Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/14/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 50, Whole Number 2071

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Free SF Anthology E-Book in Honor of World Oceans Day
        The Natural History of Naturalized Food, Part 2 (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        I AM MOTHER (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        TRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse (book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (letter of comment by Dorothy J. Heydt)
        HUCKLEBERRY FINN (letter of comment by Dorothy J. Heydt)
        MUNCHHAUSEN, BATMAN, and Immortality (letters of comment
                by Paul Dormer, Kevin R, Scott Dorsey, Gary McGath,
                and Dorothy J. Heydt
        This Week's Reading (and Watching) ("Attitude", Retro Hugo
                dramatic presentations: THE APE MAN, "Der Fuehrer's
                A ZOMBIE, THE SEVENTH VICTIM) (film comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Free SF Anthology E-Book in Honor of World Oceans Day

The Verge reports:

sci-fi anthology of short stories, was published online this week
in honor of World Oceans Day, taking readers deep into fantastic
(and wet) futures.

Genetic editing, holograms, and underwater cities each make
appearances in the 18 stories and 18 accompanying illustrations.
The stories were edited by sci-fi author Ann VanderMeer, and come
from authors all over the world.  One author, Lauren Beukes, even
wrote her story, "Her Seal Skin Coat", while in Antarctica.

The anthology was sponsored by the XPrize Foundation, a group that
organizes massive competitions focused on pushing technology
forward in different fields, including space exploration, robotics,
artificial intelligence, among many others.  Their latest award
gave away over $7 million dollars to teams working on challenges
related to autonomous exploration of the ocean.

The 18 writers--all women--were prompted to imagine a future in
which the innovations of today have had a positive impact, and have
altered humanity's relationship with the ocean.

"That doesn't mean that all the stories have to be Pollyanna
utopian plots," Eric Desatnik, head of communications, at XPrize
says.  "But it certainly is meant to inspire and stretch people's
imaginations in terms of how we might interact with our ocean in
the future"

The stories cover augmented reality, floating cities, gene editing,
and underwater habitats, among many other sci-fi subjects.


TOPIC: The Natural History of Naturalized Food, Part 2 (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

When I was in Wales I noticed that some Indian restaurants had a
dish whose name I did not recognize. It was called a Balti.  I had
never heard of it served in US Indian restaurants.  And it is for
good reason.  Balti is not really an Indian dish; it is British.
But it tastes a lot like Indian curry.

I will tell you some things that even most British do not know
about this popular dish.  The Balti started showing up in Northern
England in the mid-1980s.  Some restaurant created it and when it
got popular other restaurants started copying it.  I do not think
anybody knows who invented the dish.  It probably was a Pakistani
restaurant since Balti is prepared much like a traditional way of
cooking for Multani Pakistani communities in Britain.  Balti food
is cooked in a utensil called a Karahi and is quite similar
traditional Multani Karahi cuisine.

Now Balti cooking has spread all over Britain and Ireland and is
even found in India.  It was so popular that it started squeezing
out strictly traditional Indian cuisine in some British
restaurants.  Some restaurants discovered that if they did not
serve Baltis, they just did not get the business.  Now just like a
lot of our Chinese restaurants have some American dishes on the
menu, most Indian restaurants in Britain have a Balti menu.  They
will serve many different kinds of Balti dishes.  Meanwhile back in
India, British tourists are desperately looking for Balti
restaurants and to keep up with the demand Indian restaurants are
starting to include Balti dishes in their menu.  It may well end up
being a standard dish in India even though it was invented in

Next week I intend to get to Five-Way Chili.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: I AM MOTHER (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: A young woman (played by Clara Rugaard) has lived her
whole life in a huge cyber-controlled-hard metal
environment/bunker.  This environment is the only refuge from some
unspecified sort of holocaust that has killed off the human race.
Meanwhile the machinery tries to use the natural mechanics of the
girl to re-cultivate a new human race through use of the woman.
She is to be both the last of the first human race and also to be
the first of the new race of human scientists are creating.
Directed by: Grant Sputore; written by: Michael Lloyd Green.
Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

The characters on the screen are referred to only as their generic
roles.  The main character is known as "Daughter;" the robot who
lovingly cares for the daughter is "Mother".  The depth but
artificiality of a mother's love are provided by a sugary musical
quote from Disney's DUMBO.

