Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/24/18 -- Vol. 37, No. 8, Whole Number 2029

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Monster Movie Memories (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
                retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)
        Hugo Award and Retro Hugo Award Winners
        PAYING THE PRICE FOR PEACE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        This Week's Reading (Hugo Awards and UNCHARTED: LEWIS AND
                CLARK IN ARCANE AMERICA) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Monster Movie Memories (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

When I was ages five to ten years old my family lived in Dayton,
Ohio.  I guess it wasn't a bad place to live.  I was already a
strong fan of science fiction and horror movies, and the selection
of movies on TV was pretty limited.  I would have to say it was
just not the most cosmopolitan of places to live.  I think we had
only three or four TV stations.

TV GUIDE listed all the Dayton stations, but with so few stations
we could get, it additionally listed a station or two we did not
really get.  The useless listings were just to bulk up the magazine
so it did not look like we were only getting a thin pamphlet for
the then-excessive price of fifteen cents a week.

In those days TV GUIDE had little use for science fiction or horror
films.  If they were showing a comedy the film would be listed as
"comedy."  If the movie was a mystery, TV GUIDE listed it as
"mystery."  If the movie were science fiction or horror it would be
listed as "melodrama."  Prior to about 1960 my favorite genres of
cinema always were labeled "melodrama."

One of the other stations for which we got TV GUIDE listings showed
a horror or SF movie something like weekly (albeit with inaccurate
categorization).  But they showed science fiction and horror films
only very occasionally.  I remember showing my mother that a
station in the next county was showing THE WOLF MAN.  My mother
said it sounded like a stupid movie anyway.  That's my mother.

One day--I must have been about seven--our family was visiting
another family and somebody mentioned the TV would have in one of
its rare movie time slots a film called KING KONG.  I had never
heard of it, but it sounded like a film about a Chinese king.  That
did not seem all that promising.  When we got home I realized it
was about a gorilla monster.  And it had dinosaurs.  That was about
all I found out about the film.  Within minutes the local TV
transmitter crashed.  I could hear the film's soundtrack and it was
tantalizing, but I had to get along without seeing the picture.  It
was like trying to watch the film in a snowstorm.  That may have
been a blessing in disguise.  I could picture my own idea if what
King Kong looked like.  I have since forgotten how I pictured Kong,
but I tell myself it was a lot like the real image of the giant
gorilla in the movie.

It was somewhere about 1962 when a couple of local TV stations got
the idea to start running one or two horror or science fiction
movies after 11:30 on Saturday nights.  I got a double feature
every Saturday night.  This was where I first saw a lot of the
genre films from the 1950s and 1960s.  Once a week I saw two of
these films.  Until that point most of these films I would have
mostly seen in stills in monster magazines.

Oh, I forgot to mention monster magazines.  The monster magazines
came along in the early 1960s.  Horror movie fans could get a small
dose of horror films by leafing through magazines like FAMOUS

Thanks to digital technology I can share with you the first issue
of a monster magazine I ever got. Those days I could get a small
dose of horror films any day by reading about the films in the
poorly written and profusely illustrated monster magazines.  This
is the first FAMOUS MONSTERS I ever got for myself.  And some
sister publications

Some other magazines in the same vein:

FAMOUS MONSTERS and its sister magazines like MONSTER WORLD and
SPACEMEN really inspired the popularity of monster magazines.  But
editor Forrest J. Ackerman had one bad habit that alienated my
friends and me.  They refused to give a negative comment to any
film.  It became obvious immediately that his taste could not be
trusted.  FJA lived in a Cloud Cuckoo land where every film was
equally fine.  CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN did have some intelligence in
its opinions.  But CINEFANTASTIQUE (which came along later) had
critics who were serious and dependable.  [-mrl]


retrospective by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Besides the title of the film this film delivers less than
expected in most categories.  This 1957 film delivers a lot in the
talk department and not so much in the logic department.  The plot
concerns giant-8 foot, man-eating mollusks that hatched in Southern
California's Salton Sea.  The monster kills only a small handful of
people, and most of them have done something normally considered
dangerous or stupid anyway.  The film is directed by Arnold Laven
and written by David Duncan and Pat Fielder.  The film is short on
thrills.  Rating: high 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

Movie monsters were already starting to get to be routine by the
time that this one came along.  THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE
WORLD was based on a story by minor science fiction author David
Duncan, author of such stories as "Occam's Razor."  Perhaps
Duncan's biggest claim to fame is as the author of the story
adaptation of THE TIME MACHINE that was it self adapted to be
George Pal's version of the film.

The screenplay by Pat Fielder borrows the pseudo-documentary style
used in THEM!  It also borrows from THEM! the idea to use a full
sized mechanized monster.  Here, however, it is decidedly less
animated and much more obviously a clumsy mockup.  The filmmakers
also apparently had only one monster model and had to make it
represent several.  Similarly THEM! had had only one full-sized ant
and the front half of a second one.

