Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/18/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 7, Whole Number 1976

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Hugo Award Winners 2017
        Insurance Catch-17 (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        What is Happening to the Mainstream Film Industry? (comments 
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        Hugo Awards Rules Changes (Again!)
        HIDDEN FIGURES and Hugo Eligibility (comments 
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        Relativity (comments by Gregory Frederick)
        AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL (film review by Art Stadlin)
        THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE by James Bryce (book review 
                by Gregory Frederick)
        This Week's Reading (THE MARTIAN) (book and film comments 
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Hugo Award Winners 2017 and Worldcon 75

Best Novel: THE OBELISK GATE, by N. K. Jemisin
Best Novella: EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, by Seanan McGuire
Best Novelette: "The Tomato Thief", by Ursula Vernon
Best Short Story: "Seasons of Glass and Iron", by Amal El-Mohtar
Best Related Work: Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and 
        Books, 2000-2016, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, written by 
        Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: ARRIVAL
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: THE EXPANSE: "Leviathan 
Best Editor, Short Form: Ellen Datlow
Best Editor, Long Form: Liz Gorinsky
Best Professional Artist: Julie Dillon
Best Semiprozine: Uncanny Magazine
Best Fanzine: Lady Business
Best Fan Writer: Abigail Nussbaum
Best Fan Artist: Elizabeth Leggett
Best Series: The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold 
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Ada Palmer

Video recordings were made of many of the events and panels at 
Worldcon 75 in Helsinki and can be found at 


TOPIC: Insurance Catch-17 (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

You should not get insurance against reincarnation in New Jersey.  
When you go to collect having past lives is automatically 
considered a pre-existing condition.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: What is Happening to the Mainstream Film Industry? (comments 
by Mark R. Leeper)

As is probably not very surprising, this year has a disappointing 
one for the major studios.  They continue to follow the same 
pattern of making chapters in major franchises and spending more 
and more on visual effects.  Then they expect they can draw on a 
big domestic and a big foreign market.  It is easy to make a 
chapter of a franchise.  Most of the creative work can be done for 
the producer.  You write a story that is different but not too 
different from the previous films in the franchise.  You outsource 
the creation of special effects.  Maybe you even get the same 
writers.  But you need only limited creativity.  People will come 
for your visual effects, but only for so many chapters. But 
franchises only draw on just so many people.  Eventually you 
probably have more people jumping off than jumping on.

China is a big market for American film for now, but they have 
their own culture.  They grew up with Sun Wukong, not Spider-Man.  
Spider-Man does have exotic appeal in some markets like China, but 
that goes only so far.  Just like African Americans wanted to see 
more of their own people, the Chinese probably want to see people 
they can identify with on the screen.

Meanwhile Disney has bought the Marvel Comics set of franchises and 
the Lucasfilm "Star Wars" films.  (Well, George Lucas used to claim 
that when he made the first "Star Wars" film he "wanted to make a 
children's movie, to go the Disney route."  It looks like he 
finally did in a roundabout way.)  These films are written in their 
own universe.  There is a "Star Wars" universe.  There is also a 
Godzilla "Monsterverse" universe.

The oddest entry in this race is Universal turning its 1930s and 
1940s horror films into some kind of universe where the monsters 
become superheroes together.  It will not be just all the monsters 
appear in one place like HOUSE OF FRANKENSIEIN.  It will go beyond 
that, but I am not sure where.  This is the strangest of film 
franchises.  What are they going to do?  Will they turn Dracula and 
Lawrence Talbot into crime fighters?  And as their flagship film 
they have made THE MUMMY as an action film starring Tom Cruise.  It 
sounds like they were out of good ideas before they even got 
started.  They intended to build a loyal audience for the their 
series of films with a film that got a 15% critical approval on 
Rotten Tomatoes.  That is not a very good start.  For those who 
know the ratings systems the IMDB's aggregate rating was 5.7/10 and 
Rotten Tomatoes saw it get a fast 16 percent.  That is not the most 
auspicious start.

The American film industry, which is the most powerful film 
industry in the world, is having serious problems.  Their budgets 
keep growing and they need new international markets.  A franchise 
is just does not stay a good way to go.  Once you have seen how the 
Incredible Hulk smashes things seven different ways, do you really 
have some desire to see the new film where he does it an eighth 

You have a younger generation who is living on their iPhones and 
who do not have the patience to watch a comic book on the screen.  
And you have an older generation who are getting too old to have 
much interest in comic book films.  And tying them together there 
is a weak economy.  It used to be that a special effects 
extravaganza would bring in crowds.  That has been going on since 
the days of silent films or KING KONG (1933).  But budgets today 
are outpacing grosses.  And the one thing that will really improve 
a film, good writing, is getting harder for the studios to 
recognize or harder to trust.  Studios do not want to be too 
demanding on audiences.  The good writers are abandoning the 
studios and going to video of one form or another.

