: BY FORCE ALONE (letters of comment by John Purcell, Keith
F. Lynch, and Gary McGath)

In response to Evelyn's review of BY FORCE ALONE in the 06/10/22
issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

Evelyn's review of BY FORCE ALONE has piqued my interest. Since I
need to renew my public library card, one of these days I will go
down there and take care of that and see if this book is on the
shelves. It sounds like a fun premise to base the rewrite of the
Arthurian legend. [-jp]

Keith F. Lynch writes:

[Evelyn writes,] "'Merlin mutters pi. Pi is an irrational
number--only such numbers hold power in an irrational place--and it
is transcendental, which seems appropriate. And it is infinite,
just like the Weald.' (Well, no it's not infinite--its decimal
expression is infinitely long.)"

True. But there was no concept of decimal expression in those
days. Nor did anyone know that pi was irrational until the 18th
century, or transcendental until the 19th.

[Evelyn writes,] "He also goes on about the square root of two
being irrational, which doesn't strike me as something the Merlin
of this story would be that informed about."

But at least the Greeks of the time already knew that the square
root of two was irrational. [-kfl]

Gary McGath writes:

[Evelyn writes,] "BY FORCE ALONE is the story of how Arthur started
as a minor juvenile delinquent and rose Al-Capone-like (or
Tony-Soprano-like, for today's readers) to rule all of Britain as
the "capo del capi", while Guinevere began as the leader of a group
of female bandits."

Makes sense. In post-Roman, pre-Saxon Britain, the distinction
between a king (or queen) and a bandit leader was blurry. [-gmg]

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

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

MAKING HISTORY: THE STORYTELLERS WHO SHAPED THE PAST by Richard
Cohen (Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-982-19578-6) is not about
history per se, but about historians, from Herodotus and Thucydides
to the present. One review talked about how Cohen compares and
contrasts those two early historians, with the reviewer referring
to "Team Herodotus" and "Team Thucydides". The former was
apparently not one to let facts get in the way of a good story, so
tended to include everything anyone told him, not matter how
unlikely, while the latter was more rigorous in his recountings.

I will admit to skipping some chapters--a chapter about a
particular historian is more interesting (and easier to follow) if
you have some familiarity with their work. Still, there was plenty
to read.

Alas, however, Cohen is one of the vast multitude who do not
understand life expectancy. He writes, "Life expectancy [in
Elizabeth I's reign] ranged between twenty-five and thirty-five, so
[London] was overwhelmingly a youthful place." This ignores the
very high infant and child mortality rates. The fact that he later
writes that Edward Gibbon's mother "gave birth to seven children,
all but Edward dying in infancy," and of Sir Walter Scott that "six
of his eleven siblings were to die in childhood" does not seem to
have made him question his earlier statement. Gibbon died at age
57; if his six siblings each died at age 2, the life expectancy of
his generation was about 10. Scott died at age 61; if five
siblings lived to that age, but six died at at 5, the life
expectancy of his generation was 33--just about the Elizabethan
figure, without a particularly youthful component.

[MAKING HISTORY by Richard Cohen should not be confused with MAKING
HISTORY by Stephen Fry, a 1996 alternate history which won the
Sidewise Award for Alternate History (Long Form) for that year.]

[-ecl]

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

Mark Leeper
mle...@optonline.net


We must learn to live together as brothers or perish
together as fools.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gary McGath

unread,
Jun 19, 2022, 11:18:57 AMJun 19
to
On 6/19/22 10:13 AM, ele...@optonline.net wrote:
> President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January
> 1, 1863, but that freed only slaves in states still in rebellion.
> On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston
> to enforce that Proclamation, and this is seen as the end of
> slavery. However, until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was
> ratified by the required twenty-seven states on December 6, 1865
> (Georgia being the last of these), slavery was still legal in
> Delaware and Kentucky.

It's surprising, at least to me, that Delaware was one of the "border
states" that had slavery until the ratification of the 13th but didn't
secede. I normally think of it as a northern state.

The Delaware Constitution of 1776 prohibited the importation of slaves
but didn't, in spite of what some sources claim, outlaw slavery. It was
replaced by the 1792 Constitution, which didn't have that prohibition.

--
Gary McGath http://www.mcgath.com
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages