Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/17/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 20, Whole Number 1989

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Trip Report for Our Road Trip to the Southwest
        The New WONDER WOMAN (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        THOR: RAGNAROK (film review by Dale Skran)
                by Bill Nye (book review by Greg Frederick)
        This Week's Reading (THE FOREVER WAR, book sales)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Trip Report for Our Road Trip to the Southwest

It is available at:



TOPIC: The New WONDER WOMAN (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I have to say that one of the films that I was most looking forward
to this year was WONDER WOMAN.  Everybody who had seen it applauded
it, raved about it, or something in between.  It is not that I
expected to really like it.  I wanted to reconsider the character
after seeing it many years later.  It had two strikes going against
it from my point of view.  First, it was a comic book film and
while when some of the early comic book films I did enjoy, I think
we have gotten to many of them and I am getting somewhat tired of
them.  They are dominating the box office and they do not vary very
much from one to another.

My other complaint is that while I was at one time a fan of DC
comics, I have never particularly cared for their Wonder Woman
character.  It seems to me that most of the DC superheroes fit into
my universe.  Superman is an alien who has special powers.  I can
accept that.  Batman is just a mortal man working out his vengeance
issues on criminals.  I can believe in that.  The Flash has super
powers that come out of biochemistry.  All this fits into a
rational universe.  But Wonder Woman is an Amazon and she gets her
power from mythical gods.  So to believe in her one has to believe
in ancient gods and in magic.  That is a pretty big adjunct to my
rational universe.  And magic is a part of the character.  She has
a magical lasso that among is other powers it makes people tell the
truth.  She has an airplane that makes her invisible when she
travels.  These are not especially clever ideas for special
features for her character.

One of the things people seemed to claim about the new WONDER WOMAN
film is that it is a strike against sexism.  This was a superhero
film about a female superhero.  And yet males seemed to enjoy the
film.  As far as that goes that is true.  But the Wonder Woman
character has sexism built in.  You cannot portray the Wonder Woman
without the Wonder Woman suit.  They tried doing that on commercial
television in 1974 with Cathy Lee Crosby in the role of Wonder
Woman and it did not work.  A 1975 to 1979 weekly series used the
classic costume and that worked better for a bodacious Lynda
Carter.  But what is the Wonder Woman costume?  It is an armored
swimsuit.  That costume design was done when the character first
appeared.  It was a sexy sexist image intended to appeal to the
male audience.

The producer of each version certainly avoided the part of the myth
that said that Amazons cut off their right breasts to be better
archers.  The comic artists and the TV show producers and the film
producers have a strong economic interest in keeping that breast
just where it belonged.  Now they would let her shave her
underarms, but the breast would stay just where the audience would
be looking for it.

In the film, Wonder Woman's semi-clad figure bouncing though the
mud of World War I trench warfare no man's land makes for a true
surreal image.

I cannot lie to myself.  In none of the versions of the character
does Wonder Woman work for me.  To claim that the new film is
feminist only shows how far we still have to go.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THOR: RAGNAROK (film review by Dale Skran)

I've come to feel that the THOR movies were not the high point of
the Marvel universe.  Not bad, but not on the same level as movies
The love interest had bad chemistry, and the action sequences were
often nonsensical.  In THOR: DARK WORLD a potentially great action
sequence with Thor and his opponent sliding through dimensions was
squandered by poor direction and silly comic relief.   We saw a bit
too much of Dr. Jane Foster and her comic opera assistants.

With this to go on, I wasn't expecting much from RAGNAROK, and when
I heard that a black actress was playing Valkyrie, this seemed like
another ham-handed effort to add "diversity" where it doesn't fit.
However, after the seeing RAGNAROK I found this change to be better
motivated than making Heimdall black in the earlier movies, which
as far as I can tell was just dropped to add a black face.  This is
not in any way a criticism of Idris Elba, who is a fine actor and
does honor to the character. I have seen this decision defended not
on the grounds that Vikings or Norse Gods were black, but that
there is a Hollywood tradition of casting people of color in Viking
movies.  This kind of thing, unlikely as it may seem, can always be
rationalized as a singular case of a traveler who decided to stay
in the north lands.  I just wish that such a rationalization were
provided for Heimdall since I like to see movies that are
internally consistent.

RAGNAROK is by far and away the best of the THOR movies.  It is
breaking box office records right and left--with only THREE DAYS in
release it has crossed the global $427M mark, with $121M in the US
alone.  These are immense numbers for a production budget of $180M.
So what does RAGNAROK do that the other THOR movies missed?

First, this is real sense of wonder stuff.  The art direction is
just plain stunning.  You will see things you have never seen
before.  The director has a strong sense for how to set up an epic
tale, and this is truly epic.  Second, you will get ROCKUP-SOCKUM
superhero action.  Thor vs. Hulk.  Hulk vs Fenris Wolf.  Thor vs
Sutar. Thor/Loki vs Hela.  Thor/Valkyrie vs Hela.  Hela vs the
Warriors Three.  An enormous set-piece battle on the Bifrost
Bridge.  Hela vs Sutar.  Thor/Valkyrie jumping from aircraft to
aircraft, destroying each in turn in a battle that reminds you what
Asgardians are capable of. You will be shown why Thor is one of the
most powerful Marvel heroes.  Third, the silly comic relief
characters of the earlier movies have been replaced by some comic
relief aliens and Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster which are a lot
easier to take and occupy less screen time.  Fourth, this is a
really funny movie with lots of jokes that operate on a wide
variety of levels.  It is accessible to kids of all ages without
the Shrek-like nastiness of the most recent GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
movie. Fifth, this is a big screen space opera. Space battles.
Bizarre planets.  Battles in an alien arena.  Weird aliens.  Most
of the movie takes place off-Earth.

This is just the start.  The acting is very strong. The scenes with
Mark Ruffalo are among the best he has done as the Hulk.  Thor is a
different person, bereft of his hammer, enslaved and beaten down,
and using Earth slang.  Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) is the least of
the actors only by comparison to a really strong cast.  There is a
wonderful play within the play with Matt Damon as Loki.   Tom
Hiddleston defines Loki, and Cate Blanchet is fearsome as the
ruthless and powerful Hela, Thor's older sister.  Karl Urban does a
turn as Skurge the Executioner, a major Thor villain.   There is
about five minutes of Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) talking to
Thor which shows why Dr. Strange is another of the most powerful
Marvel heroes, and is a lot of fun as well.

RAGNAROK is a big movie, and a fitting capstone to the Thor
trilogy.  It lives up to its name, and moves the story of Thor to a
new level.  It is also a serious movie, with a highly motivated
extremely dangerous villain, and real sacrifices to defeat that
villain. The back story of "Scrapper 142"--the last Valkyrie--is
deftly sketched in.  In an earlier age, Odin sent the Valkyries to
fight Hela, and she killed them all but one.  It is worth
remembering that there always were a lot of Valkyries in the
comics, and there is nothing that says one could not have been
black.  Certainly in the comics there were non-Caucasian Valkyries.
This sets up the "hero's journey" as Valkyrie finds the courage to
join Thor and once again confront Hela, the thing she fears the

What's wrong with RAGNAROK?  Mileage may vary on the jokes, but
most will find something to like.  Some scenes appear to be
borrowed from Star Wars.  Valkyrie gets drunk a bit too often for
my taste, and there is too much "drunk humor" with this character.
I get it--part of the Marvel fantasy as it relates to Thor is that
he is, due to his godly nature, able to drink and drink with no
lasting harm, and this applies to Valkyrie as well.  I just hope
viewers realize that this is just as much a fantasy as Wolverine's

I went back and looked at my reviews of the earlier Thor movies,
and I find that I rated them a low +2 and a high +2, but they seem
diminished in retrospect compared to RAGNAROK.  If I'm to be at all
consistent, I have to rate RAGNAROK a +3.  The PG-13 rating is well
applied.  There is a lot of super-hero fighting, and some Star Wars
type battles.  Characters from the earlier Thor movies die.  As I
said earlier, there is a bit too much drinking by Valkyrie, and I
would make it clear to teenagers that this is just fantasy--if you
drink like she does you'll end up dead, pretty much in the same
fashion as if you jump out of a spaceship like she does you'll end
up dead.  [-dls]


Nye (book review by Greg Frederick)

This science book is written by Bill Nye, a well known TV
personality and spokesperson for science.  The author relates how
many scientists now realize there are actually four domains of
life.  The four domains are Bacteria, Archaea (microbes that are
very different from bacteria and all the other forms of life),
Eukarya (animals and plants), and Viruses.  The Eukarya domain
contains all creatures with a nucleus and cell organelles with a
membrane which includes humans.  We and all animals have more in
common with plants than with any of the other forms of life on
Earth.  The study of evolution helps us to understand all life on
Earth including ourselves.  This knowledge is being applied to
better medical treatments, for example.

