• MT VOID, 05/13/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 46, Whole Number 2223

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun May 15 06:41:51 2022
    Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
    05/13/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 46, Whole Number 2223

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    This Is Like Star Trek's Next Generation Holo-deck
    (pointer from Greg Frederick)
    Mini Reviews, Part 17 (THE HOUSE, ENCOUNTER,
    (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper
    and Evelyn C. Leeper)
    Reforming the Short Form Hugo (comments by Dale Skran)
    COMFORT ME WITH APPLES (letter of comment by R. Looney)
    Romper-Noir, HIDDEN FIGURES, and the "Lady Astronaut"
    series (letter of comment by Doug Drummond)
    CRUELLA (letter of comment by Gary McGath)
    This Week's Reading (THE MARTIAN and RED PLANET)
    (book and film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: This Is Like Star Trek's Next Generation Holo-deck (pointer
    from Greg Frederick)

    A doctor is making a 3D hologram visit to the International Space



    TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 17 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
    Evelyn C. Leeper)

    Here is the seventeenth batch of mini-reviews, more films of the

    THE HOUSE: THE HOUSE is listed as a three-part series by Netflix,
    but it is really just a three-part anthology film. It is three
    stories about a peculiar house, in the past, present, and future,
    though the stories are not really consistent with each other. For
    example, the first is populated by humans, but the second is
    populated by anthropomorphic mice. The film uses stop-motion
    dolls, similar to Will Vinton ("Closed Mondays", THE ADVENTURES OF
    MARK TWAIN, and the California Raisins commercials), and more
    recently to Wes Anderson (FANTASTIC MR. FOX and ISLE OF DOGS). The three-dimensional animation provides a lot of opportunity for
    personality and expressiveness in the characters, and there is an
    intense tension below the surface of these stories.

    Released on Netflix streaming 01/14/22. Rating: high +2, or 8/10.

    Film Credits:
    <https://www.imdb.com/title/ tt11703050/reference>

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

    ENCOUNTER: ENCOUNTER starts out with hints of an alien invasion,
    and the main character (played by Riz Ahmed of SOUND OF METAL)
    seems to be driven by this, but he also is suffering from PTSD and
    is paranoid as well. As a result, this is more a story of a
    mentally disturbed father kidnapping his sons, with the science
    fiction it claims playing little if any part in it.

    Released theatrically 12/10/21; available streaming on Amazon
    Prime. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4), or 6/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    NIGHTMARE ALLEY: NIGHTMARE ALLEY is described by its makers as a
    new adaptation of the book by William Lindsay Gresham, not a remake
    of the 1947 classic film noir version. The production design by
    Tamara Deverell, the art direction by Brandt Gordon, and the set
    decoration by Shane Vieau are stunning. The carnival grounds are a
    world all their own thanks to these artists' work, and scenes of
    Stanton Carlisle's old home are reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth and
    Edward Hopper. The costume design by Bonnie Cashin is also
    note-worthy, with a lot of work on the accuracy of the styles for
    the precise year, and specifically with Molly's bright red dress
    making her figure stand out from the blue-gray background of the
    train station. This film has a star-studded cast, with Bradley
    Cooper as Carlisle and Cate Blanchett as Dr. Lilith Ritter, and
    supporting actors Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins,
    Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn.
    (This is the ninth movie on which director Guillermo del Toro and
    actor Ron Perlman have worked together.)

    Released theatrically 12/17/21; available on various streaming
    services and on DVD. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4), or 9/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    directorial effort by Joel Coen. I believe this is the first time
    Macbeth has been played by an African-American (Denzel Washington),
    but it is not a token casting--several other roles are also played
    by Black actors. Washington was also cast in a previous
    Shakespeare film, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. Clearly Black actors are
    no longer limited to playing Othello. On the other hand this is
    just be a very small sample.

    Unfortunately, I found the production not up to other Shakespeare
    films. The dialogue was delivered in a theatrical rather than a
    realistic style (for the latter, see Ian McKellen's RICHARD III),
    and the result was that the meaning was not always clear. (In
    fairness, I should say that I have seen many of the film and
    television versions and none really stand up to some of the Bard's
    other plays. Then again, MACBETH is the shortest of his tragedies,
    and the fourth-shortest of his plays.)

