• MT VOID, 03/17/23 -- Vol. 41, No. 38, Whole Number 2267

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Mar 19 07:24:17 2023
    03/17/23 -- Vol. 41, No. 38, Whole Number 2267

    Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, mleeper@optonline.net
    Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, eleeper@optonline.net
    Sending Address: evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com
    All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the
    author unless otherwise noted.
    All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
    inclusion unless otherwise noted.

    To subscribe or unsubscribe, send mail to eleeper@optonline.net
    The latest issue is at <http://www.leepers.us/mtvoid/latest.htm>.
    An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at <http://leepers.us/mtvoid/back_issues.htm>.

    Synchronicity (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
    Mini Reviews, Part 16 (THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN,
    RAYMOND & RAY, VENGEANCE) (film reviews
    by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper)
    THE SPARE MAN by Mary Robinette Kowal (audio book review
    by Joe Karpierz)
    Nebula Award Finalists
    This Week's Reading (WHAT IS ART?, AN EXPERIMENT IN
    CRITICISM, ON MORAL FICTION) (book comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Synchronicity (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

    I have talked about synchronicity before (e.g., issue 02/23/2018),
    but what weird coincidence led me to read about Ivar the Boneless
    in a book I am reading and then also hear about him in a totally
    unrelated podcast within a 24-hour period? [-ecl]


    TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 16 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
    Evelyn C. Leeper)

    This is the sixteenth batch of mini-reviews, all character studies.
    As an extra St. Patrick's Day bonus, one is set in Ireland:

    fundamentally a story of how life on an isolated island can either
    dull your brain or drive you insane. (It is so dull that even the
    Irish Revolution going on at the time is perceived only at muted
    explosions heard across a wide expanse of water.) In the film,
    one of two close friends (played by Brendan Gleeson and Colin
    Farrell, who were also both in IN BRUGES, which was also written
    and directed by Martin McDonagh) suddenly decides that the other is
    too dull and no longer desirable as a friend. But the cast-off
    friend will not accept this. In some sense, each decides the other
    is on a different intellectual level. And a third character, a
    young boy (played by Barry Keoghan), seems to represent both
    aspects--not quite sane, and somewhat intellectually challenged.
    Their actions and reactions drive the plot, such as it is, but the
    film on the whole seems just a look at a very bleak lifestyle.

    Released theatrically 4 November 2022. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or

    Film Credits:

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

    RAYMOND & RAY: In RAYMOND & RAY, the title characters (played by
    Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke) are two very different half-brothers
    on a road trip to their father's funeral. For reasons never
    entirely explained the father has left instructions that not only
    should they attend the funeral, but that they must dig the grave
    and bury him themselves. (He has also left other odd instructions,
    also never explained other than by people saying he was strange.)
    The brothers use the time to vent their anger at each other and at
    their father, and of course family secrets are also discussed and
    revealed, as is predictable in this sort of film.

    Released on streaming 21 October 2022. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)
    or 6/10

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    VENGEANCE: VENGEANCE starts off with witty dialogue, and writer
    B. J. Novak maintains this level throughout. Novak is also the
    director (and star) and he and editors Andy Canny, Hilda Rasula,
    and Plummy Tucker use short choppy takes to disorient the viewer.
    The plot is familiar: a cosmopolitan goes to the country and finds
    the unexpected and not the stereotypes--well, okay, some of the
    stereotypes. In this case, an intellectual New York Jew goes to
    rural West Texas and meets Texan weirdos. (Just to give one other
    example, in LOCAL HERO, a Houston urbanite goes to rural Scotland
    and finds the unexpected and not the stereotypes--well, okay, some
    of the stereotypes.)

    Anyway, there's a great joke based on "Chekhov's gun", and our main
    character thinks himself superior, but doesn't know basic stuff; he
    doesn't know who won the Alamo, doesn't recognize the tune to "Deep
    in the Heart of Texas", and is constantly asking patronizing
    questions which get surprising deep answers. The whole movie is a
    murder mystery within this cultural experience.

