Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

02/07/20 -- Vol. 38, No. 32, Whole Number 2105

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Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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      Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic

Presentation Category (General and Long Form)


THE UNINVITED) (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

      Novella Reviews ("Auberon" and "In an Absent Dream") (reviews

by Joe Karpierz)

      UNDERLAND: A DEEP TIME JOURNEY by Robert MacFarlane

(book review by Gregory Frederick)

      Plurals (letters of comment by Paul Dormer

and Dorothy J. Heydt)

      SEVEN SURRENDERS (letter of comment by Gary McGath)

      This Week's Reading (The Great Courses and THE LEFT HAND OF


(book and music comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic

Presentation Category (General and Long Form) (comments by Mark

R. Leeper)

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given

an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1944.  I

am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944.  The year

1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much

of the public.  I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media

from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early

general public availability of some of the films nominated for a

1944 Retroactive Hugo.  They had science fiction and fantasy for

which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the "science"

contained no science at all.  It can still be fun to be misinformed

by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by

fiction that is just written.  There is a certain charm to science

fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science

trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an

interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier.  Reading it

creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago.  Few

fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades

old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say

to me "classic."  By the time I finish this article you will

probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I

consider the true classics.  In the meantime I will hint for the

reader think about which would the real classic be.  Evelyn and I

will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently

recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944.  I know I will.

Long Form:

CAPTAIN AMERICA (serial): The Scarab, an evil master criminal

(played by Lionel Atwill) is manipulating members of the wealthy

class with something that has been called "The Purple Death".  With

it, Scarab can telepathically order people infected with the Purple

Death to commit suicide.  The Scarab and his minions know each

other because they carry a jeweled scarab beetle.  (The jewel has

four pairs of legs, but scarabs are insects and so have only three

pairs of legs; scarabs are beetles and so have six pairs of legs,

not eight.

THE GREAT ALASKA MYSTERY (serial): In the 1940s it was cheap to

have and reuse the plot of bad guys being Nazis trying to get their

hands on some sort of American super weapon.  And what was the

weapon?  It was usually a death ray.  That was a really cheap

effect to create.  A film is easy to stretch to distort.  That

gives an impression of melting rock.  (I have seen only the first


THE UNINVITED: In the middle of these weak B-movies is a true A-

movie classic.  It is a film that tells a good story and at the

same time has comedy, drama, horror, a good mystery, and romance.

Director Lewis Allen has given one of s small handful of the best

English-language cinematic ghost stories ever made.  (By the rules,

this could be relocated into Short Form.)

Next week I will start on the Short Form nominees.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Novella Reviews ("Auberon" and "In an Absent Dream")

(reviews by Joe Karpierz)

AUBERON by James S.A. Corey (copyright 2019, Orbit, ISBN 13:


"Auberon" is the latest novella set in the Expanse universe.  It

takes place between PERSEPOLIS RISING and TIAMAT'S WRATH, books 7

and 8 of Corey's popular and commercially successful series (I say

commercially because, while the first novel, LEVIATHAN WAKES, was a

Hugo finalist, the series has been, in my opinion, unfairly snubbed

in awards circles since that time.  The writing is engaging, the

characters terrific, and the stories are top of the line.

"Auberon" is no different.  As with most stories in the Expanse,

there is more to the story than meets the eye.  On the surface, the

story is simple, at least at the start.  The planet of Auberon is

one of the most important colony worlds on the other side of the

ring gates.  Because of that Duarte--who is still at full power at

the time of this novella--has decided it's time for the planet to

be added to the Laconian Empire.  He sends Rittenaur to be the new

governor of the planet and to bring its politics and society into

line with that of the Laconian Empire.  Auberon, on the other hand,

has its own corrupt structure in place, and the "old man" that is

running the place has different ideas.

What this story is really about is how an honest person tries to

change a corrupt system and how complex family relationships turns

that attempt on its ear.  Corey deftly makes the reader see both

sides--well, all three sides--of the story, and somehow makes the

reader see that there are some powers stronger than the government

one serves.

IN AN ABSENT DREAM by Seanan McGuire (copyright 2019, Tor, ASIN


"In An Absent Dream" is the fourth entry in Seanan McGuire's

thoroughly engaging Wayward Children series.  I first encountered

the series in "Down Among the Sticks and Bones", the second entry

in the series which was a Hugo finalist.  The series is a portal

fantasy, and while I don't read a lot of fantasy, and even less

portal fantasies, honesty compels me to say that in Wayward

Children McGuire has written the best portal fantasies that I've

ever read.