    I will commend the striking set design by production designer
    Stefan Dechant, art director Jason T. Clark, and set decorator
    Nancy Haigh. Filmed entirely on sound stages (except for the final
    scene), it reminds one of the set design in Carl Theodor Dreyer's
    THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. And Kathryn Hunter as (all three)
    witches was spectacular.

    Released theatrically 12/25/21; available streaming on Apple TV+.
    Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4), or 6/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying: <https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_tragedy_of_macbeth_2021>



    TOPIC: Reforming the Short Form Hugo (comments by Dale Skran)

    For a long time, I've felt the Short Form Hugo for Best Dramatic
    Presentation was not properly organized to give an award to the
    best "Television" SF of the previous year. My critique was

    - Requiring a particular episode to be nominated "by name" made it
    very difficult for a program to receive the award. Fans often love
    the show, but prefer different episodes. A great series might get
    many nominations for different episodes, but lose out to a single
    episode from a lessor series being pushed by an organized fan
    campaign. This characteristic also gives an unfair advantage to
    long-running series like "Dr. Who" with an large fandom that can
    run a campaign for a particular episode.

    - Allowing short-shorts that are not regular "TV" shows to be
    nominated has the effect of diminishing the short-form Hugo as an
    award for series SF.

    - The requirement to nominate a single episode also tilts the
    playing field in favor of anthology series or highly episodic
    television. This may have been appropriate the 1950s/60s when some
    of the best SF shows were TWIGHT ZONE and OUTER LIMITS, and
    virtually all series programming was rigidly episodic, but is a
    much worse match to series performances of the modern age that
    feature long story arcs and tight ties between long sequences of

    As the world of "television" has expanded to included Internet
    shows and has taken on a globalized character, a new problem has
    arisen. It may be years before a great SF series makes it to a
    venue such as Netflix where it has a wide audience such that it
    might get enough attention to be nominated for the short form
    Hugo. Thus, we live in a time in which the short form Hugo simply
    ignores the best series SF, and is given out to whatever happens to
    be on BBC, Amazon Prime, Disney, HBO, or Netflix in the previous

    As an example, consider the 2021 short form nominees and winner:

    - The Good Place: Whenever You're Ready, written and directed by
    Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal
    Television, a division of Universal Studio Group) [WINNER] [you can
    watch on Netflix]

    - The Expanse: Gaugamela, written by Dan Nowak, directed by Nick
    Gomez (Alcon Entertainment / Alcon Television Group / Amazon
    Studios / Hivemind / Just So)

    - The Mandalorian: Chapter 16: The Rescue, written by Jon Favreau,
    directed by Peyton Reed (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)

    - The Mandalorian: Chapter 13: The Jedi, written and directed by
    Dave Filoni (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)

    - She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Heart (parts 1 and 2),
    written by Josie Campbell and ND Stevenson, directed by Jen Bennett
    and Kiki Manrique (DreamWorks Animation Television / Netflix)

    - Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon, written by Vinay Patel and
    Chris Chibnall, directed by Nida Manzoor (BBC)

    As can be readily seen, these programs all appeared on a small
    number of the most widely viewed net "channels." The impact of
    this phenomenon is that anything that takes a few years to make it
    to the bigger venues can never win a short form Hugo no matter how
    excellent it might be. One example is fantastic COUNTERPART, which
    ran for two years on the cable network Starz from 2017 to 2019. I
    watched it much later on Amazon Prime. It is also available for
    purchase on various other services to buy. Right now, I am
    watching MOTHERLAND: FORT SALEM by purchase on Amazon. It is
    "free" only on Freeform. This series has the best fantasy
    SF/world-building I've seen since COUNTERPART, but not enough of an
    audience will ever see it to allow it to be nominated for a short
    form Hugo--ever.

    Since the 2022 nominees are just out, let's take a look at them as

    - The Wheel of Time: "The Flame of Tar Valon," written by Justine
    Juel Gillmer, directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield, based on The
    Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (Amazon Studios)

    - For All Mankind: "The Grey," written by Matt Wolpert and Ben
    Nedivi; directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (Tall Ship
    Productions/Sony Pictures Television)

    - Arcane: "The Monster You Created," written by Christian Linke and
    Alex Yee; story by Christian Linke, Alex Yee, Conor Sheehy, and Ash
    Brannon; directed by Pascal Charrue and Arnaud Delord (Netflix)

