• MT VOID, 04/22/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 43, Whole Number 2220

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Apr 24 07:17:24 2022
    Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
    04/22/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 43, Whole Number 2220

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    Correction to MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM Review
    Mini Reviews, Part 15 (BOOK OF LOVE, BELFAST,
    MUNICH--THE EDGE OF WAR) (film reviews
    by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper)
    MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM (television review by Dale Skran)
    THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY by John Scalzi (audio book
    review by Joe Karpierz)
    Hugo Finalists Reviews (letter of comment by Joe Karpierz)
    MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM (letters of comment by Paul Dormer,
    Gary McGath, Dorothy J. Heydt, Scott Dorsey,
    Keith F. Lynch, and Tim Merrigan)
    This Week's Reading (WAITING FOR GODOT) (book and drama
    comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Correction to MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM Review

    Last week, I accidentally cut off Dale Skran's review of
    MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM somewhere in the middle, so the complete
    review is in this week's MT VOID. [-ecl]


    TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 15 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
    Evelyn C. Leeper)

    Here is the fifteenth batch of mini-reviews, films taking place in
    other countries:

    BOOK OF LOVE: In BOOK OF LOVE, Henry (played by actor Sam Clafin),
    has all of Hugh Grant's mannerisms and Maria (played by lead
    actress Veronica Echegui) looks like Penelope Cruz. In fact, this
    film seems assembled from pieces of other films. Henry is the
    author of a very chaste book about love, and Maria is the Mexican
    translator who turns it into a steamy bestseller. They meet when
    he goes on a book tour in Mexico, and take an instant dislike to
    each other. The film proceeds just as you would expect.

    Released 02/04/22; available on Amazon Prime. Rating: low +2 (-4
    to +4), or 7/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    BELFAST: BELFAST is Kenneth Branagh's reminiscence of growing up in
    Belfast during the Troubles. It is therefore not as light-hearted
    as many childhood reminiscences are. In fact, in the first scene
    we see Buddy playing with a toy sword and a shield consisting of a
    garbage can lid; then violence erupts and Buddy's mother is forced
    to use the shield for real to protect them from bricks being thrown
    around. Religion too is both humorous and not-so-humorous. Buddy
    and his sister (Protestants) discuss what names are Catholic and
    what are Protestant (Liam is Catholic, William is Protestant), and
    how confession works. But the violence between (some) Catholics
    and (some) Protestants is very real. Buddy's family likes familiar
    movies and television programs from the United States, such as HIGH
    NOON and STAR TREK. In fact, after a brief aerial shot of Belfast
    in color, the film reverts to black and white except for the movies
    and television shows, which are in super-saturated color. Jude
    Hill is excellent as Buddy, and the production design is stunning.

    Released theatrically 11/12/21; available on various streaming
    services. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4), or 7/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    fiction, but as a historical drama it veers toward alternate
    history. It is based on the novel by Robert Harris, who is best
    known (to me, anyway) as the author of FATHERLAND, which is
    definitely an alternate history. In MUNICH--THE EDGE OF WAR, the
    biggest change is in Neville Chamberlain, who is portrayed, not as
    being taken in by Hitler, but rather working a longer plan to
    prepare Britain (and America) for the war that he knows is
    inevitably coming. The rest is fairly accurate, if at times a bit
    hard to follow, but obviously of interest to those who like
    historical dramas.

    Released 01/21/22 on Netflix streaming.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying: <https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/munich_the_edge_of_war>



    TOPIC: MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM (two seasons of ten episodes/for pay
    on Amazon) (television review by Dale Skran)

    It's not that easy to see MOTHERLAND. It is only "free" on
    something called Freeform (this seems like an online version of
    ABC/Disney and is an update of the old ABC Family channel, but to
    some degree defies easy characterization), and you can also pay for
    it on Amazon prime. As a result, this pretty amazing series will
    get only a small audience, and will probably never win any awards
    simply because the SF viewing public does not know it exists, just
    like the fantastic COUNTERPART is essentially unknown, or the
    nearly as excellent THE ROOK. And so on. All people are watching
    what is on Disney, Netflix, and Amazon prime. Some of this--like
    THE WITCHER and CRACOW MONSTERS--are pretty good, but a lot of it,
    e.g., THE WHEEL OF TIME, SHADOW AND BONE, etc. is of a lesser

    Imagine STARSHIP TROOPERS with witches instead of powered suits,
    and you have a pretty good one sentence description of MOTHERLAND.
    The "military cadet" story so commonplace in the 20th century has
    fallen out of favor as the military has declined in popularity. In
    this genre, a young person [almost always a man] joins the
    military, and goes through basic training with a few friends.
    There is always one friend who is the son of a big-shot general,
    another from the tough streets or rural byways, and finally one who
    is gung-ho to fight, but soon discovers the reality of war. As the
    story proceeds, the protagonist and his friends get pressed into
    battles before they are fully trained, encounter clever spies and
    saboteurs, and eventually rise in the ranks with distinction.