So what is to be done?  I love cinema too much to declare that it 
is a dying medium.  But the film industry has been ready for 
several years for a big shake up.  It may be that video or some new 
medium will steal their audience.  Cinema had a similar problem in 
1969.  Then Hollywood had to re-discover the small film.  That year 
the small film that led the way was EASY RIDER.  I am hoping that 
Hollywood will come to respect small films with good writing.  
Otherwise we will have a bunch of empty theaters with passersby 
watching video off their iPhones.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Hugo Awards Rules Changes (Again!) (comments by Evelyn 
C. Leeper)

A summary of the changes; I did not try to explain the items that 
C.1. Best Series (as amended by C.1.1. RATIFIED, 51-39.
C.2. December is Good Enough: RATIFIED. [You must be a member by 
        December 31 of the previous year to nominate.]
C.3. Two Years is Enough: RATIFIED (but includes grandfather clause 
        that effectively means it does not apply until 2019 Worldcon.  
        [Only members of the current or previous Worldcons are 
        eligible to nominate for the Hugo.  This removes nominating 
        privileges for members of the succeeding Worldcon.]
C.4. Three Stage Voting (3SV): FAILED, 45-41.
C.5. Motion to Suspend E Pluribus Hugo for one year: FAILED
C.7. Defining North America: RATIFIED
C.8. Retrospective Improvement Pt. 1. RATIFIED [detail on Retro 
C.9. Retrospective Improvement Pt. 2. RATIFIED [detail on Retro 
C.10. Universal Suffrage. RATIFIED [A Worldcon cannot sell an 
        Attending Membership without voting rights, or any membership 
        with voting rights for less than a Supporting Membership.]
C.11. Young Adult Award. Blank award name and provision related to 
        it struck out of the proposal. The new award RATIFIED 65-27 
        and will be first presented (as the "Award for Best Young 
        Adult Book" without a further specific name) in 2018.  Naming 
        the YA Award. "Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book" 
        PASSED and sent to 2018 for ratification. The new YA category 
        is not currently named "Lodestar." If this proposal is 
        ratified next year, future YA Awards will be called 


TOPIC: HIDDEN FIGURES and Hugo Eligibility (comments by Evelyn 
C. Leeper)

The Hugo Administrators issued the following statement as part of 
the Hugo Awards press release:

"The eligibility of HIDDEN FIGURES in this category was queried; it 
was suggested that as "non-fiction", it belonged rather to Best 
Related Work.  We determined that this is, frankly, ridiculous.

In the first place, HIDDEN FIGURES is not a non-fictional 
documentary, but a dramatised reconstruction of historical events, 
as have been many other Best Dramatic Presentation finalists 
through the years-most recently, two finalists for Short Form in 
2014 were about the production of "Doctor Who", one of them 
similarly a dramatised reconstruction of historical events (the 
other briefly featuring this year 's Hugo Administrator in a crowd 

In the second place, even if HIDDEN FIGURES had been a non-
fictional documentary, it would still have been eligible in this 
category. A non-fiction finalist won the Hugo for Best Dramatic 
Presentation in 1970 (the TV coverage of Apollo 11) and there was a 
non-fiction finalist in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form as 
recently as 2012 (The Drink Tank 's Hugo acceptance speech).

We noticed some references to "the Apollo 13 exception", as if some 
special allowance had been made in that and other cases. There was 
and is no special allowance, just implementation of the rules as 
they are written"

[In my opinion, they made the right decision for the wrong reason.  
The description of eligibility is "Any theatrical feature or other 
production, with a complete running time of more than 90 minutes, 
in any medium of dramatized science fiction, fantasy or related 
subjects ..."  Space travel/exploration is clearly a related 
subject.  The whole purpose of amending the definition to include 
related subjects was make films such as THE RIGHT STUFF, APOLLO 13, 
and HIDDEN FIGURES explicitly eligible.  -ecl]


TOPIC: Relativity (comments by Gregory Frederick)

As you probably know; Einstein became world famous in the early 
1900's due to observations made by an astronomer during a solar 
eclipse proving that light from a star was deflected by the 
gravitational well of the Sun.  This was only possible because you 
can only see stars near the Sun's edge during a solar eclipse.  
Astronomers in this country plan to repeat that type of observation 
during the upcoming eclipse.  They want to use the modern equipment 
of today to get the best accuracy possible of this deflection.  But 
an even more extreme version of was studied recently by European 
astronomers who observed this happening to three stars near the 
immense gravity well of a black hole.  The link to this recent 
study on is .  


TOPIC: AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL (film review by Art Stadlin)

Yesterday we went to the movie house to see AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: 
TRUTH TO POWER.  Let me start with the obvious:  If you saw Al 
Gore's first movie, and hated it, you won't like this one either.  
If you liked the first movie, you may like this one better.

The production qualities, such as the beautiful outdoor shots in 
Greenland, the camera angles, music, and so forth were very well 
done.  This is not some jerky-camera home movie.

The story is very easy to follow, with fewer graphs and charts than 
I remember in the first movie.  In some ways this is a movie as 
much about Al Gore the man as it is about global warming and 
climate change.  There's Al Gore the Senator's son.  Al Gore the 
college kid.  Al Gore the Congressman.  Al Gore the Presidential 
candidate.  And Al Gore the climate activist.