"In An Absent Dream" is a prequel to "Every Heart a Doorway" in

that it introduces the character of Lundy, who the reader meets

elsewhere in the series.  Lundy is studious and serious.  Her

parents want her to grow up to be a housewife and behave the way

they think a girl should behave.  Of course, when she needs to find

it, Lundy finds a doorway to an alternate world that is based on

rules, logic, and reason.  She feels that she's found the place she

needs to be, but of course there's more to this place, and the

Goblin Market, than meets the eye.

"In An Absent Dream" is a story of friendship and love, and the

consequences one faces when you try to game the system in the name

of that friendship and love.  While Lundy's tactics seem to work

all the way to the bitter end, the end is indeed bitter for her.

Because as we know, love and friendship usually don't work with

rules, logic, and reason.




review by Gregory Frederick)

This book is a recent science book which looks into the amazing

things that are buried underground.  The author discusses

prehistoric art in caves, Bronze Age funeral chambers, ancient

mining sites, a dark matter experiment in a mine shaft, a labyrinth

of catacombs under Paris, massive fungal networks connecting trees

in a forest, deep storage locations for nuclear wastes and the

interior of a glacier in Greenland.  The author is a well-known

nature writer and relates his observations and scientific

information plus informs the reader with myth, legend and history.

An example of one underground entity is in Oregon's Blue Mountain

region and it is a honey fungus which covers 4 square miles and is

estimated to be between 1,900 and 8,600 years old.  The

relationship between fungi and plants is about 450 million years

old.  It's largely a relationship of mutualism.  Trees, other

plants and underground fungi are linked together as a huge

underground network connecting many plants by means of fungi

strands.  The fungi siphon off carbon produced by the tree in the

form of glucose and the trees obtain nutrients like nitrogen which

the fungi obtained from the soil.  This mutualism is actually a

form of symbiosis which benefits both organisms.  This network has

other benefits, too.  A tree in trouble may be supported by other

trees which transfer resources to the tree in need by way of the

fungi network.  The fungi network also allows plants under an

insect attack to send immune signaling compounds to other plants to

warn them of this attack.

This is an interesting book told in a very different way from most

science books I have read but it is very enjoyable.  [-gf]


TOPIC: Plurals (letters of comment by Paul Dormer and Dorothy

J. Heydt)

In response to Evelyn's comments on plurals in the 01/31/20 issue

of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

[Evelyn wrote,] "However, when McWhorter listed examples of 'is'

words that just added 'es', he included a lot that I would

pluralize by changing the 'is' to 'es', including 'axis', 'oasis',

and 'diagnosis', I noted in an email that I would also include

'prognosis', 'analysis', 'emphasis', and 'exegesis'."

Me too.

Did he include "arsis"?  It amuses me because I'm British and the

plural is a bit rude in UK English.  (It has several meanings

listed in Chambers, but it originally meant a lift, hence an up-

beat in classical prosody.)

I remember reading an article many years ago about a crossword in a

UK paper where that plural was the answer and it got some

complaints.  (Of course, it wouldn't raise an eyebrow these days.


Dorothy J. Heydt responds:

Note also that the genital equipment of [some?] male snakes are

described as "hemipenes."

I think ['arsis' is] safe; even Brits who (when the occasion

warrants) say "get off your arse"* are statistically unlikely to

see "arses" in a document and be taken aback by it.  Statistically,

because very few people who speak any variety of English are

unlikely to read analyses in classical prosody.

In the US, of course, one would say "get off your ass," if one

were inclined to rude language.  A more polite locution would be

"get a move on" or "quit stalling" or the like; or my husband's

favorite remark to slow-moving drivers on the freeway, "Move it or

milk it, Doc!"   A less polite locution would be "piss, or get off

the pot."

*For example, the DOCTOR WHO episode "Heaven Sent," which first

aired 28 November 2015.  Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor is

completely alone in a castle, joined only by a monster called "the

Veil" which never speaks, and the occasional image of his late

companion Clara, who occasionally writes hints on a chalkboard.  As

the Doctor reaches the bottom level of despair, Clara's image turns

to face him and says, "Get off your arse and win."  Note that this

is officially a children's program.

Magnificent performance by Capaldi, by the way.  One reviewer

remarked, "Tom Baker would have killed to get a role like that."


Paul responds:

What's acceptable changes over time.  This crossword was, I think,

in the Seventies when "arse" would not be written in a UK paper.

Yes, now it probably wouldn't get a second look.  Also, consider,

it was the answer to a crossword clue.  Imagine the next day

happening to look over the answers to the previous day's crossword

and seeing "arses" with no context.

(I'm reminded of a joke doing the rounds in the Seventies about the

clean-up television campaigner Mary Whitehouse:

"Yes," says the person from the BBC, "You did here him says 'Tits

like coconuts.'  And if you'd kept listening, you'd have heard him

say, 'And sparrows like breadcrumbs.'")