    Well, that is what MOTHERLAND is all about with one itsy-bitsy
    difference. A long time ago in Salem a powerful witch, Sarah
    Alder, made a deal with the US government: Witches would fight the
    wars of the United States, as long as they were allowed, in this
    context, to be free to be witches. Fast forward to modern times,
    and we find a world upside-down from our own. Everyone knows women
    are tougher, braver, and stronger than men. Civilians both fear
    and depend on the witch soldiers. The witches have used magic for
    centuries to mate with many men, and to create the best possible
    offspring. Their power, while not unlimited, makes them superhuman.

    The witch army is not organized in platoons, but in groups of
    three. It appears that one of the group is a "fixer" who can heal
    wounds, one has the "sight", and the third is a weather witch. But
    they all possess varying degrees of certain "canon" powers, namely:
    - A shield that can shatter a spear, and presumably stop bullets
    - A kinetic hammer that can punch through steel. A group of
    witches can create a hammer/shield so strong that it protects
    them from a truck loaded with explosives (mostly).
    - To put someone to sleep by touch, and for the more powerful
    witches, a roomful of people w/o touch
    - A magical chemical patch, which when applied to the skin,
    allows the witch to fly for a limited period of time. Thus,
    the troops apply the patch and jump out of aircraft to
    but they can also fly up to an aircraft as well. The patch
    risky to use since it only lasts for a limited period of time.

    The fixers can heal most military wounds so that the witch army is
    relatively less impacted by injury than our real-world armies. At
    one point a senior witch slits the throat of a trainee to create a
    wound to practice healing. It is fairly obvious that without magic
    the wound would be fatal. The "weather witches" have powers
    similar to "Storm" of the X-men, with varying degrees of strength.
    The "sight" can be used to detect hidden dangers, both physical and

    The combination of all these abilities creates a formidable combat
    unit, but in some cases, witches find themselves unable to use
    their powers, and for these situations they carry the "scourge"--a
    whip with a metal weight on the end. The weighted chain is said to
    be the martial arts weapon that is the hardest to learn, the most
    dangerous to the practitioner, and the most effective in combat.
    The "scourge" is in effect a weighted chain with the weakness that
    you can cut it. Each witch is trained extensively in combat with
    the "scourge" and when they settle matters of honor amongst
    themselves, it is with the scourge. Additionally, they are trained
    extensively in hand-to-hand combat and knife fighting.

    Although our heroines are a girly bunch, they are the heirs to a
    harsh tradition, trained by tough drill sergeants, and pitted
    against the most ruthless and clever foes. Having said the above,
    you might think MOTHERLAND is mostly about tactical combat like a
    David Drake novel, but it is much more character driven. Our
    plucky three heroines are:
    - Abigail Bellweather, a weather witch whose mother is the
    General in charge of Intelligence, and who comes from a long
    line of decorated weather witches.
    - Raelle Collar, a "fixer" who hails from the "Cession" a
    "free" land along the Mississippi where Native Americans and
    witches live in harmony, and "dodgers"--witches who are
    avoiding the draft--hide out. She is cynical and expects to
    die soon as her mother before her died in the Liberia
    campaign. She goes "off-canon" now and then in how she
    "fixes" people.
    - Tally Craven, a gung-ho idealist, enlists in spite of the
    opposition of her parents. She is gifted with very powerful

    As you might suspect, at first, they do not get along, but over two
    seasons, a lot of arguments, and quite a number of life and death
    battles they become loyal friends and a deadly combat team. This
    is a richly imagined world. The witches have their own traditions
    and practices which seem odd to the civilians. There are male
    witches, but only female witches "breed true"--the sons/daughters
    of a witch are always witches. A male witch who marries a normal
    may or may not have witch children.