Mother has been designed to be the ideal loving mother.  Mother and
Daughter are kept apart emotionally by the formality of their
situation, but still love each other.  The girl has been told that
the world outside their environment and bunker has been destroyed
in an unexplained (at least for the viewer) environmental
apocalypse.  The machine mother is part of a plan to nurture
daughter, and to comfort and to do her part in the reboot the human
race, whatever that turns out to be.  So the girl is to be both the
last of the dead Earth and the first member of the new human race

But everything the girl knows is called into question when a human
(Hilary Swank) from outside the machine arrives--badly wounded--at
the door of the bunker.  How is this possible if the entire human
race has been obliterated?  So far this is reminiscent of two or
three different episodes of the old "Twilight Zone" or perhaps 10

I AM MOTHER is an Australian-US co-production.  The plot is fairly
familiar and bits are cliched.  While it has some fresh ideas,
sometimes catching the viewer off-guard, the production design
could have used a little more work to make it believable.  The
walls of the bunker were pieced-together units in a style that may
go back to ALIEN.  Most of the new SF films bad action films on a
on a tech-looking background.  Here the story is better and the
fungible sets are about par.  There are some ideas but not enough
to make the trip fully worthwhile.  I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to
+4 scale or 7/10.

Release date: June 7, 2019.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: TRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse (copyright 2018,
Saga Press, ASIN: B075RWTMLY, ISBN: 1534413499, ISBN13:
9781534413498, 305pp) (book review by Joe Karpierz)

It's been a good twelve months (give or take) for Rebecca
Roanhorse.  Her short story "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian
ExperienceTM" won the Hugo in 2018 for Best Short story, and at the
same ceremony she won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New
Writer.  She has followed up that success with her first novel,
TRAIL OF LIGHTNING, book one of "The Sixth World".

The setting is what appears to be a not too distant future America,
which has been ravaged by a climate apocalypse which has manifested
itself in the form of rising waters.  The Navajo reservation,
renamed Dinetah, has been walled off from the rest of the country.
Within the walls the gods and legends of the Dinetah people have
been reborn, but so have the monsters of the past. While the walls
keep out the external enemies of the Dinetah people, the same walls
keep in the terrifying monsters of legend.

The protagonist of the novel is Maggie Hoskie, a monster hunter
with supernatural clan powers.  She's good at her job, but she's a
loner living off on her own after being abandoned by Neizghani, who
is a god and a legendary monster hunter.  The novel starts with
Maggie being called upon by the people of a small town who are
looking for a missing girl.  It's not much of a spoiler to say that
she not only finds the missing girl, but the monster who abducted
her.  The monster's actions are abhorrent, as you might guess, but
Maggie also finds out that this monster is something different,
something more terrifying, than anyone has previously seen.

Maggie is disturbed by what she has seen, and, prodded by Ma'ii--
who is also known as Coyote--and accompanied by Kai Arviso, she
travels throughout the walled in Dinetah reservation looking for
who created the fearsome monster and hoping that somehow, along the
way, she will be reunited with Neizghani.  In their travels, the
not only have the usual encounters with all sorts of creatures, but
there's a hefty dose of magic thrown in as well.  As their travels
progress and they get closer to the answer they're looking for,
people who don't have Maggie's and Kai's best interests at heart
close in to prevent them from reaching their goal.

TRAIL OF LIGHTNING is a well-written novel with interesting
characters and an engaging story.  One might almost call this urban
fantasy, but because of its setting I would call it "rural
fantasy".  Roanhorse merges her fantasy with the lore of the Navajo
people, interweaving both elements to make it a fascinating story.

But it didn't bowl me over.  I'm not a huge reader of fantasy,
whether it be high fantasy, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, or
any other kind.  However, I've read my share enough to know that
while the mix of Native American lore with magic and technology may
be a bit different and something new to a lot of people, the plot
of TRAIL OF LIGHTNING is not sufficiently new and different to make
it stand out.  Was it a good book?  I think so.