    Released theatrically 29 July 2022. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:



    TOPIC: THE SPARE MAN by Mary Robinette Kowal (copyright 2022,
    Audible Studios, 11 hours and 24 minutes, ASIN: B0B8K159G7,
    narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal) (audio book review by Joe

    THE SPARE MAN is Mary Robinette Kowal's brilliant, witty, and fun
    followup to her recent Lady Astronaut books. Not that those books
    weren't terrific themselves; they certainly were. But THE SPARE
    MAN, inspired by the 1934 movie THE THIN MAN, goes off in a
    different direction entirely than those novels. I love it when an
    author shows their ability to branch off and do different things.
    And yes, I know she's written novels and short fiction, fantasy,
    romance, and science fiction. She's won the Hugo, Nebula, and
    Locus Awards. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer.
    *and* she's a professional puppeteer. Other than all that, she
    hasn't done much.

    THE SPARE MAN can be described as a locked room murder mystery
    science fiction romance with one of the most awesome dogs in
    science fiction history as well as a lawyer that I would love to
    have as MY lawyer if I had enough money to retain her services.
    The setting is the cruise space ship I.S.S. Lindgren, traveling
    between the moon and Mars. Artesia Zuraw and Mishal Husband (yes,
    it's an inside joke; you'll just have to read the book to
    understand it), along with their service dog, a Westie named
    Gimlet, are taking a honeymoon cruise to Mars. They are your
    stereotypical rich couple, used to living in luxury, with a
    penchant for drinking a variety of cocktails. We'll get to that.

    Everything goes sideways when a murder occurs outside their cabin,
    and Mishal goes chasing after who he thinks is the perpetrator of
    the crime after trying to help the victim. Thing is, the victim
    wasn't dead when Mishal checked on her, and he has her blood on his
    hands. This results in, you guessed it, Mishal getting accused of
    the murder. This leaves it up to Artesia to begin tracking down
    what actually happened and who the actual murderer is.

    As you might expect, things and people are not what they seem.
    Artesia and Mishal are actually Tesla Crane and Shal Steward.
    Tesla is a brilliant scientist and inventor, and Shal is a famous
    detective. They were traveling incognito in an effort to enjoy
    their honeymoon without being hounded by their fans--especially
    Tesla's--who are everywhere (none of this is a spoiler, as these
    facts are revealed early in the novel). And yes, Gimlet truly *is*
    a service dog, but that's because Tesla is suffering from PTSD due
    to a work accident that happened several years ago. Tesla suffered
    a debilitating injury in that accident, so not only has to deal
    with the PTSD but the physical effects of that industrial accident.
    Tesla's physical problems as well as the PTSD play a huge part in
    the story, and Kowal does an awesome job of not only weaving them
    into the story but showing what a person who is affected by these
    things has to go through just to make it through everyday life.

    I did say they were rich. In fact, they are very rich (Throughout
    the novel, Kowal shows us that Tesla is very aware of her wealth
    and privilege, and that she really has to rein in that privilege
    every time she wants to wield it like a sledgehammer. That's not
    to say that Tesla doesn't strategically wield it; she just doesn't
    wield it as often as she could.). They are so rich that they can
    have one of the Solar System's top lawyers, Fantine, on call for
    them. Tesla can not only afford to have Fantine as her lawyer, but
    can also afford to have several long interplanetary phone calla
    with her (complete with increasing time lags as the ship gets
    further and further from Earth) on the trip. Fantine is a joy to
    listen to. Her insults are such that I would like to be
    imaginative to come up with them on my own.

    I mentioned their habit of drinking a variety of cocktails. One of
    the perks of their wealth is that they could bring expensive liquor
    on board the ship with them in order to make a variety of exotic
    cocktails. This not only contributes to the plot of the story, but
    allows Kowal to provide recipes for cocktails at the beginning of
    every chapter. Some of them are real, and some are those she made
    up. Did I mention I love it when an author can do different things?