I've just seen a children's book on sale called I NEED A NEW BUM,

and the cover illustration shows a young boy trying to look at his

own arsecrack.

I've often thought that the American ass is the same as the UK

arse.  (Chambers says that ass meaning buttocks comes from the

English arse, from the Old English for ears.)  There are words in

UK English that change their vowel as you move north.  So in

London, the word bath has the same vowel as in car, bar, and laugh.

In the north east, where I grew up it has a shorter vowel sound as

in cat and bat.  Ass meaning a donkey now has the short vowel

throughout the UK, but some older accents, ass is pronounced arse.

Some years ago there was a programme on the radio comparing

recordings of William Walton's "Facade".  This piece involves

someone reciting poems by Edith Sitwell.  One of the poems has

grass/pass/ass all apparently supposed to rhyme.  But only two

recordings this actually happens.  One was an American reciter who

used a short vowel for all three words.  The other was Sitwell

herself who used a long vowel, pronouncing ass as arse.

Back in the sixties there was a popular ventriloquist called Ray

Alan who had a doll called Lord Charles, an upper-class toff.  His

catchphrase was "What a silly ass", but is sounded like "What a

silly arse".  I think Alan was able to get away with that only

because arse was an acceptable pronunciation of ass.

Evelyn responds:

I've usually heard the less polite locution Dorothy refers to as

"sh*t or get off the pot."  [-ecl]


TOPIC: SEVEN SURRENDERS (letter of comment by Gary McGath)

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of SEVEN SURRENDERS in the

01/31/20 issue of the MT VOID, Gary McGath writes:

I really liked TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING, but I found the first couple

of chapters of SEVEN SURRENDERS too squicky and couldn't continue.



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

In the Great Courses episode on THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS (in

"Great Utopian and Dystopian Works in Literature"), the professor

talks about how someone on Gethen could both "mother" and "father"

children.  The problem, of course, is while the words may *seem*

parallel, their connotations say so much about attitudes about

gender roles up until recently.  To father a child means to get a

woman pregnant, and there it ends.  To mother a child had nothing

to do with pregnancy or giving birth, but to the care one gives a

child *after* the child is born.

I was listening to another Great Course, "Life and Writings of

C. S. Lewis", and decided I should read some of Lewis's non-fiction

works.  I started with MERE CHRISTIANITY (ISBN 978-0-060-65292-0)

but could not get past page 40.  Lewis's writing was readable (the

book was taken from lectures), but after hitting a logical fallacy

and a false parallel in two pages, I gave up.

The first was the claim(s), "If you are an atheist you do have to

believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world

is simply one huge mistake.  If you are a Christian, you are free

to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain

at least some hint of truth."  An atheist saying that the main

point in all the religions is false is *not* the same as saying

that these religions do not contain some hint of truth.

The other is Lewis's statement, "Confronted with a cancer or a slum

the Pantheist can say, 'If you could only see it from the divine

point of view, you would realize that this is also God.'"  A

Christian, he say, would say that these are not God, but things

that we should put right.  Maybe that works with slums, but

"putting cancer right" is definitely problematic, and as for

tornadoes, earthquakes, and meteor strikes, saying that God wants

us to put them right means God thinks we are gods too.  (Not to

mention the common Christian response when bad things happen to

good people is that God has sent these trials to test us--which

certainly is not what Lewis is saying.)

Meanwhile, we have been watching Ken Burns's "Country Music", but

apparently sixteen hours of documentary was not enough for us, so

after the second episode we just had to watch O RROTHER WHERE ARE

THOU?, and after the fourth, WALK THE LINE.  I debated watching

DUMPLIN' after the seventh (we don't have 9 TO 5), but decided to

give it a pass.  What we learned, in the seventh episode in

particular, is that William Goldman was right, "Nobody knows

anything."  George Jones recorded a song as a favor, but said it

was so depressing that "nobody'll buy that morbid son of a bitch."

"He Stopped Loving Her Today" was number 1 on the charts for 18

weeks, and won several major awards.  Willie Nelson cut an album

that he had creative control over, the producers all said it would

flop but they said if they let him release it he would go along

with their ideas next time, and then "Red Headed Stranger" went

multi-platinum.  Nelson then wanted to record an album of old pop

songs.  Again, the producers were sure it would flop.  "Stardust"

"flopped" onto the charts and stayed there for ... wait for it ...

ten *years*.  And on it goes.    [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          If you don't want your dog to have bad breath, do what I

          do: Pour a little Lavoris in the toilet.

                                          --Jay Leno