    A major foe is the "Spree"--a global terrorist group of witches
    [clearly modeled on Al Qaeda] who believe that no witch should be
    forced to serve in the Army, and are engaged in terrorist acts
    targeting civilians. The Spree use "off-canon" magic, such as
    inducing victims to kill themselves. The Spree are also masters of
    disguise, and can take on the appearance of anyone via magic.
    Behind the scenes [spoiler] operate the Camarilla, an ancient
    organization of witch hunters who in their modern operations use
    science to duplicate magic to attack witches. They are clever,
    organized, ruthless, determined, and appear to have a vast army of
    fanatic followers.

    An interesting aspect of MOTHERLAND is that "witchcraft" operates
    via sound, especially harmonious tones at particular frequencies,
    rather than incantations. This means that the witch army does a
    lot of voice training, and sets a clear path for the Camarilla to
    duplicate their powers. Although this is clearly fantasy, it
    bounces right up to being SF. The "what if" is "suppose certain
    combinations of sounds affected the universe in ways we don't
    currently understand?" Is this "magic" or just a science we have
    yet to discover? A lot of the plot in MOTHERLAND revolves arounds
    efforts to find new "harmonics" that unleash different magical
    effects, and the ethics of using those effects as weapons.

    MOTHERLAND is violent and sometimes dips into horror, with
    Camarilla scientists attempting to kill a witch who cannot be
    killed, and Spree terrorists trying to use sympathetic magic to
    kill Sarah Alder. Did I mention Alder is centuries old and still
    runs the US Army? You need to watch the show for the vast tapestry
    of imaginative detail.

    The tale of persecution [with witches/mutants standing in for Jews,
    gays, or whatever group is currently being persecuted] is
    fundamentally a lot more scary than mere monsters. Highly
    recommended for those two like military SF, or SF fantasy. Some
    might find MOTHERLAND's depiction of a female dominant society of
    interest. Best to stick to those over 14 due to violence and
    sexual situations of various kinds, including lesbian relationships
    and group marriages straight out of Heinlein.

    Additionally, MOTHERLAND is very military friendly. There is no
    question that the witches are justified in using deadly force most
    of the time [although ethical dilemmas are a big part of the plot],
    and a pacifist tribe of witches is driven to using violence in
    order to fight the Camarilla. This is also a mature mediation on
    the limits of terrorism in achieving your goals, and the fact that
    sometimes, you just have to kill those who need killing.

    MOTHERLAND has been deeply influenced by Heinlein's STARSHIP
    TROOPERS. I'd love to see the MOTHERLAND creative team do a reboot
    of STARSHIP TROOPERS the right way! Heinlein would have greatly
    enjoyed MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM. A third and final season is being
    filmed now, and I'm excited to see it. [-dls]


    2022, Audible Studios, 8 hours and 2 minutes, ASIN: B098G79B1Q,
    narrated by Wil Wheaton) (audio book review by Joe Karpierz)

    The pandemic did lots of weird things to lots of people, especially
    authors. Some authors were not able to read or write, some were
    able to do one or the other, and most were not interested in
    writing a novel that was set in the world of COVID-19 (nor did a
    lot of people want to be reminded of COVID-19 in their
    entertainment). John Scalzi, in the throes of not being able to
    write the dark, brooding novel that he had planned and indeed
    started writing--and one that I think I would have personally
    welcomed as a change of pace for him--decided to write a novel that
    began in the early days of the pandemic. It was only a jumping-off
    point, but instead of it being a grim novel, THE KAIJU PRESERVATION
    society is a light, fun novel that still has its messages to
    deliver while causing the reader to laugh out loud throughout.
    (Well, I did, anyway. Your mileage may vary, of course).

    Jamie Gray, a relatively new employee of a food delivery startup,
    opens the novel heading into a meeting with his boss, Rob Sanders,
    for his six-month performance review. Jamie has some grand plans
    for growing the company. Rob has other ideas, however, and
    terminates Jamie's employment. Rob offers him a delivery contract
    instead. Jamie turns the offer down, but eventually takes the job
    when it becomes apparent that he can't make the rent payment and
    jobs are scarce due to COVID-19. One of the people Jamie delivers
    to is Tom Stevens, an old friend who has a position with KPS, an
    NGO specializing in animal rights. KPS is sending an expedition
    out to do some field work in very short order, and Tom needs
    someone for his team. He gives Jamie a business card, and tells
    him that there is a position available for him if he can pass the
    interview. He does, and is soon on his way to an Air Force base in