    - The Expanse: "Nemesis Games," written by Daniel Abraham, Ty
    Franck, and Naren Shankar; directed by Breck Eisner (Amazon Studios)

    - Loki: "The Nexus Event," written by Eric Martin, directed by Kate
    Herron, created for television by Michael Waldron (Disney+)

    - Star Trek: Lower Decks: "wej Duj," written by Kathryn Lyn,
    directed by Bob Suarez (CBS Eye Animation Productions)

    The good news is that mercifully we don't see yet another Dr. Who
    episode being nominated. The bad news is that with the exception of
    Star Trek: Lower Decks [Paramount+] and For All Mankind [Apple+]
    everything is on one of the major "net" channels--Amazon Prime,
    Netflix, or Disney+. At least some of these certainly deserve the
    nomination, like "The Expanse," and even "Arcane," which is
    surprisingly good. "For All Mankind" is said to be excellent, but
    Apple TV+ has such a small subscriber base that it will probably
    get less support than it deserves. But it is hard to escape the
    feeling that "The Wheel of Time" is riding on a vast fan base, and
    "Loki" on the shoulders of Disney. Another 2022 strangeness is
    that "WandaVision"[Disney+] has been nominated for the Long Form
    although it appears in six 30 minute episodes.

    There are two ways forward. The Saturn Awards do a much better job
    of rewarding good SF series work, so perhaps we should just retire
    the short form Hugo as irrelevant to the modern age. Somehow, I
    don't think this is going to happen, so I offer instead the
    following reforms:

    - The short form dramatic presentation Hugo should be retitled
    "Dramatic series Hugo" and the definition changed to exclude
    "single event" dramatic presentations. If we want a Hugo for
    single events, including plays, a new award, or more likely a
    special occasional award, should be created.

    - The definition of the "Dramatic series Hugo" should be such that
    the nomination is for the series, not for particular episodes.

    - A minimum number of episodes should be required--I suggest three
    episodes of at least 40 minutes each, or six episodes of at least
    20 minutes. An open issue is whether to exclude or allow a series
    of theatrical films such as TWILIGHT, but I lean toward excluding

    - The eligibility period should be changed from the previous year
    to at least the two previous years, and preferably the five
    previous years. This would allow time for new works to migrate to
    the larger platforms where they might actually be seen by a larger

    - No series could win the award twice. This would work against the
    domination of the award by a single series [Dr. Who] that has a
    large, organized fandom, or a single very popular series like GAME
    OF THRONES. This raises the question of how to handle a "rebooted"
    series or something like Dr. Who, which is periodically restarted
    with a new actor playing the title character. Fairness suggests
    that a "rebooted" version of a series should once again be eligible
    to win even if a previous version of the show had already won the
    short form series Hugo.

    It should be noted that anthology or highly episodic series might
    still win, but only by being consistently excellent. So, there you
    have it--my plan to make the world a better place, one Hugo award
    at a time! [-dls]


    TOPIC: COMFORT ME WITH APPLES (letter of comment by R. Looney)

    In response to Heath Row's comments on COMFORT ME WITH APPLES in
    the 04/29/22 issue of the MT VOID, R. Looney writes:

    ...'cause I'm so much in Love!

    Sorry, more favorite Bible quotes. News to me that this is a
    different book, "a terrifying new thriller from bestseller
    Catherynne M. Valente"--no, it's actually a 1956 book I found (in
    the enormous Acres Of Books in Long Beach), by Peter DeVries, which
    I eventually read and found completely unremarkable and
    forgettable. Does anybody remember Peter DeVries anymore? [-rl]


    TOPIC: CRUELLA (letter of comment by Gary McGath)

    In response to Mark and Evelyn's review of CRUELLA in the 05/06/22
    issue of the MT VOID, Gary McGath writes:

    [Evelyn writes,] "CRUELLA is a prequel to 101 DALMATIANS (1996), or
    ONE HUNDRED AND ONE DALMATIANS (1996), or both. It gives the back
    story of Cruella DeVil, but not the back story you expect. It
    seems to be following in the genre of story in which everything
    you thought you knew turns out to be wrong, and the first one of
    these I can recall is Gregory Maguire's novel WICKED. All the
    acting seems to be over the top, but it's probably amusing enough
    for an undemanding audience." [-ecl]

    Roger's writing and publishing a song to mock Cruella struck me as
    a nasty thing to do, especially since at the point where he writes
    it, she hadn't done much to deserve it. Maybe she deserves a
    little sympathy at that. What kind of parents stick a kid with a
    name like "Cruella"?

