Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/19/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 42, Whole Number 2063

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, mleeper@optonline.net
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, eleeper@optonline.net
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Topics:
Retro Hugo Availability
Riddle (by Mark R. Leeper)
But Is It Art? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
ON THE STEEL BREEZE by Alastair Reynolds (audio book review
by Joe Karpierz)
This Week's Reading (HEART OF THE WORLD and BROKEN STARS)
book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

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

TOPIC: Retro Hugo Availability

The good news is that Joe Siclari of Fanac.org announces:

Dublin 2019 has announced the Finalists for this year's Retro Hugo
Awards to be given for works published in 1943.  We've pulled
together what we have on Fanac.org, along with a few zines from
eFanzines and the University of Iowa, to give you a single place
where you can find all the Finalist publications available online.
Read before you vote!

http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos.html

The bad news is that MUNCHHAUSEN was reported as no longer
available on YouTube, except for a version in German with Russian
over-dubbing, but no subtitles that I suspect that would not be
helpful.)

But the good news is that as with so many treasures to be found on
the Internet, things change.  MUNCHAUSEN at the link listed below
comes and goes.  At this point in time the link below is no longer
no longer available.  (That is, it was no longer available, but is
now.)  If you have had trouble connecting try the link again and
you very well might be lucky.  This may be an odd usage of the word
"lucky" as the film is stodgy and slow and offers little humor, in
spite of the subject matter.  It is 131 minutes of limited interest
value.  You may be able to find it at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wt3A8QftGv0

[-mrl]

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

TOPIC: Riddle (by Mark R. Leeper)

Question:

Who is clever and tricky and goes well on chicken?

Answer:

Agatha Crispy

[-mrl]

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

TOPIC: But Is It Art? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

This is going to be some stream of consciousness thoughts about
art.  That is probably appropriate, I figure.  You know we see a
lot of art that is called "avant-garde."  That means it is the
advanced guard of a new movement.  It is something that is new and
different.  Supposedly.  And people are anxious to see it because
it is new and different.  Well, I think people assume that the old
art was limited and they are sick of it.  They want the new art.
They want the excitement of changing times.

I, however, am going on strike.  I am not going to believe a piece
of art is avant-garde without the artist telling me when the rest
of the movement is coming and from whom besides her/himself.  I
mean, you cannot be the avant-garde of a movement if you are all
there is.  I want there to be a garde en arriere.

It is like these films that came out in the 50s and 60s that
proudly proclaimed, "This is the first film shot in the new
miracle of the screen, Hypno-Vista."  You seen any other Hypno-
Vista films recently?  Did you ever see even the second film shot
in the new miracle of the screen, Hypno-Vista?  No.  And there
were never any plans for one?  And look how often the new miracle
of the screen was something like William Castle putting a joy
buzzer in random seats or flying a plastic skeleton over the
audience on a wire.  These films all claimed to be the first that
had done it and forty years later they remain the only films to
ever having used this miracle of the screen.  Well, I guess it is
true that there are not a lot of Emma Stone comedies that really
have an obvious need to have a glowing plastic skeleton flown over
the heads of the audience.  I suppose that there are some that
might be improved with the skeleton, but none that really have as
much as something we would call a need.

But that is the problem with avant-garde art.  You are really
taking the artist's word that in being the avant-garde, the work
is not also the ensuite-garde, the pendant-garde, and the
suelement-garde.  So often a work of art is all these things.  So
frequently in art the real issue of whether there will be more
similar is the issue of whether a work of art makes, well, let's
use the word ...  money.  While it does not get said a great deal,
movements in art are heavily governed by the issue of what sells
to an audience.  You can pretty much track what is selling to
audiences in art by what the artists are doing.

Incidentally, this has an interesting corollary.  It has been
discovered that many of Vincent Van Gogh's contemporaries imitated
his style.  They would not have done this if it had not been
profitable for them to do so.  This has led modern art historians
to doubt the old legend that Van Gogh never sold a painting in his
life.  He must have had at least some limited financial success
that other artists wanted to cash in on.  That means to me that
Van Gogh really was selling paintings and just not reporting his
success.  It may have been that Van Gogh did not want to brag
about success in front of someone else--specifically his landlord.

Of course, when we talk about money and the arts in this country,
there is the controversy over the National Endowment for the Arts.
You have wars between representationalists and abstract artists.
You have artists unpopular in some quarters and the question of
whether they should be funded or not.  Then you have questions of
censorship.  I believe that everybody has a First Amendment right
to create any sort of art they want.  I think that the National
Endowment for the Arts has no right to act as a censor.  I think
they should confine themselves to deciding what art gets funded
and what does not.  And I think that on the National Endowment for
the Arts and I are in perfect agreement.  The First Amendment
guarantees free expression, not free greenbacks.  Should the NEA
be accountable to public taste? Well, turn on the major networks
and watch a comedy.  The networks really are accountable to public
tastes, not by principle but by something much stronger.  That is
how they make their money.  Pick a comedy show at random (not one
top-rated, but pick one totally at random).  Or better yet, pick a
show like BAYWATCH or MELROSE PLACE.  There.  That is public taste
for you.  Now you decide if the National Endowment for the Arts
should be accountable to it.  [-mrl]