Every person is a walking, talking evolving ecosystem because we
harbor an incredible amount of microorganisms inside of us.  The
microorganisms inside each of us out numbers our own body cells by
10 to 1.  And they evolve in us.  A person is not born with all of
these microbes but as we interact with our parents for example the
microbes are spread thru contact.  Most of the food we eat is
broken down by these microbes so we can digest the contents.

The study of genes and using that data to compare the different
species has proven to be a great way to see the path of evolution
and how one species is related to another along the tree of life.
Humans and Chimpanzees share 98.8 % of the same genes.  Gorillas
share 97% of the same genes as we humans have.  At one time there
were creatures that had 99.5% of the same genes as us.  Less than 4
million years ago there were around a dozen hominid species like
Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals who had 99.5% of our genes and if Cro-
Magnons or Neanderthals were dressed in modern clothing and were
well groomed most people would not realize that they were not homo
sapiens like us.

This book also shows how the study of the anatomy of different
species also has allowed scientists to learn more about the tree of
life.  If you would like an entertaining and educational look at
evolution this is a good book for that.  [-gf]


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

Our book discussion group read THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman
(ISBN 978-0-312-53663-3) as part of our sequence of books about
time.  But what strikes me the most now--and I am not the only one-
-is the attitudes toward homosexuality, sex in general, and gender
roles.  In short, they are fairly appalling.

Let's start with sexuality and gender roles in general.  In
Haldeman's future (starting in 1997, written in 1974), women are
drafted and serve in combat on an equal basis as men.  Well, sort
of.  Apparently they have additional requirements, revealed
casually in the description of the arrival of Mandella's company on
Stargate, where the dining hall was set up for an "orgy," then
"they ... unleashed Stargate's eighteen sex-starved men on our
women, compliant and promiscuous as required by military custom
(and law)."  So apparently in addition to all the responsibilities
of male soldiers, female soldiers must also be basically sex

Now, I suppose that the same rules might apply to male soldiers.
But Haldeman certainly does not indicate this in any fashion, and
indeed, our male narrator seems to feel free at least initially to
decline the advances of a female comrade.  He seems to acquiesce
eventually more for reasons of group morale than by "military
custom (and law)."  (And his company evidently also sits around
watching and commenting on the acts going on!)

I think one might surmise from this that Haldeman was working on
the assumption that men had an almost insatiable sex drive, while
women (with a few exceptions) had none whatsoever.  But even if
this were true, his solution is totally unacceptable.  One might
conceivably argue that when sex slaves were provided to armies in
the past, there was at least the pretense that they were inferior
and that was their only purpose.  In THE FOREVER WAR, these are
soldiers fighting alongside their male comrades, but when the
fighting is over, these men are perfectly willing to turn their
female comrades over to the men at the next base or wherever as sex

One is astonished that more of these men were not fragged by the
women at their next opportunity.

As for the homosexuality, I am inclined to cut Haldeman some slack,
since a lot of what people have objected to is really the first
person narrator's attitude rather than the creation of a
unacceptable, but apparently accepted, situation by the author.
The narrator's attitude is more representative of 1974 (when the
novel was written) than of 1997 (when the action in the novel
starts), but this is a standard problem with social attitudes in
science fiction novels.  However, one can fault the author somewhat
for apparently assuming that no one in the original army was
homosexual (but possibly closeted), and more importantly, for
having a character in the future who is a cyborg from the waist
down who claims that makes him neither heterosexual nor homosexual.
That is not how sexual orientation works.

The Suck Fairy was first described by "camwyn" on Livejournal in
2003 and popularized by Jo Walton.  It comes to a work that one has
loved, removes everything good, and replaces it with Suck.

Does THE FOREVER WAR suck?  That may be a bit strong (although I
grant for some the treatment of women will make them say yes), but
it certainly diminishes its stature.  If Heinlein's STARSHIP
TROOPERS can remain a classic with all its flaws, then THE FOREVER
WAR probably will also.

(As an aside, I was getting caught up on my reading, but then we
found a Friends of the Library booksale during our October road
trip, and then went to two bookstores and another Friends of the
Library booksale on Philcon weekend, as well as Philcon.  The
result was another twenty books added to the pile, but I can
definitely recommend the Lawrence, KS, Friends of the Library book
sale, as well as Second Time Books in Mount Laurel, NJ.)


                                           Mark Leeper

           Imagination is more important than knowledge.
                                           --Albert Einstein