    Did you mean both dates to be 1996? The animated movie was much
    earlier. [-gmg]

    Evelyn responds:

    Arggh! No, the first film was 1961. [-ecl]


    TOPIC: HIDDEN FIGURES and the "Lady Astronaut" Series (letter of
    comment by Doug Drummond)

    Regarding letters of comment by Gary McGath, Dorothy J. Heydt, and
    Paul Dormer on romper-noir in the 07/09/21 issue of the MT VOID,
    Doug Drummond writes:

    My wife Helen is very much into genealogy and history. When we
    visited an old settlement, we heard the "thread measuring" version
    of "Pop goes the weasel." I follow technological history: steam
    locomotives, 19th Century use of electricity, early computers
    (Babbage, Turing's Pilot ACE, Bendix G-25, LGP-30, etc.) and so on.

    In response to John Purcell's comments on THE CALCULATING STARS in
    the same issue, Doug writes:

    I especially liked the movie HIDDEN FIGURES and the "Lady
    Astronaut" book series. With respect to the "Lady Astronaut"
    series, NACA had IBM 704s and 709s in the 1950s before the 7090
    depicted in HIDDEN FIGURES. These were the vacuum tube versions
    with the same logic as the transistorized 7090/7094 series. Of
    course, those machines were enormous, and certainly would not fit
    into a spacecraft even with Saturn-V tech. For that matter, the
    transistorized 7090 is a pretty big bunch of boxes, and we know
    that the APOLLO flight computers were primitive even when compared
    to a flip-phone or cheap digital watch.

    My key takeaway from movie HIDDEN FIGURES was that the computer
    room was *perfectly* correct. I did quite a bit of programming on
    Purdue's 7094, which has a fancier console with even more flashing
    lights than the 7090. The movie had the correct 7090 console, and
    the rest of the installation looked correct. When do movie makers
    ever get the 'tech' correct? I was very impressed.

    The "lady astronaut" mathematicians would have needed to create
    nomographs, special slide rules, and other short cuts for
    astrogation while flying. In Heinlein's YA novel ROCKET SHIP
    GALILEO, he described mechanical technology like he used in the
    pre-WW-II Navy. We saw those computers when we visited the USS
    Missouri in Pearl Harbor. Since I am a flying club pilot, I
    possess an "E6-B" "flight computer'" that is a specialized slide
    rule for air navigation. I flew a club airplane to the Winnipeg
    Worldcon and many regional cons.

    The characterization of the pilots in the "Lady Astronaut" series
    was also correct, another thing that is often overlooked. I did a
    panel on that subject at a regional con with the help of a fannish
    psychologist who studied First Responders with similar
    personalities. [-dd]


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

    I love THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir, although I have often nit-picked
    various details (e.g., at one time he claims he can't make the hab
    cooler, but at another he drops the temperature to one degree

    But I just saw RED PLANET for the first time since its initial
    release in 2000, and was surprised to see how much Weir took as
    inspiration. One of the most obvious is that the crew in RED
    PLANET travels to the Pathfinder rover site, takes the radio from
    Pathfinder and repairs it in order to communicate with the ship in
    orbit. On the ship Bowman is told to tune to the old,
    no-longer-used frequency because Earth can see what Watney ... I
    mean Gallagher, is doing. (In THE MARTIAN, Watney uses the camera
    and later text to communicate, while in the film it's voice
    communication from the start.) And Gallagher returns to the ship
    in a craft never intended for that purpose, and is brought to the
    ship by Bowman going out on a tether and manually grabbing his

    There is also a powerful storm with sustained winds over 100 miles
    an hour which is very dangerous. In RED PLANET, there is at least
    the excuse that algae have been generating oxygen, which would
    presumably increase the air pressure (and temperature) somewhat
    (though not enough to let the astronauts open their helmets and
    breathe the air directly, as they do).

    Weir published THE MARTIAN in 2011. It is not unreasonable to
    think that he had seen RED PLANET ten years earlier, and some of
    the ideas stuck with him. [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    The only kind of suggestive material some people want in
    movies is, "Wouldn't an ice cream cone taste good now?"
    --Mark R. Leeper

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