    So, yes, it's a locked room murder mystery science fiction romance
    in a big over-the-top cruise space ship (if you've ever been on a
    cruise ship, you know how over the top they can get; they're like
    little cities themselves) with cute dogs, musicians, yoga
    instructors, robotics experts, incompetent security staff, security
    staff that seems to be incompetent but isn't, and all the rest of
    the trappings of that kind of story. And to top it all off, it's
    fun. Agatha Christie just might be proud of this one. And it
    certainly wouldn't hurt my feelings if Kowal decided to write more
    Spare Man novels.

    As I may have mentioned earlier, Kowal is multitalented, and proves
    that by not only being a terrific writer but an awesome narrator.
    Now I suppose it helps that she's reading her own material here, so
    she knows in her head what's going on without having to dig in and
    research it. Still, her delivery is outstanding, and her ability to
    come up with a myriad of voices for all her characters that help
    the listener understand who and what that character is supposed to
    be contributes to the story in ways other narrators are unable to
    do. [-jak]


    TOPIC: Nebula Award Finalists

    Nebula Award for Novel:
    LEGENDS & LATTES, Travis Baldree (Cryptid; Tor)
    SPEAR, Nicola Griffith (Tordotcom)
    NETTLE AND BONE, T. Kingfisher (Tor; Titan UK)
    BABEL, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager US; Harper Voyager UK)
    NONA THE NINTH, Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom)
    THE MOUNTAIN IN THE SEA, Ray Nayler (MCD; Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

    Nebula Award for Novella:
    A PRAYER FOR THE CROWN-SHY, Becky Chambers (Tordotcom)
    "Bishop's Opening", R. S. A. Garcia (Clarkesworld 1/22)
    I NEVER LIKED YOU ANYWAY, Jordan Kurella (Vernacular)
    EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END, C. L. Polk (Tordotcom)
    HIGH TIMES IN THE LOW PARLIAMENT, Kelly Robson (Tordotcom)

    Nebula Award for Novelette:
    "If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God with the
    Informal You", John Chu (Uncanny 7-8/22)
    "Two Hands, Wrapped in Gold", S. B. Divya (Uncanny 5-6/22)
    "Murder by Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital
    Darkness", S. L. Huang (Clarkesworld 12/22)
    "A Dream of Electric Mothers", Wole Talabi (Africa Risen)
    "The Prince of Salt and the Ocean's Bargain", Natalia Theodoridou
    (Uncanny 9/22)
    "We Built This City", Marie Vibbert (Clarkesworld 6/22)

    Nebula Award for Short Story:
    "Destiny Delayed", Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (Asimov's 5-6/22)
    "Give Me English", Ai Jiang (F&SF 5-6/22)
    "Rabbit Test", Samantha Mills (Uncanny 11-12/22)
    "Douen", Suzan Palumbo (The Dark 3/22)
    "Dick Pig", Ian Muneshwar (Nightmare 1/22)
    "D.I.Y", John Wiswell (Tor.com 8/24/22)

    Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction:
    THE MIRRORWOOD, Deva Fagan

    Ray Bradbury Nebula Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation:
    ANDOR: "One Way Out", Beau Willimon, Tony Gilroy
    NOPE, Jordan Peele
    OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH, David Jenkins, Eliza Jimenez Cossio,
    Zadry Ferrer-Geddes, William Meny, Maddie Dai, Alyssa Lane,
    John Mahone, Simone Nathan, Natalie Torres, Zackery Alexzander
    Stephens, Alex J. Sherman, Jes Tom, Adam Stein, Yvonne Zima
    THE SANDMAN: Season 1, Neil Gaiman, Lauren Bello, Vanessa Benton,
    Mike Dringenberg, Sam Kieth, Catherine Smyth-McMullen, Heather
    Bellson, Jim Campolongo, Jay Franklin, Austin Guzman, Alexander
    Newman-Wise, Ameni Rozsa, David Goyer, Allan Heinberg
    SEVERANCE, Dan Erickson, Chris Black, Andrew Colville,
    Amanda Overton, Anna Ouyang Moench, Helen Leigh, Kari Drake,
    and Mark Friedman