    That Air Force base turns out to be a gateway to an alternate
    earth, where Jamie learns the meaning of KPS: the Kaiju
    Preservation Society. In that parallel Earth, evolution took a
    different path. Huge creatures, dubbed Kaiju, dominate the planet.
    These Kaiju are fueled by bio-nuclear reactors--yes, the Kaiju
    have internal nuclear reactors. The creatures were dubbed Kaiju on
    our Earth when they crossed over to our side because the nuclear
    bombs in World War II opened portals between the two worlds and the
    creatures came for a visit to feed on the radioactive energy.
    These creatures inspired Japanese film makers to make movies such
    as GODZILLA. The actual existence of the creatures was kept secret
    by the governments of the world, and the KPS was created to
    investigate, study, and preserve the Kaiju.

    Jamie is part of a team that goes to Tanaka Base in the alternate
    Earth to study the Kaiju. The running joke in the book is that
    Jamie "lifts things". He's the only one there that doesn't have a
    Ph.D., so in effect he gets the grunt work. In reality, Jamie
    becomes--as the reader probably should expect--much more important
    than a guy who lifts things.

    The novel spends a bunch of time exploring and explaining the
    world, and Scalzi keeps it light. As with any of his other novels,
    he tells readers just enough for them to know what's going on
    without going into excruciating detail. All that is setup for the
    main conflict, which comes in the second half of the book and deals
    with one of the Kaiju, Bella, becoming pregnant and eventually
    being Kaiju-napped (my term) and taken over to our Earth.

    The KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY may just be the novel the doctor
    ordered when it comes to having to deal with the pandemic. It asks
    the serious questions while at the same time keeping it light and
    humorous. It truly is, in my opinion, a funny book. I laughed out
    loud quite a bit. That may be due to the narration by Wil Wheaton.
    Wheaton is the perfect narrator for Scalzi's work. I can hear
    Scalzi's voice in Wheaton's narration, and Wheaton clearly has fun
    doing Scalzi's work, this one included. I'm not sure what a Scalzi
    book narrated by someone other than Wil Wheaton would sound like.

    I can't speak for anyone else, of course, but I feel as if THE
    KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY is the perfect book for the pandemic.
    It was for Scalzi, it was for me, and I think that Scalzi hopes
    it's the perfect pandemic book for others as well. [-jak]


    TOPIC: Hugo Finalists Reviews (letter of comment by Joe Karpierz)

    In response to Evelyn's statement in the 4/15/22 issue of the MT
    VOID ("I don't know if Joe Karpierz is doing the novels this
    year"), Joe writes:

    Yes, I will be making an effort to read and review all the Best
    Novel Hugo finalists. I find myself being more interested in short
    fiction these days, and so will try to read at least all the short
    stories and novelettes, and some subset of the novellas. I've read
    and reviewed one of the novels already, PROJECT HAIL MARY, and the
    Martine has been on my TBR pile since it came out. There are a
    couple of the novel finalists that I don't think I'm interested in,
    so I probably won't be too upset if I don't get to them. As my
    eldest child Gwen says, "life's too short to read something you
    don't like" (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea). I'm starting
    to feel that way with many of the Best Novel Hugo finalists. [-jk]

    Evelyn adds:

    I agree with Gwen. [-ecl]


    TOPIC: MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM (letters of comment by Paul Dormer,
    Gary McGath, Dorothy J. Heydt, Scott Dorsey, Keith F. Lynch, and
    Tim Merrigan)

    [Reminder: I accidentally truncated Dale Skran's review in the
    04/15/22 issue; the entire review appears above in this issue.

    In response to Dale Skran's review of MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM in the
    04/15/22 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

    I love MOTHERLAND. In the UK, it's shown on the BBC, although the
    BBC channel it was first shown on went streaming only but at least
    the first season was repeated on a terrestrial channel.

    I recommended it to a friend who gave up at the first season ended
    in too many cliff-hangers.