The film has the Navy noting several mysterious deaths near the
Salton Sea in Southern California.  An earthquake has released the
eggs of prehistoric giant mollusks.  They hatch out, creating a
man-eating snail-like creature.  Actually, only in a few scenes do
we see any more of the creature than its trunk and head.  Even then
the head seems very un-mollusk-like.  A mollusk has feelers around
its mouth; this creature seems to have mandibles instead.  The
title comes from the fact that if it escapes to the All-American
canal just a mile or so away and then to and from the Gulf of
Mexico it will spread worldwide.

Tim Holt, who stars as Twillinger, in better days had played more
convincing romantic leads and cowboy heroes.  In this film he seems
to be getting a little fat and he walks with an odd posture.  He is
not particularly good in the role and is out-acted by Hans Conreid,
generally a comic actor, but here in a serious role.

There are not many good touches except that mollusks are a
different concept for a monster.  The first bad touch of the film
is to have the mollusk rear out of the water in the middle of the
Salton Sea.  This creature is a bottom-crawler, not a swimmer.  It
could rear out of water only where the water is shallow enough for
the creature to stand.  There are certainly times that the acting
is overdone to the point of inviting laughter.  The sailor who
first sees the mollusk gives a hammy, exaggerated face of terror.
A mother bereaved over the death of her daughter gives a
performance that had to be an embarrassment.  The story builds to
an extremely contrived climactic threat to be overcome and the
script never gives much reason to believe that the Navy has killed
all the monsters.  There is a line where someone says the Navy got
them all, but there is little reason to believe that is true.

The faces of the mollusks' victims seem to either be bad plaster or
papier-mache or look most unconvincing.  Also the dry-for-wet
underwater scenes are unconvincing.  The mock-up of the trunk of
the mollusk is elaborate when it is standing still, but does not
move realistically and it looks like the poorly done monsters in
Italian strong-man films.

While most of the directing is fairly uninteresting, there is a
scene of a water attack that is strongly reminiscent of the first
attack in JAWS, made nineteen years later.  Beyond that any
objective evaluation of the film must conclude that there isn't
much to enjoy here.

The concept of giant prehistoric mollusks endangering the world is
just different enough to give the film some real novelty, but the
underwater attack, done dry for wet, with the victim apparently
falling into the mollusk's clutch is horribly crude.

This film was made for the bottom halves of double bills and even
there it is disappointing.  I give it a high 0 on the -4 to +4
scale or 4/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Hugo Award and Retro Hugo Award Winners

Hugo Awards

Best Novel
     THE STONE SKY by N. K. Jemisin
Best Novella
     ALL SYSTEMS RED by Martha Wells
Best Novelette
     "The Secret Life of Bots" by Suzanne Palmer
Best Short Story
     "Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience (TM)"
                by Rebecca Roanhorse
Best Series
     World of the Five Gods by Lois McMaster Bujold
Best Related Work
                by Ursula K. Le Guin
Best Graphic Story
     Monstress, Volume 2: The Blood, written by Marjorie M. Liu,
                illustrated by Sana Takeda
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
     Wonder Woman
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
     The Good Place: "The Trolley Problem"
Best Editor, Short Form
     Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
Best Editor, Long Form
     Sheila E. Gilbert
Best Professional Artist
     Sana Takeda
Best Semiprozine
     Uncanny Magazine
Best Fanzine
     File 770
Best Fancast
     Ditch Diggers
Best Fan Writer
     Sarah Gailey
Best Fan Artist
     Geneva Benton

There are two other Awards administered by Worldcon 76 that are not
Hugo Awards:

Award for Best Young Adult Book
     Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking)
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
     Rebecca Roanhorse

Retro Hugo Awards:

Best Novel
     BEYOND THIS HORIZON by Anson MacDonald (Robert A. Heinlein)
Best Novella
     "Waldo" by Anson MacDonald (Robert A. Heinlein)
Best Novelette
     "Foundation" by Isaac Asimov
Best Short Story
     "The Twonky" by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Best Editor, Short Form
     John W. Campbell
Best Professional Artist
     Virgil Finlay
Best Fanzine
     Le Zombie
Best Fan Writer
     Forrest J Ackerman


(film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Brian Willson was a young man with strong conservative
Republican attitudes and a strong conviction to use them to make
the world a better place.  When he enlisted in the army he was sent
to Vietnam to do his part defending his country.  Then came the day
he looked down at his feet and saw the ground under him was covered
with dead bodies including those of women and children, and his job
was to kill more.  He had done everything he should have.  How
could he have done all the right things and ended up a mass
murderer many times over?  It was then that he became an anti-war
activist, anti-military, and anti-government.  It had been a road
that has cost him a lot, including both his legs, but he would
devote his life to opposing the forces that had used him.  This is
the story of Brian Willson and the anti-war movement over his
lifetime.  Director: Bo Boudart; Writers: Allan Baddock, Susan
Utell, Sharon Wood.  Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