    Nebula Award for Game Writing:
    Elden Ring, Hidetaka Miyazaki, George R.R. Martin
    Horizon Forbidden West, Ben McCaw, John Gonzalez, Annie Kitain,
    Ariadna Martinez, Nick van Someren Brand, Andrew Walsh,
    Adam Dolin, Anne Toole, Arjan Terpstra, Ben Schroder,
    Dee Warrick, Giles Armstrong
    Journeys through the Radiant Citadel, Ajit A. George, F. Wesley
    Schneider, Justice Ramin Arman, Dominique Dickey, Basheer
    Ghouse, Alastor Guzman, D. Fox Harrell, T.K. Johnson, Felice
    Tzehuei Kuan, Surena Marie, Mimi Mondal, Mario Ortegon,
    Miyuki Jane Pinckard, Pam Punzalan, Erin Roberts, Stephanie
    Yoon, Terry H. Romero
    Pentiment, Kate Dollarhyde, Zoe Franznick, Märten Rattasepp,
    Josh Sawyer
    Stray, Steven Lerner, Vivien Mermet-Guyenet, Colas Koola
    Vampire: The Masquerade--Sins of the Sires, Natalia Theodoridou


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

    I recently read a trilogy of sorts on what constitutes "good art":
    C. S. Lewis, and ON MORAL FICTION by John Gardner [the British

    In Chapters XI an XII of WHAT IS ART? by Tolstoy (translated by
    Aylmer Maude), I was stuck by how applicable they are to the
    current surge in AI-generated fiction. The summary of Chapter XI
    is "Counterfeits of art produced by: Borrowing; Imitation; being
    Striking; Interesting. Qualifications needful for the production of
    real works of art, and those sufficient for the production of
    counterfeits." The summary of Chapter XII is "Causes of production
    of counterfeits. Professionalism. Criticism. Schools of art.
    Perfection of form necessary to produce the infection which
    characterizes a true work of art."

    Basically, Tolstoy says that "counterfeit art" (what we would
    probably call just bad art) is created by observing what is popular
    and copying it, or by following what appear to be the rules of the
    art (e.g., poetry must rhyme).

    And isn't this what an AI is doing--is programmed to do--when it is
    creating "art"?

    Tolstoy says that good art must convey emotion, and would ask how
    an AI could feel any emotion to convey. Tolstoy insists that good
    art comes from a religious basis--by which he means the basis of
    his form of Christianity--and I doubt any AI is a pacifist
    anarchist Christian.

    There is however, a lot of truth in what he says about *how* people
    decide what is art first (the "I know it when I see it", or "what I
    point to when I say it" school) and then fashion the definition to
    be sure to include those and only those examples.

    Of course, he does the same, deciding that Dante, Shakespeare, and
    Wagner (among others) are not good art. What he cites as good art
    are plays, songs, etc., that we would probably classify as maudlin,
    and expect to see on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel. Even more
    problematic is his claim that these are good because everyone, even
    the laboring peasants, can appreciate them. This makes the
    definition of good art as dependent on the reader/viewer/listener
    as on the creator of the art. I suspect there is no art that all
    the working peasants in Russia would have appreciated, let alone
    all the peasants and everyone else as well.

    Lewis seems to take the opposite position from Tolstoy. Where
    Tolstoy insists that good art has to appeal to, and be understood
    by, everyone, Lewis is unabashedly "elitist" in saying there are
    people who do not read for any elevated reason, and who barely
    remember what they read. He definitely assumes class (in the
    British sense) has something to do with this, making disparaging
    remarks about butchers, for example. For Lewis, art is for the
    upper class, possibly with some incursion down the ladder, but
    certainly not "art should be understandable by the peasant in the
    field." [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    I am the kind of writer that people think other people
    are reading.
    --V. S. Naipaul

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)