Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/12/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 41, Whole Number 2062

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Retro Hugo Nominee on TCM April 17 (and Others)
        Three Times Nearer (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        This Week's Reading (Hugo and Retro Hugo finalists) (book
                comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Retro Hugo Nominees on TCM April 17 and May 6, and on

TCM will be running two films that are nominated for Retro Hugo
Awards this year (having been released in 1943):

A GUY NAMED JOE, Wednesday April 17, 9:45PM EDT

CABIN IN THE SKY, Monday, May 6, 6, 8:00PM EDT

A third finalist, MUNCHHAUSEN, is available on YouTube at


TOPIC: Three Times Nearer (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I saw a news story in the Express that NASA's asteroid tracker was
predicting that over the weekend an asteroid would have a near miss
collision with earth.  The asteroid would be "twice as near to
Earth" as the moon would be.  My first reaction was that NASA would
never say that.  I checked out the headline a second time a few
hours later and it now said that the asteroid would be twice as far
from the earth as the moon is.  I envision some NASA exec spotting
the article in the EXPRESS and jumping to a phone to correct the
headline.  I mean that quantitative skills are in bad shape in this
country, but I hope they are not that bad yet.

In science it makes little sense to say there is a quantity called
"nearness."  We measure distance and fractions of distance with
fractions of distance.  We don't really have a unit to measure
nearness directly.  Instead we look at a distance and then can chop
it up into small pieces.  We can talk about a particle being one
ten thousandth of an inch away or five inches away.

But we have no easy measure of proximity without going though
distance first.  We can measure distance directly but not

All right, are you confused yet?  We can talk about half as far,
but there are no useful units to talk about twice as near.  We
could define such a unit. but NASA and Heaven know it has not been
defined.  What would we want "half as near" mean?  It could be
twice as far or half as far?

For that matter, we might wonder what is meant when people use a
phrase such as "three times bigger."  I know what "my house is
three times as big as yours" means, but not what "three times
bigger than yours" means.  Is that three times as big or four times
as big?

I have actually heard a local weather person say today it will be
"twice as hot" as yesterday.

Well, I have dwelled on this subject three times longer than it
deserves.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Emily Dickinson is usually portrayed as a sort of holy
recluse who composed her poetry while living a life of quiet
solitude.  This semi-serious account of her private life suggests
that there is little evidence to corroborate or contradict that
interpretation of her emotional life.  The film is kept on a
speculative and frequently whimsical plane.  This is just a light
speculative biography that may have narrow appeal.  Directed by:
Madeleine Olnek; written by: Madeleine Olnek.  Rating: low +2 (-4
to +4) or 7/10

My college undergraduate days I attended the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst.  There was something about the English
department that it held itself in awe and respect for Emily
Dickinson, the patron saint of local poetry, the mysterious poet
who choose to be a recluse, living in her attic alone and devoting
herself to writing very much admired poetry. I wondered as I
watched the film what sort of reaction this film would get from the
teaching staff of the English department.  On one hand it is not
often that one has a film devoted to their icon.  On the other
hand, this film interprets Dickinson's life and poetry in a
somewhat irreverent interpretation very different from the usual
images of Dickinson.

It is the premise of WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY that Dickinson did have
sexual relationships, though not with men.  The film shows her
close relation with her sister-in-law in conversations constituted
of poetry each wrote for the other.  Emily's emotional life is
portrayed with the choice of certain poems.  Emily's brother Austin
married Susan Huntington Gilbert and she then became Susan
Huntington Gilbert Dickinson.  The two Dickinson women, Emily and
Susan, became fast friends and next-door neighbors.  However much
more than just friends they became is a speculation.
Writer/director Madeleine Olnek speculates on Dickinson's
relationship is a sort of satire on literary expose's in general.

It would be easy to view this film as just a comedy.  Early on the
viewers' impression of Dickinson and her friends is just a little
too precious for the good of the film.  Later it gets down to
business, looking at the deep inner woman who was not so eccentric
as she appeared.  We never really get a good feeling for how
Dickinson's gender formed the poet.