One of the criteria I have for judging a book is whether I resented
spending the amount of time I did on that book.  I did not resent
spending the time I did reading TRAIL OF LIGHTNING.  However, in my
opinion it does not do enough to make its mark on the field to win
a Hugo award.  I guess I've gotten a little snooty in the last few
years over the kinds of books that I think deserve awards.  While I
understand that my opinion is just that--it's an opinion, and I'm
certainly not important enough (or at all) for anyone to take what
I say too seriously--I think that in order to win a Hugo a novel
needs to do something different, add something substantial to the
field.  In my opinion, TRAIL OF LIGHTNING does not do that.  It's
not enough just to be a well-crafted book, like this one is.

TRAIL OF LIGHTNING is a good book and one I enjoyed reading; it's
just not a great one.  [-jak]


TOPIC: LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (letter of comment by Dorothy J. Heydt)

In response to Mark's comments on LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in the
05/31/19 issue of the MT VOID, Dorothy J. Heydt writes:

My favorite quote from that film:

Mr. Dryden: Lawrence, only two kinds of creature get fun in the
desert: Bedouins and gods, and you're neither.  Take it from me,
for ordinary men, it's a burning, fiery furnace.

T. E. Lawrence: No, Dryden, it's going to be fun.

Mr. Dryden: It is recognized that you have a funny idea of fun.



TOPIC: HUCKLEBERRY FINN (letter of comment by Dorothy J. Heydt)

In response to Taras's and Evelyn's comments on HUCKLEBERRY FINN in
the 05/31/19 issue of the MT VOID, Dorothy J. Heydt writes:

[Evelyn writes,] "I'm not sure the claim is that HUCKLEBERRY FINN is
the great American novel *about slavery*; it is called the great
American  novel, period."  [-ecl]

Right.  My junior year in high school, I had an English teacher who
was determined to teach us Great Literature (tm), which for him was
typified by Willa Cather and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and for reasons
best known to himself he kept talking about writers who were trying
to write The Great American Novel.  And he *despised* [science
fiction and fantasy] in any form.

I had my revenge, though.  The school had a yearly "literary
magazine," which this guy edited.  The winning story was a fantasy
about a Native American drum dancer whose dance-spells worked, and
always made it rain.  She got tired of being considered light
entertainment, and switched to a war-dance instead....

It was, barely, of professional quality.  It had already been
published in either AMAZING or FANTASTIC, you know, one of the
lower-grade pulps of the 1950s.  And I had a copy of it.  I gave my
copy to the snooty teacher with no comment.  [-djh]


TOPIC: MUNCHHAUSEN, BATMAN, and Immortality (letters of comment by
Paul Dormer, Kevin R, Scott Dorsey, Gary McGath, and Dorothy
J. Heydt

In response to Taras Wolansky's comments on MUNCHHAUSEN in the
05/31/19 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

The film was commissioned by Goebbels and I read that Josef von
Baky and Erich Kastner decided that to honour Goebbels, what better
than a film about another great liar.  (I see that Kastner was a
banned writer in Germany at the time and his name doesn't appear in
the credits.  And in case these accented characters don't go
through, the director's name is spelt B a-acute k y and the writer
is K a-umlaut s t n e r.)  [-pd]

Gary McGath writes:

I have that movie on DVD in German and like it quite a lot. Erich
Kaestner was under a ban by the Nazis, but he wrote the screenplay
under an assumed name. The "nude women" were pretty mild; they were
just topless and standing around in a swimming pool.

At least today, the Germans are much more relaxed about the human
body than Americans are.  I recently borrowed the German DVD
miniseries "Maximillian" from my local library; that had scenes of
full frontal nudity.  So does GOODBYE LENIN, another favorite of
mine.  [-gmg]

Paul Dormer responds:
I've seen that film on TV a few years ago, and don't remember any
naked women.

