Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/27/17 -- Vol. 35, No. 31, Whole Number 1947

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        How Soviet Writers in 1960 Envisioned 2017
        Revisionist Recipes (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for February (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
                (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        THE DAUGHTER (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        LA LA LAND (letter of comment by Art Stadlin)
        This Week's Reading (ISAAC'S STORM) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


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

February 9: GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) and "Doubled and Redoubled" (short
        story by Malcolm Jameson), Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
February 10: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, Middletown (NJ) Public
        Library, 12N

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


TOPIC: How Soviet Writers in 1960 Envisioned 2017

 From comes the following:

In 1960, V. Strukova and V. Shevchenko wrote a story, illustrated
by L. Smekhov, about the Soviet Union in 2017.  The date was not
fortuitously chosen--it marked the 100th anniversary of the October
Revolution that brought the Communists to power.  The authors
believed that people in 2017 would be fortunate to live in a world
liberated by Soviet science, where the climate could be controlled,
the flow of the northern rivers could be controlled, and Alpha
Centauri was a flight destination.  ...  In 1960, the Soviet movie
studio 'Diafilm' released a filmstrip titled 'In the Year 2017'...

The filmstrip can be seen in its entirety, with English
translations for the subtitles, at:



TOPIC: Revisionist Recipes (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

We were serving a friend some of Evelyn's Green Chicken Chili.  He
asked was there any way he could have cheese on it.  As we keep
kosher we do not mix meat and dairy.  I told him, yes, there is a
way, but first he has to find an anti-matter chicken.  [-mrl]


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

February 1 begins TCM's 31-day series called "31 Days of Oscar."
Every day in February and for the first three days of March TCM
will run only films that have been nominated for (and possibly won)
an Academy Award.  This year, the 31 days of films will be shown in
strict alphabetical order.  There will be no mini-fests of Robert
Wise films or 1950s science fiction.  The alphabet will decide when
films will be played.

On February 1 this year, they begin with ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS
(1940).  They end on March 3 with the political thriller Z (1969).
(Z is a good film.  I expect to say something about Z next month.)

I am surprised that the film FURY is not better known than it is
today.  In 1936 it was considered very good and was strong stuff,
even if it was somewhat toned down by MGM so that it would not be
too shocking.  It was the first film made in America by Germany's
master filmmaker Fritz Lang, director of FRAU IM MUND, METROPOLIS,
and M. Spencer Tracy starred as a man wrongly convicted of
kidnapping.  A lynch mob is ready to hang him, but instead the jail
burns down and the convicted man is able to escape and leave
evidence that he had died in the flames.  The leaders of the lynch
mob are put on trial for murder while the Tracy character looks on
but will not save his accused murderers.  Mob violence was a
serious threat in 1936, but is less so now, so the story lacks some
of its original punch.  Still it has plenty left.
[Thursday, February 9, 4:30 AM]

This is a film adaptation of the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert
E Lee inspired by the famous 1925 Scopes Tennessee Monkey Trial.
The film takes place in a state where it is illegal to teach in
school biological evolution rather than creationism.  Two of the
most prominent legal minds in the country, old friends, are
recruited to try the case arguing for the defense of Bertram Cates
(Dick York).  Prosecuting is Matthew Harrison Brady (Frederic
March).  Defending is Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy).  The trial
becomes a national focal point.  Much of the play is not accurate
to the court trial, but much is.  The courtroom discussion is taken
directly from the Scopes trial court proceedings.  This was a
pivotal moment in the relations between religion and science and
the play is just excellent.  Henry Drummond is based on Clarence
Darrow.  Matthew Harrison Brady is based on William Jennings Bryan.
Frederic March's Brady is uncannily accurate to Bryan.  His posture
and his gestures are extremely accurate to newsreels of Bryan.
There is good acting all around.  [Monday, February 13, 8:00 PM]

This is a great movie and in previous months I have not listed it
since I thought it was a little too well known to fit under my
charter.  This month its competition on TCM is also well known, all
having been nominated for Oscars.  That is all the excuse I need.
John Steinbeck first wrote this story as a play and then novelized
his own play.  It was adapted for the screen by Eugene Solow.  I
have never seen the story in any form that it did not pack quite a
wallop.  The story, set in the Great Depression involves two
migrant farm workers who travel together with a bond stronger than
family.  Lenny (played by Lon Chaney Jr.) was rendered a mental
defective by an accident he had in his youth.  George (Burgess
Meredith) looks after Lenny because, well, there is just nobody
else to do it.  This is particularly troublesome because Lenny does
not know how to stay out of trouble.  If you have seen a version of
this story before you may be excused.  If you do not know the story
(and you get TCM), for gosh sakes do not miss it.  This was
Chaney's first major role and he really built his career on it.
[Sunday, February 19, 2:00 PM]

Best film of the month?  Right now I would go with OF MICE AND MEN.