In the end one has to ask whether it really matters so much whether
a poem was written to a man or a woman, gay or straight.  If a poem
is attuned to a particular emotion and a certain truth to it does
it suddenly need to be reconsidered if it discovered it was written
to or for a male or a woman or to a man?  In fact, it apparently
mattered to Dickinson's contemporaries.  In her life the poet sold
less than a dozen poems, mostly to the local newspaper.  She is
known to have written at least 1700.

Dickinson kept the content of her poems very private.  Her use of
language was very nearly a code to hide what many of the poems
actually said, encrypted in obscure use of language.   If she had
much of any social life, she expressed her thoughts about it in
verse.  Emily does have some whimsical view of her own writing
style.  She points out where she avoids rhymes and that her meter
is such so her poems can be sung to "Yellow Rose of Texas".

I rate WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY aa low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or

Release date was April 12, 2019.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



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

The lists of Hugo and Retro Hugo finalists were announced last
week.  In the last few years, they were announced on the Saturday
of Easter weekend to coincide with major conventions in England and
the United States, and as a result got only minimal coverage in the
mainstream media.  This year, the announcement was on a Tuesday,
and there was much more coverage, not to mention an additional two
weeks for the voters to read/view the finalists.  (They are no
longer called nominees, because some unscrupulous people would
claim they had been nominated for a Hugo on the basis of one or two
nominating votes.  "Finalists" is less open to ambiguity.)  Those
extra two weeks will be appreciated, because the ballot has been
expanded to six finalists per category rather than five.

I hope to read and comment on all the Retro Hugo fiction and
dramatic presentation categories, and possibly the short fiction
categories of the current year's ballot.  But--quelle surprise!--I
have some general comments.

I am pretty sure this is the first time someone has been a finalist
both in a fiction category and in an art category (Antoine de
Saint-Exupery).  It is also the first time a father and son
appeared on the same ballot--well, sort of.  Fritz Leiber, Jr., is
a finalist for three works of fiction; Fritz Leiber, Sr., (the
actor) appeared as Franz Liszt in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943), a
Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist.

C. L. Moore is a four-fiction-work finalist; I believe this is a
record for a woman.  (Robert A. Heinlein had four nominations for a
couple of the years for Retro Hugos.)  Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant
had five nominations in 2013, but not all were in fiction

Hermann Hesse's THE GLASS BEAD GAME (a.k.a. MAGISTER LUDI) would
never have been nominated in 1944, since it was not translated into
English until six years later (1949).  (Needless to say,
MUNCHHAUSEN would not have been nominated either; we were at war
with Germany and would not have been looked on favorably even if it
had been available, which it wasn't.)

The Dramatic Presentation split makes more sense than a couple of
years ago, with the division now being between 84 minutes and 92
minutes.  This still puts four feature-length films in with two
short cartoons, but it makes more sense than having a Short Form
finalist longer than some of the Long Form finalists!

Val Lewton has two finalists in the Long Form category, as does
Curt Siodmak.  Strangely, one of the finalists (A GUY NAMED JOE)
was re-made with the name of one of the other finalists (HEAVEN CAN
WAIT); the two 1943 films have nothing in common.

It would be ironic if MUNCHHAUSEN and "Der Fuhrer's Face" both won,
but extremely unlikely.

EARTH'S LAST CITADEL makes the novel category by being within the 5%
rule, since it seems to be about 38,500 words.

As far as the "current" fiction categories, there is far more
diversity than on ballots of even a decade ago.  I cannot give you
an accurate gender or ethnic breakdown without looking up many of
the authors (which probably means I'm losing touch with current
science fiction), but from the ones I recognize, it does seem as
though things have changed since the times when no one commented on
having a ballot that was 90% white males.

As for the Best Series category, well, I have no idea how they
expect voters to make an informed choice.  The nominees are:

- The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (3 novels)
- The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (9 novels plus
        short fiction)
- Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (3 novels)
- The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (12 novels plus
        short fiction)
- The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (7 novels, 3 novellas,
        and 27 short stories)
- Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (3 novels)

I defy anyone even to find all the de Bodard stories in time unless
they are all included in the packet.   [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is
           that the formulas look mysterious - You write backward
                                           --Hilary Putnam