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

TOPIC: ON THE STEEL BREEZE by Alastair Reynolds (copyright 2014,
Ace, copyright 2014, Recorded Books, 492 pp. e-book, 23 hours 10
minutes audiobook, ASIN (e-book): B00H2V6IN8, ASIN (audio book):
B00JMPNHCC, narrated by Adjoa Andoh) (audio book review by Joe
Karpierz)

ON THE STEEL BREEZE is the follow up novel to BLUE REMEMBERED
EARTH, and the second book in the "Poseidon's Children" series.
While essentially a sequel because it a) takes place after the
first book and b) has a few of the same characters and the main
character is a descendant of one of the characters in the first
book, it can be read as a standalone book.  I think the reader's
experience is enriched by having read the first book, so I would
recommend reading it first.

ON THE STEEL BREEZE follows the story of not one, not two, but
three different versions of Chiku Akinya, the great-granddaughter
of Akinya matriarch Eunice Akinya, who was a space explorer
herself.  Chiku Red went looking for Eunice who left the Solar
System at the end of BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH; Chiku Green went on a
long-range colonization mission to the planet Crucible with the
side task of investigating the strange structure known as the
Mandala.  As you might guess, the stories and fates of the three
Chikus intertwine, in part due to some fancy tech that Reynolds set
up in the first book.

While the book mainly deals with deep space exploration and
encounters with unknown, powerful AIs, the book really delves into
the concept of the interaction of species that are in different
stages of power and evolution.  While Chiku Green was certainly on
the expedition to Crucible for the purposes of exploration, she was
also there to expand the influence of the Akinya name.  What she
was not expecting to experience was a conflict with a powerful AI
(who called herself Arachne), created on Earth, who had gotten to
Crucible before the expedition did.  What was more unsettling, of
course, was that there were entities around Crucible there that
were even more powerful than Arachne.  I suspect we'll be seeing
more of these entities in the next book in the series.

The story focuses on something that has been part of the growth of
the human race since we first crawled out of the primordial soup:
conflict and its resolution, and the ability to get along.  But
Reynolds has taken it to a grander scale, since he throws AIs,
alien civilizations, and (if you were paying attention to the first
book) augmented elephants into the mix.  Quite honestly, I'm still
trying to figure out how those elephants are fitting into the grand
scheme of the story; I'd like to think that we'll find out in
POSEIDON'S WAKE, the final volume of the trilogy.

The "Poseidon's Children" trilogy is a departure for Reynolds from
his "Revelation Space" novels.  It is less dense and contains less
of a sense of wonder than those books do, but it does contain its
moments of those as well.  "Poseidon's Children" may be a good
place for people interested in jumping into Reynold's work.  I
think it's less likely to scare some folks away from the harder
space opera of his other novels.

In some ways, this book is much better than BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH,
and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It doesn't suffer from the "second
book in the trilogy" syndrome that so many other books do.  Maybe
that's because it can be effectively read as a standalone.  It will
be interesting to find out how Reynolds wraps (and *there's* an
unintended pun for you) up the story.

Adjoa Andoh is a good narrator for this book.  Her reading never
took me out of the story, and her ability to change voices between
all the various characters that are present in a particular scene
made it easier for me to keep track of which characters are saying
what.  It's so much easier when a listener can keep track of
characters during a long and complex novel, and Andoh is adept at
it.  [-jak]

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

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

Reading about John L. Stephens's explorations of Mayan ruins led me
to HEART OF THE WORLD by H. Rider Haggard (ISBN 0-87877-109-3),
universally described as Haggard writing about a hidden Mayan city.
But I gave up after about a hundred pages. First of all, Haggard
seems a bit confused between Aztecs and the Mayans.  The book takes
place in what is definitely Mayan territory, Chiapas and Guatemala,
but keeps referring to "the Empire of the Aztecs", "an Aztec
scroll", and so on.  And second, it was taking too long to get to
the part of the story that was interesting to me.

BROKEN STARS: CONTEMPORARY CHINESE SCIENCE FICTION IN TRANSLATION
edited and translated by Ken Liu (ISBN 978-1-250-29766-2) is a
sequel of sorts to INVISIBLE PLANETS: CONTEMPORARY CHINESE SCIENCE
FICTION IN TRANSLATION, also edited and translated by Liu.  Both
are strongly recommended.  I particularly like "What Has Passed
Shall in Kinder Light Appear" by Baoshu (a.k.a. Bao Shu).  [-ecl]

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

                                           Mark Leeper
mleeper@optonline.net


           Why can't somebody give us a list of things that
           everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of
           things that everybody says and nobody thinks?
                                           --Oliver Wendell Holmes