On June 5th of 1989 there were student protests in Beijing's
Tiananmen Square.  The Chinese government ordered a column of tanks
to the site of the protest to use force to put down the rebellion.
One student stood up to the tanks, risking being run down.  The
soldiers in their tanks had to decide if they owed their loyalty to
the state or to humanity.  Luckily they chose humanity.  The
incident echoed an incident two years earlier at the Concord
(California) Naval Weapons Station.  On September 1, 1987, a United
States citizen was peacefully protesting the United States
government producing and selling weapons for the Contras of
Nicaragua.  The citizen, Brian Willson, informed the command at the
station that he would be on the tracks to stop the train from
hauling weapons.  Instead of negotiating out of the situation the
train plowed right into Willson.  Willson survived but lost both
legs and received a fractured skull.  He now walks on prosthetic
metal legs.

the experience of Brian Willson.  He was to become an effective
force for exposing and fighting government atrocities.  On the most
important day of his life Willson turned against the military and
his mission.  Willson to this point felt at every step he had made
had been a moral action.  This day he was doing reconnaissance on a
village that the army had bombed under the belief that it gave
sanctuary to the enemy.  Willson concluded was no evidence that the
people were anything but innocent.  But the Americans had bombed
the village nonetheless.  He had taken only what he considered
moral actions to reach this point of his life.  However, the moral
steps had led him into being a mass murderer, albeit one under
orders.  That day turned Willson into an anti-war activist.  The
film gives the story of his life leading up to the realization
moment at the fishing village and the actions that later led up to
him losing his legs.  And it tells details of his resistance up to
the point the train hit him.  With immense courage he continued his
efforts to support the Peace movement wherever the government was
ordering people killed.

The film also tells the story of the anti-government protests in
Willson's later life.  When Willson laid his body on the train
tracks he laid his life on the line to do the right thing that he
thought he was doing in Viet Nam.  In candor it should be noted,
however, that the incident was accidental.  While the film does not
accuse the government or the military of intentionally causing the
incident, they do imply the government intentionally allowed the
accident that destroyed Willson's legs.  Few people love this
country so much that they could make the sacrifice Willson did.

In its coverage of the anti-war movement the film says that in the
years from 1950 to 2000 the United States has

-- overthrown 60 democratically elected governments

-- dropped bombs on 30 nations

-- attempted the assassination of 60 foreign leaders

Those are strong accusations.  The filmmakers also discuss our
military's connections to the economy:

-- Currently, more than 1 million U.S. personnel are stationed
across 175 countries.

-- The U.S. government has increased its military budget by nearly
90% since 2001, and currently stands at $700 billion per year.

-- Once veteran health care and interest is accounted for, the
United States is paying $1 trillion per year for war itself and
preparation for war.

-- The U.S. Government spends 10 times more per citizen on average
for military costs than most other industrialized nations.

Several well-known figures participated in the making of the film
including Martin Sheen, Daniel Ellsberg, Alice Walker, and Ron
Kovic.  Peter Coyote narrates the film.

PAYING THE PRICE FOR PEACE is an eye-opening documentary I give a
+2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

One odd note: Ron Kovic and Brian Willson led very parallel lives,
going from starting as super-patriots to becoming anti-war
activists.  They were born on the same birthday date but five years
apart, each born on the Fourth of July.

available on DVD and digital stream.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



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

N. K. Jemisin's three consecutive Hugo Awards for the three books
in her trilogy is a first, and noteworthy enough that CNN
television reported it.  Rebecca Roanhorse is the first author
since 1980 (and the only one besides Barry B. Longyear) to win the
Hugo , the Nebula, and the Campbell Awards in the same year.  (The
Campbell Award was not created until 1973 and the Nebula in 1966.)
And while some men won for Dramatic Presentations, Fanzines, and
other collaborative efforts, all the individual awards were swept
by women this year.

As far as the Retro Hugo Awards, BAMBI?  BAMBI?!  If BAMBI could
beat CAT PEOPLE, there is no justice in the world.

and Sarah A. Hoyt (ISBN 978-1-4814-9323-0) starts with the premise
of "The Sundering".  When I read this I was sure that the term "The
Sundering" was used by Jeffrey E. Barlough in his "Western Lights"
series.  I was right, but it turns out that when one Googles "the
sundering", the entire first page of results are for the "Forgotten
Realms" series.

Anyway ... Anderson and Hoyt postulate a world in which the
Americas have been mysteriously cut off from the rest of the world
in 1759.  However, for some reason Thomas Jefferson still financed
the voyage for Lewis and Clark in 1803, though in this case it is
as much to find out if there is a way back to the Old World via the
Pacific Ocean.  They start out with all the same people as in our
world, though the survival rate is much lower, because in addition
to the Sundering, magic has returned to the world, complete with
revenants and dragons.

My problem is I prefer historical speculation over magic, but
Anderson and Hoyt spend most of the book on the magic part.  For
what it's worth, it also seems to be more a young adult novel.
There's nothing wrong with that, but it's probably worth noting.
Oh, and Amazon says it is the first of a series, but it does stand
on its own.  It's good for what it is; it just wasn't what I was
looking for.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Oaths are but words, and words are but wind.
                                           --Samuel Butler