    I see season 3 hasn't been scheduled yet in the UK. [-pd]

    Gary McGath writes:

    The idea of Salem with "real" witches with magic powers annoys me.
    Salem of the late 17th century was a center for mass hysteria
    leading to unfounded accusations and executions. Modern Salem has
    become a locus for new-agers and fortune tellers. It's a tourist
    trap in October that even has a statue of Samantha from BEWITCHED.
    I'd much rather regard it as a reminder of how deadly moral panics
    can be. [-gmg]

    Dorothy J. Heydt observes:

    But it also spawned the excellent HOCUS POCUS. [-djh]

    Scott Dorsey responds:

    Was it Geronimo who, when taken on a tour of Salem in the late 19th
    century, talked about how wise these people were to be wary of the
    threat of witches? [-sd]

    Keith F. Lynch adds:

    How long ago [was the deal made with the US government]? The
    historical Salem witch craze was about eighty years before the US
    was formed.

    I agree [with Gary about the idea of Salem with "real" witches with
    magic powers]. There are still similar crime-related mass
    hysterias in the US. The only thing different about the
    witch-related one is that we now know that the accused were all
    completely innocent, since witches, in the sense they meant it, do
    not exist.

    It's harder to recognize subsequent hysterias, since communists,
    drug pushers, and sex offenders really do exist.

    Also, the persecutors in Salem realized that they were mistaken,
    and apologized, only after about five years.

    Also, the hysteria wasn't in what's now called Salem anyway, but in
    Danvers, which was then known as Salem Village. [-kfl]

    Gary replies:

    They don't let you forget [when it happened]. Spend ten minutes in
    Salem and you'll come across some reminder.

    Things got started in Salem Village, but most of the trials were
    held in Salem, and accused people were held in a jail there. You
    can find historical markers in Danvers, but you have to go looking
    for them. [-gmg]

    Tim Merrigan adds:

    I've watched MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM (on Freeform, which used to be
    ABC Family). My main objection to it is that it's yet another
    depiction of Witches as another species. Witches are no more
    another species than Jews, Moslems, Christians, Hindus, or
    practitioners of any other religion.

    Another, minor, objection is their continuity in little things, for
    instance the flags on the soldier's shoulders, and flying over
    their base, has fifty stars, but that universe's United States has
    thirty-eight states.

    Note: The flag in the opening credits, and the ads, has
    thirty-eight pentacles. [-tm]


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

    I just watched the 1961 "Play of the Week" production of WAITING
    FOR GODOT by Samuel Beckett with Burgess Meredith as Vladimir and
    Zero Mostel as Estragon. There is an exchange between them about
    hanging themselves and Vladimir says that Estragon should try first
    because Estragon is lighter than he is, and Estragon says that is
    why Vladimir should go first, else "Gogo light--bough not
    break--Gogo dead. Didi heavy--bough break--Didi alone." But in
    this production, anyway, it is Vladimir (Meredith) who is light and
    Estragon (Mostel) who is noticeably heavier. (Mostel is five
    inches taller than Meredith and much heavier built.) Was this an
    accident of casting? Did director Alan Schneider do this on
    purpose? In the latest version (2021) Ethan Hawke is Vladimir and
    John Leguizamo (who is four inches shorter than Hawke, and
    definitely lighter) is Estragon, so it is not a universal choice.

    I suppose that the hat routine could work regardless of the
    comparative sizes of Vladimir's and Estragon's heads, but will
    clearly have a different effect depending on whether their heads
    are the same size or very different sizes.

    At one point, Pozzo says, "I don't seem to be able to depart." Is
    this where Luis Bunuel got the idea for THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL?
    (But Pozzo does eventually manage to leave.)

    Estragon (and to a lesser extent Vladimir's) inability to remember
    the previous day clearly or to distinguish between days, makes me
    think of various works such as GROUNDHOG DAY or PALM SPRINGS (where
    every day is the same day) or MEMENTO (where there is no memory) or
    any number of science fiction works in which time is fractured.

    This version was videotaped for "The Play of the Week", and while
    it looks much like a stage production, there are cuts from one
    camera angle to another, and so Lucky's three-page incoherent
    soliloquy was not necessarily given in a single take as it would
    have to be on stage. The takes between cuts are long enough that
    it is still an impressive feat, though.

    Also, "The Play of the Week" had commercial breaks, and decided to
    label each section between breaks as an act, so where the original
    play is called "a tragicomedy in two acts", this version has six
    acts. I saw a version without commercials, but I am distressingly
    reminded of Rod Serling's dictum: "It is difficult to produce a
    television [show] that is both incisive and probing when every
    twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing
    about toilet paper." (Serling was specifically talking about
    documentaries, but I believe that the concept can be extended to
    any show.) [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    The way taxes are, you might as well marry for love.
    --Joe E. Lewis

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