• MT VOID, 06/03/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 49, Whole Number 2226

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Jun 5 07:11:01 2022
    Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
    06/03/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 49, Whole Number 2226

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    JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING (film retrospective
    by Mark R. Leeper)
    Reviewing and Advance Reading Copies (letter of comment
    by Joe Karpierz)
    Scientific Accuracy in Films (letter of comment
    by Peter Trei)
    (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING (film retrospective by
    Mark R. Leeper)

    June 25 is the fortieth anniversary of the release of JOHN
    CARPENTER'S THE THING (not to be confused with THE THING FROM
    ANOTHER WORLd (1951) or THE THING (2011)). Given that it is forty
    years old, and based on a story that is about seventy-five years
    old, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! Briefly, this is a logic puzzle mixed
    with an alien invasion story.

    I started by saying, "My reaction to the opening of this film was
    different from other people's. This film is based on "Who Goes
    There?" by John W. Campbell, Jr., opens with a helicopter chasing a
    dog across a large snowy field. Now I generally like dogs and with
    this one my usual reaction would have been rooting for the dog but
    being very familiar with the story, my reaction was "Get that

    For that matter, the Norwegian spoken by the pilot at the beginning
    of the film gives away the plot, shouting that the dog isn't really
    a dog, it's some sort of thing imitating a dog.

    While this was not exactly John Carpenter's breakthrough film--it
    came after after DARK STAR, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, HALLOWEEN, and
    ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK--but it may well be his best film. However,
    it was a commercial and critical flop at the time, and only over
    the years has its gained the stature that it has. (It scores 8.2
    out of 10 on the IMDB, and 83% on Rotten Tomatoes.)

    The original story, and the first movie, were set in the Arctic,
    but this movie is moved to Antarctica. When the story was written,
    and the first movie made, permanent bases were fairly common in the
    Arctic, but not in Antarctica. Moving it to Antarctica gives it
    some hints of H. P. Lovecraft and the Elder Gods.

    It might help one's understanding of the film if one can remember
    what characters had what names, but personally I have never found
    anyone who could keep the characters straight. Is that perhaps to
    emphasize how they are all part of a Protean entity with no
    permanent individuality?

    Jed the dog deserves an acting award. I'm serious about that.
    This dog is better than Boris Karloff at appearing menacing and
    also mysterious. And he never looked at the camera, the dolly, or
    the crew (which is a common acting animal problem).

    Here you have a base made up mostly of scientists, and the only one
    really thinking is the helicopter pilot? (In the original movie
    it's the airplane pilot and the secretary. There seems to be some
    implication that she has some scientific position, but we see her
    typing, making coffee, and doing other non-scientific stuff.)

    Childs (Keith David)'s voice may be familiar, since he has narrated
    many PBS documentaries. Other than Ken Russell and Wilford
    Brimley, though, there are not a lot of familiar faces (which may
    be why it's hard to keep the characters straight).

    Rating: +3 (-4 to +4), or 9/10.



    TOPIC: Reviewing and Advance Reading Copies (letter of comment by
    Joe Karpierz)

    In response to Heath Row's comments in the 05/27/22 issue of the
    MT VOID on Joe Karpierz's reviews in various issues of the MT VOID,
    Joe writes:

    My thanks to Heath Row for his kind words about my reviews of THE

    With regard to me having an advance reader copy of THE
    EXTRACTIONIST, yes, I did have one. My fortune in being able to
    get ARCs from various publishers stems from two people. First is
    Evelyn, who encouraged me to review for the the MT VOID back in the
    1990s when I discovered that she, Mark, and I all worked for the
    same company (AT&T at the time, although it may have been Lucent
    Technologies by the time we made that discovery) by way of a
    comment in one of Roger Ebert's movie reviews in which he mentioned
    Mark. So yes, I've been reviewing here since sometime in the
    1990s. Second is Robert J. Sawyer, who, while he, I, Rick Wilber
    (I think), and Jacob Weisman, owner of Tachyon Publications, among
    other authors (man, that's a lot of commas--I probably used them
    wrong) were sitting at a bar at Chicon in 2012 when Sawyer turned
    to Weisman, pointed at me and said "Jacob, you should have him
    review books for you".