Off to Berlin in a couple of weeks.  Last time I was there I
visited the communist era museum which is quite fascinating.
Reminded me of that film.  And even in the communist era, FKK
(naturism) was popular in the east.  A few years ago, photographs
appeared that some thought might be the teenage Angela Merkel in a
naturist camp, although others thought the dates didn't work.
(Google Angela Merkel naked.)  [-pd]

Kevin R replies:

Only if played by Kate McKinnon.  :-)  [-kr]

Scott Dorsey responds:

Go see the radio museum in Koenigs Wusterhausen.  It's in the
transmitting facility that was Radio Berlin International, the big
East German propaganda station, and which before that had been the
Nazi medium wave station covering the Berlin area.  They don't talk
about some of the most interesting history but they do talk about
some of it.  No nudity, though.  [-sd]

And Gary replies to Paul:

I said "full frontal nudity," not naked women. It was a naked man.
Sorry to disappoint any guys.  :-)  [-gmg]

To which Paul responds:

Don't remember that, either.  [-pd]

Gary suggests:

You said it was on TV, so they may have cut that bit.  It was just
a couple of seconds and didn't affect the plot.  [-gmg]

But Paul notes:

Unlikely.  It was BBC4.  And in the UK, Channel 4 has a nude dating
program, complete with close-ups of genitals.  [-pd]

Leading Dorothy J. Heydt to observe:

If Kipling were around, he'd write a whole 'nother version of
"Farewell, Romance!"  [-djh]

And in response to Evelyn's comments on BATMAN and MUNCHHAUSEN in
the 06/07/19 issue of the MT VOID, Gary writes:

[Evelyn writes,] "It's tough to decide which of BATMAN and
MUNCHHAUSEN should rank lower.  BATMAN is more blatantly racist,
but MUNCHHAUSEN was made by actual Nazis.  If I were actually
voting, I would not even rank them, so that neither would get my
vote even if other entries were eliminated."  [-ecl]

Given that Nazis don't stand to benefit today from MUNCHHAUSEN, I'd
be concerned only with the content.  The German protagonist shows
himself superior to the Russians, Turks, and Italians that he
meets, but that degree of nationalism is pretty much par for the
course for movies made in any country at the time.  In Italy, he
doesn't fare at all well.  I find it an amusing light fantasy, and
some of Erich Kaestner's subversive touches show through.

The Batman movie sounds interesting from the standpoint of
historical study.  Hostility to the Japanese during World War II
was different in kind from hostility to Germany and Italy.  It had
much more of a racial element.  You can see this, for instance, in
the Warner Brothers cartoon "The Ducktators," which apologizes to
the "nice ducks and geese in the audience" (i.e., German-Americans
and Italian-Americans) but piles on stuff like an "I am Chinese"
joke with the Hirohito duck.  And, of course, there was the
atrocious way FDR treated Japanese-Americans.

One bit which I consider especially subversive is that the Baron
voluntarily gives up his immortality at the end for the sake of
experiencing love as a normal human being.  This seems to me like
a rebuke of the "thousand-year Reich."  [-gmg]

Dorothy responds:

Oh, I can think of several examples of a mortal refusing
immortality, or an immortal giving up immortality, but none of
them from pre-WWII.  E.g., Digory telling Jadis that he doesn't
want to live forever, he'd rather die and go to Heaven; and the
Tenth Doctor telling Professor Lazarus that a long life is a
burden.  [-djh]

Paul says:

THE MAKROPOLOS CASE, originally a play by Karel Capek, now best
known as the opera by Leos Janacek (and the first opera I ever saw
staged).  The opera singer Emilia Marty is revealed to be 300
years old.  She has recovered the formula that gave her long life
but at the end decides after 300 years, she's had enough.  The
play dates from 1922 and was Capek's answer to Shaw's BACK TO
METHUSELAH.  The Janacek opera dates from 1926.  (And I saw
Capek's grave last time I was in Prague, just days after seeing a
staging of the opera.  I'll be in Prague again next month.)  [-pd]


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

In the 05/17/19 issue, I wrote, "There's always one on each ballot-
-one finalist that is totally unavailable--and this year it is
'Attitude' by Hal Clement.  ....  ('Attitude' is available in
NESFA's Clement collection, but I have no access to it.)"

Well, Charles S. Harris pointed out that the NESFA collection was
available at  Apparently in addition to public-domain
material, they have copyrighted material, but the latter is
available only as a check-out, one person at a time, and with a
two-week limit.  So I wanted to wait until I returned it before
referencing it here.

As a story, "Attitude" is okay, but really doesn't seem to go
anywhere.  Some astronauts are taken prisoner by aliens, studied
for a while, then released.  I suppose it's better than some of the
other novellas, but I'd still place it below "no award."