It was interesting, I thought, that this movie is *not* overtly 
political.  It's much more about the reality of the impact of 
global warming.  Yet, politics creeps in.  After all, climate 
change is a political hot potato, regardless of what consensus 
there is in scientific circles.  A prime point of this movie is the 
question, Why?  Why so much push back on the data that the earth is 
warming, and sea levels are rising?

As Gore points out, the victims worldwide are primarily the poor.  
The poor have no big money to support their cause.  Big money has 
warped the political process in Washington.

I won't spoil anything that might surprise you.  There was one 
particular event during the W. Bush years that surprised me.  And 
then there's Trump.  To those who deeply believe in the cause of 
saving the planet, there is nothing flattering in this movie about 
Bush and Trump.  Enough said.

Al Gore is 71.  (My wife looked it up.)  I got the feeling this 
movie could be his capstone or tribute for generations to remember 
him by.  Despite the Bush and Trump set-backs, the movie portrays 
Gore as an even-tempered man-with-a-mission who takes each setback 
as a challenge to do more than before for the cause.

As documentary-style movies go, I'd rate this one very high.  [-as]


TOPIC: THE HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE by James Bryce (book review by Gregory 

This book delves into the history of Germany and Italy from the 
fall of the Western Roman Empire to the early 20th Century.  The 
author originally wrote this book in 1864 and it was reprinted with 
corrections in 1906.  Later reprintings occurred as recently as 
1968.  Therefore, the author's viewpoint is from the past.  The 
details of why Germany and Italy did not become nation states until 
the late 1800's is examined.  England, France and Spain were nation 
states long before Germany and Italy gained this national status.  
The Holy Roman Empire is responsible in large part for the late 
emergence of Germany and Italy as nations.  After the Roman Empire 
in the West fell in the late 400's Rome was plagued by frequent 
attacks by the Lombards.  The Pope in Rome could not get any 
military assistance from the Eastern Roman Empire also known as the 
Byzantine Empire so he turned to Charlemagne, king of the Franks in 
Germany for help.  Charlemagne defeated the Lombards and was 
crowned by the Pope as the first Holy Roman Emperor.  The Holy 
Roman Empire territory at the time of Charlemagne and for some 
years after consisted roughly of present day Germany and the 
northern part of present day Italy.  This Holy Roman Empire existed 
from 800 to 1806 but as time progressed its emperors eventually 
lost real power over their territory as rebellions in Italy and 
other parts of Germany kept them occupied.  Also, the emperors were 
chosen by a group of electors who tended to select weak rulers.  
The electors were seeking more power and control of their own local 
territories in Germany and preferred weaker candidates for the role 
as emperor.  The continual fracturing of the Empire and weakness of 
the emperors allowed for the princes and dukes to divide Germany 
and Italy into small domains that would not easily coalesce into a 
nation state.  Additionally, the Pope in Rome created his own papal 
states.  Interesting and valuable information about the formation 
of modern day Europe is provided in this book but it is not an easy 
read.  The author uses some words from a bygone era and therefore 
it takes a real effort to understand the text.  [-gf]  


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

We recently watched THE MARTIAN and read THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir 
(ISBN 978-0-553-41802-6) for our book-and-film group.  While I have 
commented before on the book several times now, I found interesting 
some of the questions about the film from people who had not read 
the book.

For example: Rich Purnell (who develops a new strategy for saving 
Mark Watney).  In the book, he is developed enough as a character 
that we understand that he is on the autism spectrum.  His behavior 
in the film makes sense if you know this, but without foreknowledge 
of it (or unless you are a good guesser), his character makes no 

There was also some discussion of the ethnic backgrounds of the 
characters.  Venkat Kapoor (definitely an Indian name) became 
Vincent Kapoor (and half Indian and half African, because he was 
played by Chiwetel Ejiotor).  Mindy Park was read by most people 
(including Weir) as Korean, but definitely was not Korean in the 
film.  Weir himself says he never specified their ethnicities.

Annie Montrose is also considerably less strident in the film 
version (probably because the filmmakers had to clean up the 
language to get a PG-13).  And a lot was omitted from the film: the 
second dust storm (and indeed most of the journey), the loss of 
communications, the equipping of the rovers, etc.  The rover 
(singular) in the film had no airlock, and instead of a second 
rover, there seemed to be something more like a flatbed trailer.  
The hab airlock is much larger than in the book, in which Watney 
complained about how little dirt he could bring in at any one time, 
and also described as the size of a phone booth.  (How does Watney 
even know what a phone booth is by the time THE MARTIAN takes 
place.)  His shovels are also larger, and the mission goes a few 
days longer on Mars before they abort (for no reason I can tell).

The retrieval plays out differently, and the film adds a final 
sequence taking place several years after the rest of the story.  


                                          Mark Leeper

          Well, Art is Art, isn't it?  Still, on the other hand, 
          water is water.  And east is east and west is west and 
          if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce 
          they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.  
          Now you tell me what you know.
                                          --Groucho Marx