2015 Greg Egan, 2016 Subterranean Press, Limited Edition Hardcover
Novella, $40, 89pp, ISBN 978-1-59606-791-2) (excerpt from the Duel
Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz)

I've never really gotten around to reading much of Greg Egan's
material.  I suspect it really has mostly to do with the fact that
I have a huge to-read list and the thought of picking up yet
another author that I haven't read much, if any of, is a bit
daunting.  I did read 2008's Incandescence, but found it difficult
to engage with.  I suppose that based on that one somewhat negative
experience I found it easy to ignore the Egan that I have on my
Kindle or my bookshelves waiting to be read.

Back in December of 2015 Asimov's published Egan's novella "The
Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred".  I was hearing enough positive
commentary about it that I decided I wanted to read it.  Last year,
Subterranean Press published a very handsome limited run volume of
the novella, and while it was pricey I decided to take the plunge.

The story takes place on two asteroids, Vesta and Ceres.  The
original settlers of Vesta decided that the best way to share the
profits was to do so equally, which seems fair enough.  However,
one of the originally settling families, the Sivadier clan,
contributed intellectual property rather than solid goods.  While
this intellectual property was invaluable in the development of the
asteroid, the other settlers have been clamoring for the Sivadier's
share to be cut, taxed, or otherwise affected so they no longer
received an equal share.  Ceres is a well-established asteroid
colony.  Anna is a new port director for the asteroid who is on the
receiving end of "riders" from Vesta, people who are disenchanted
with what is happening on Vesta and travel to Ceres in small
cocoons attached to ships traveling from Vesta to Ceres.

The story shuttles back and forth between the present, in which
Anna is dealing with the riders as well as her own personal
situations, and the past and present on Vesta.  Egan spotlights
Camille (who we meet as a rider at the beginning of the story) and
her companion Olivier back on Vesta, and uses Olivier as the link
between the past and the present as Olivier is a rider who makes it
to Ceres before Camille does.  Anna is caught in middle when the
political situation on Vesta spills over to Ceres, and in the end
has to make a decision that is not good for anyone.

"The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred" is not just your run-of-the-
mill science fiction space opera adventure story; it provides a
view of a volatile situation in which perceived inequities cause a
majority to turn on a valuable minority--in this case, the Sivadier
clan.  It's also reflective of today's climate in which science is
not necessarily respected or trusted.  The mining knowledge that
the Sivadiers brought to the table is just as valuable, if not more
so, than what was brought to the table by the rest of the settlers.
The other side of this is Anna, who has to make decisions she
doesn't want to make, and finds herself in an untenable position.
We see this all the time in current society; Egan is taking it to
the asteroid belt and raising the stakes.

This is a great novella, and I'm disappointed I didn't read it when
it came out and that it didn't make the Hugo ballot last year.
This is a great, accessible read from Egan.  Maybe it's time for me
to start reading some of the other Egan I have around here.  Who
knows what I've been missing?  Oh, wait, it's all of you.  [-jak]


TOPIC: THE DAUGHTER (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: With this Australian production, stage director Simon
Stone directs his first feature film, adapting his own
modernization and re-imagining of Henrik Ibsen's "The Wild Duck."
The story is of a man who returns to his home to find the key to
many locked family secrets.  The story might easily have settled
into melodrama, but it manages to keep its head above water.
Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, and Miranda Otto star.  Rating: low +2
(-4 to +4) or 7/10

Just in case there was any question of what story is being told, we
see a wild duck being shot and injured in the first shots of the
film.  Writer/director Simon Stone is updating Henrik Ibsen's 1884
play, "The Wild Duck."  One of the essential weaknesses of the film
is that in updating the original Stone had to create too many
characters for the viewer to keep straight.  Watching the film I
felt I could have used a list of characters to keep them all
straight and to help sort their relationships.  Stone has made a
film that is harder to follow than the original play it was based

An Australian town--never named--lives in the shadow of one man.
The town lives or dies under the control of Henry Nielsen (played
by Geoffrey Rush) who owns the lumber mill that has been the
lifeblood of the town.  Just at the moment the mill and the town
are both dying.  The mill has lost its last contract and most of
the town has been laid off.  Particularly in Henry's shadow is
Walter Finch (Sam Neill) who used to be Henry's partner and who
went to prison for shady dealing with Henry but for which Henry
went unpunished.  To contrast his character from that of Henry,
Walter maintains a little sanctuary to nurse animals, including the
wild duck, back to life.