Rankings (revised): "We Print the Truth", "Clash by Night", no
award, "Attitude", THE MAGIC BED-KNOB, "The Dream-Quest of Unknown

On to the Retro Hugo, Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Short is in the eye of the beholder (and the WSFS Constitution
details); four of these were considered feature films in their day.

THE APE MAN certainly has the fantastical content that some people
say is missing from so many of the other finalists.  The problem is
that it is not a very good film.  How did this make the ballot
instead of THE LEOPARD MAN or SON OF DRACULA, or even one of the
"Superman" cartoons?

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN was the first of the "monster rally"
films, or perhaps it was the "ur-monster-rally" film.  It must have
been popular, because many more followed.  But it marked the end of
having any philosophical underpinnings to the films.  Gone are
discussions of the morality of creating life, the questions of what
to do about an evil you have no control over, ...  With this, it
became "can the Frankenstein Monster beat the Wolf Man?"
(Actually, Universal Studios finally gave up, and acquiesced to
referring to the monster itself as "Frankenstein".  The argument
that it refers to the Baroness is a very weak one.)  That said, it
is fun enough to watch.  It's just not Hugo material.

"Der Fuehrer's Face" is fantasy (after all, it has a talking duck),
but really, this is just not the sort of thing to watch one gives a
Hugo.  As with so many finalists on this Retro Hugo ballot, it
shows the effect of its times.  The "Volksfilm" style of
MUNCHHAUSEN, the blatant anti-Japanese racism of BATMAN, the war
itself as the setting in A GUY NAMED JOE--all of these have an
effect on the result and how one would rate them, both at the time
and now, 75 years later.  This might have struck a chord in 1943,
but today it seems more a triumph of style over substance, of the
animation over the actual content.

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE was Val Lewton's second film (after CAT
PEOPLE).  It had a mixed cast--not all black like CABIN IN THE SKY,
but definitely more aware of racial issues than that film.  (Given
that most of the film takes place in the Caribbean, and at least
one major actor is from Trinidad, the term "African-American" would
not be accurate.)

The main character (Betsy Connell) demonstrates her cluelessness
when she watches in wonder the flying fish from the ship, only to
be told that "they're not leaping for joy; they're jumping in
terror.  Bigger fish want to eat them."

Then when she is driven to Fort Holland, she asks about the
figurehead of Saint Sebastian and the (black) coachman says that it
came from a ship that brought his ancestors in chains to the
island, to which she replies, "Well, they brought them to a
beautiful place."  The coachman is unimpressed.

And I have to mention Sir Lancelot, the great calypso singer.  (I
WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE is reported to be the first American film
containing calypso music.)  He was in two other Val Lewton films as
ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY, but was known primarily as a singer.

In short, this is a great film.  I re-watch it every couple of
years or so, and always find something new in it.  This time
around, that might be how it was looking at issues of race three-
quarters of a century before it became the hot topic in film.

THE SEVENTH VICTIM (Val Lewton's fourth film) is also a great
movie, full of atmosphere and style.  But for those who feel that
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is not Hugo-eligible, this will be equally
problematic.  There is no definite fantastical element.  There are
devil worshippers, but whether there is an actual Devil, and
whether their worship is even rewarded is never addressed.  It is
not like the Dennis Wheatley films about Devil worship, where it is
blatant that there is a Devil and demonic forces, and they act upon
people in this world.  But Val Lewton's films tend to have this
ambiguity, and this is a perfect example--and one of Lewton's best.
(For the record, Lewton's films fall into three categories.  There
are the average, his five non-genre films.  There are the good but
SNATCHER, ISLE OF THE DEAD, and BEDLAM.  And there are the great
SEVENTH VICTIM.  That the last three were all 1943 films makes that
year Val Lewton's "annus mirabilis."

I will admit that I saw "Super-Rabbit" only with a (mediocre)
commentary covering a lot of the soundtrack, but it did not strike
me as anything special.

MEETS THE WOLFMAN, no award, THE APE MAN, "Der Fuehrer's Face",



                                           Mark Leeper

           Nature loves a burst of energy.
                                           --Boe Lightman