    The fact that I review for the MT VOID got me accepted at
    NetGalley, which Jacob suggested would be a good place for me to be
    so they wouldn't have to ship me physical ARCs as that is so
    expensive. Since then, things have changed a bit in that Tachyon
    does offer to send me widgets directly, but I go to NetGalley to
    get them so I can build up my review portfolio (for lack of a
    better term) so that I can get ARCs from other publishers.
    Tachyon knows that I only request books from them that I'm pretty
    sure I will like, which means they will get good reviews. Side
    note is that I'm auto-approved on NetGalley for ARCs by Tachyon.
    Another side note is that Tachyon has asked me to read and review
    NEOM, the new book from Lavie Tidhar, to be published in November.
    I have that ARC now, but the earliest I will get to it will be
    after I've finished my Hugo reading.

    I do get ARCs from other publishers. They are always small
    publishers, like Subterranean, Rebellion, and Gallery. My
    presumption is that my audience is too small for a large publisher
    to consider me for reviewing their books. I've never been able to
    get an ARC from Tor, for example. In fact, one of my next reviews
    will be of "The Dark Ride, The Best Short Fiction of John Kessel",
    out in July from Subterranean. So yes, another ARC. [-jak]


    TOPIC: Scientific Accuracy in Films (letter of comment by Peter

    In response to Jim Susky's comments on implausibilities in THE
    MARTIAN and the accuracy of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY in the 05/27/22
    issue of the MT VOID, Peter Trei writes:

    [Jim Susky writes,] "In 1968, Kubrick, Clarke, his NASA guru, his
    thousands of hours of reading, and others conspired to make his
    art film/sci-fi-epic technically unimpeachable."

    Not quite.

    It always bugged me that they didn't attempt to simulate lunar
    gravity. This is most obvious in the motions of the photographer
    moving around the conference room, and somewhat less so in the
    movements of the astronauts at the dig site. They missed a great
    chance too; when they pour coffee in the shuttle to the dig, the
    shot cuts just before the liquid appears. A slow motion shot of it
    pouring would have been great.

    Finally, that shuttle is shown flying over the lunar landscape
    about a hundred meters up. While low orbits are possible, that's
    ridiculously low, given mountains, etc. [-pt]


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

    Hansen, with the tag line "100 Years of the National Park Service"
    (Mountaineer Books, ISBN 978-1-59485-888-8) goes from a
    straightforward history of the National Parks and the Park Service,
    to stories of those impacted by the actions taken regarding the
    National Parks, to sidebars and anecdotes, and so on. If you can
    stand the literary whiplash, it is a fascinating story, though the
    earlier period is more interesting than recent times. (The book is
    from 2015, so doesn't cover the enormous rise in attendance over
    the past few years in the most popular parks.)

    It is also flawed by poor copy-editing. resulting in such sentences
    as, "Little Bighorn--where the Battle of the Greasy Grass, as it's
    known to American Indians--took place, is now also working to get
    it right." (Hint: the dash belongs after "took place", not
    before.) And the index, while well-populated with people and
    places, is woefully lacking in topical entries. Then again, I
    suspect this is intended as an entertaining book for park-goers,
    not an academic history.

    Last week I wrote of BEOWULF: "It is rife with the compound nouns
    (and adjectives) of the original poem: whale-road, house-dweller,
    wolf-slopes, guest-building, sea-booty, life-injury, water-sport,
    ... We still have many such nouns, but nowhere near as many, and
    certainly not in common usage."

    Then I ran across a review of THE WORDHORD: DAILY LIFE IN OLD
    ENGLISH by Hana Videen (Princeton University Press, ISBN
    978-0-691-23274-4). Reviewer Henry Hitchings writes, "Since the
    fall of 2013, she has taken to Twitter every day, as @OEWordhord,
    to post a single example of an Old English word." And he explains
    "kennings", which are those compound words I loved so much:

    "A kenning is a figurative phrase or compound noun that stands in
    for a familiar word: The mind is a 'hord-loca', and instead of
    referring to a ship one might speak of a 'flud-wudu' (flood-wood).
    ... Even when rendered in 21st-century English, many kennings
    remain wonderfully vivid. The body is a bone-locker, flesh-hoard
    or life-house; the sun is a heaven-candle; the sea can be the
    wave-path, sail-road or whale-way. A spider is a weaver-walker. A
    battle is a storm of swords. A visit to a grave is a dust-viewing."

    So apparently they are not the standard words for these items, but
    a poetic rendering of them, much as in Homer one finds standard
    poetic phrases, e.g., Athena was not called "gray-eyed" in everyday
    speech, but the phrase filled in the meter that Homer was using.
    Kennings are still really cool, though. [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of
    them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing
    had happened.
    -- Winston Churchill

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