It is a moment of mixed emotion as Henry is soon to be married to
Anna (Anna Tov) his former housekeeper, young enough to be his
daughter.  Henry's son Christian (Paul Schneider) is returning home
from America to attend the wedding.  Shocking secrets are about to
be revealed.  I will not reveal who the real villain is, but of
course this is an adaptation of a play by Henrik Ibsen.

In the hands of a director who knew less about how to stage dialog
this would have been a bit talky and feel like a lot of soap opera
melodrama.  Stone takes what could have been taken as exaggeration
and leaves it with a realistic feel.

It is not clear why Stone chose to rename this work the nondescript
THE DAUGHTER.  One would think that among the film's intended
audience there would be more marquee value in using the original
classic and familiar title.  I rate THE DAUGHTER a low +2 on the -4
to +4 scale or 7/10.  THE DAUGHTER will get its wide release
January 27 of this year.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: LA LA LAND (letter of comment by Art Stadlin)

In response to Mark's comments on LA LA LAND in the 01/20/16 issue
of the MT VOID, Art Stadlin writes:

[Warning, the following contains film spoilers. -mrl]

I'm wondering if Mark and I saw the same movie!  Not a sad ending?
Our two lead characters were very much in love.  They appreciated
each other's passion for their career goals, and they supported
each other through the low spots.  A happy ending would have been
for them to realize their dreams while staying together.  But
that's not what happened.  They needed to *sacrifice* their love
for each other in order to pursue their passions.  And they both
succeeded, individually.  So when they met again by chance 5-years
later, with our leading lady married to some other guy, the
audience is left to wonder where this will lead.  We get that
extended dream sequence of what might have been between our two
original lovebirds: marriage, family, and all that goes with it.
An alternate reality to be sure, and done so well it just about
ripped my heart out.  No, Mark, to me this was a very sad ending.

I completely agree with Mark that the music was nothing special,
and neither were the dancing and singing.  Frankly I think billing
this film as a musical only sets people up for disappointment.
This was a love story, and in that regard I think LA LA LAND was
one of the best I've seen in a long time.  [-as]

Mark responds:

I admit I probably misspoke.  I was saying that this was not
"Pagliacci" or "La Boheme" where the ending is irreversible.  They
had still kept their feelings for each other alive and there is
still hope for their relationship to rekindle.  I should have said
that the ending is bittersweet but not tragic.  I think the ending
will probably be interpreted as tragic.  But as I say that is not
how the ending will be interpreted by most.


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

HISTORY by Erik Larson (ISBN 978-0-375-70827-5) is the story of the
Galveston hurricane of September 8, 1900.  It is also the story of
the U.S. Weather Bureau, and how it was transformed by the
hurricane.  In that regard it is a cautionary tale, and a
depressing one, because it is not the story of how the Weather
Bureau rose to the occasion, but rather how the incompetence and
hubris of the Weather Bureau led to over 6000 deaths.

In brief, the head of the Weather Bureau was convinced he knew
everything there was to know about hurricanes, and to this end he
not only refused to listen to other people's theories, he actually
forbade the telegraph service to carry any hurricane warnings from
anyone in Cuba (which was under U.S. control at that time) except
the U.S. Weather Bureau.

Larson also emphasizes the rivalry between Isaac Cline and his
younger brother Joseph throughout their careers.  While detailing
their losses in the storm, Larson also questions Isaac's own
account of his actions during the storm.  After the storm, Isaac
claimed he had personally driven around, warning people to
evacuate, and that he was responsible for saving at least 6000
lives.  (Later, his number increased to 12,000.)  Yet apparently no
survivors remember seeing or hearing him giving any warnings, and
reports often placed him at locations other than those where he
claimed to be.)

Larson also covers the storm, of course.  A large part of the
description is of the storm itself, almost in the mode of George
R. Stewart in STORM, although more scientific.  (In this regard,
the book is similar to TWELVE DAYS OF TERROR by Richard Fernicola,
in which the author makes the shark of the 1916 New Jersey attacks
a real character in the story.)  The interaction of storm and city,
though is more traditional, with descriptions of what people saw,
and of what damage the storm caused and how it caused it.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the
           constant popularity of dogs.
                                           -- Aldous Huxley