• MT VOID, 07/14/23 -- Vol. 42, No. 2, Whole Number 2284

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Jul 16 07:26:15 2023
    07/14/23 -- Vol. 42, No. 2, Whole Number 2284

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    Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, eleeper@optonline.net
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    The "Quatermass" Series (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
    Hugo Award Finalists *Finally* Announced
    ROADSIDE PICNIC by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (book review
    by Joe Karpierz)
    by Sean Carroll (book review by Gregory Frederick)
    The History of the MT VOID (letters of comment
    by Glen Taylor and David Leeper)
    Proof-Reading (letter of comment by Hal Heydt)
    This Week's Reading (KRAKATOA, EXPECT ME TOMORROW)
    (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: The "Quatermass" Series (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

    Next Tuesday, July 18, 2023, marks the 70th anniversary of the
    first broadcast of the first episode of the first BBC "Quatermass"
    play, all of which were written by British screenwriter Nigel

    This was "The Quatermass Experiment", to be followed by "Quatermass
    II", and "Quatermass and the Pit". "The Quatermass Experiment" was unexpectedly a huge media event. It virtually emptied the streets
    of London as people were all home watching the play. "The
    Quatermass Experiment" was the United Kingdom's first science
    fiction serial, and Quatermass was the first British television
    hero. (Alas, only a single chapter remains, since no one at the
    time bothered to film or save live broadcasts.) As two more plays
    were made each was more successful than its predecessor was, until
    churches started rescheduling services so that congregations and
    clergy would not miss the plays.

    Each play was adapted into a film by Hammer Films of Britain, a
    studio that incidentally built their great success on horror and
    science fiction after having success in the field with the first
    two "Quatermass" films. The third film was not made until the late
    1960s. The titles of the films were the same as the BBC plays but
    "Experiment" was intentionally misspelled "Xperiment" to emphasize
    the "X"-certificate in Britain (more the equivalent of the US "R",
    rather than the US "X"). These films each got a modest release in
    the United States with the terrible respective names THE CREEPING
    1980 a final Quatermass story was made for television, called
    simply "Quatermass". It was never re-adapted into a film,
    but a feature film (THE QUATERMASS CONCLUSION) was made by editing
    down the television movie. In 2005 the BBC again produced a
    television version of "The Quatermass Experiment", doing it as a
    live play, the first in several years. The original "Quatermass"
    plays were the inspiration for the "Doctor Who" series. Kneale was
    asked to write for "Doctor Who", but he did not like the series,
    thinking it was too scary for a children's series. [-mrl]


    TOPIC: Hugo Award Finalists *Finally* Announced

    We are not going to include the entire list here (it is almost 200
    lines long--and that is the version with only the Roman alphabet representations). It can be found at <https://file770.com/2023-hugo-finalists-2/>.

    We will list the two "major" categories, and will actually include
    all the info for them, rather than just the titles and authors:

    Best Novel:

    - THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey)
    - THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY, by John Scalzi (Tor Books)
    - LEGENDS & LATTES, by Travis Baldree (Tor Books)
    - NONA THE NINTH, by Tamsyn Muir (Tordotcom)
    - NETTLE & BONE, by T. Kingfisher (Tor Books)
    - THE SPARE MAN, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books)

    Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

    - AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER, screenplay by James Cameron,
    Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver, directed by James Cameron
    (Lightstorm Entertainment / TSG Entertainment II)
    - BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER, screenplay by Ryan Coogler and
    Joe Robert Cole, directed by Ryan Coogler (Marvel Studios)
    - EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, screenplay by Daniel Kwan
    and Daniel Scheinert, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert
    (IAC Films / Gozie AGBO)
    - NOPE, written by Jordan Peele, directed by Jordan Peele
    (Universal Pictures / Monkeypaw Productions)
    - SEVERANCE (Season 1), written by Dan Erickson, Anna Ouyang Moench
    et al., directed by Ben Stiller and Aoife McArdle (Red Hour
    Productions / Fifth Season)
    - TURNING RED, screenplay by Julia Cho and Domee Shi, directed by
    Domee Shi (Walt Disney Studios / Pixar Animation Studios)

    Some of the delay was due to the difficulty of determining official
    word counts for the Chinese language nominees, and also in
    contacting the finalists (due to a bigger-than-usual problem with
    spam filters discarding email from China).

    If/when there is a website showing where some of the short fiction
    works can be accessed free on-line, we will provide that URL.
    However, it is not even clear whether all the works will be
    available in English. [-ecl]


    TOPIC: ROADSIDE PICNIC by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (original
    copyright 1972; language translation copyright 2012; translated by
    Olena Bormashenko; Chicago Review Press, Incorporated; 209pp;
    $15.95; ISBN 978-1-61374-341-6) (book review by Joe Karpierz)

    One of the interesting things about reviewing an old book, a book
    that is considered a classic, a book that is over fifty years old,
    is finding out if the book--in the opinion of the reviewer--is
    really as good as its reputation makes it out to be. Does it stand
    the test of time? If it was written today, would it not only be
    published, but would it be any good?

    Not long ago I read and reviewed William Gibson's NEUROMANCER.
    Basically, I said it didn't do too much for me and fell flat. I
    think that part of that feeling was that cyberpunk and all its
    descendants are so commonplace these days that the book didn't
    stand out for me at all. This is not the case with ROADSIDE
    PICNIC. The book is considered one of the greatest science fiction
    novels of all time (although I'm not sure who made that
    pronouncement), and while it may or may not live up to that lofty
    title, it is still a terrific book, more than fifty years after its
    first publication in Russia.

    The other issue with reviewing a book like this is that a great
    number of long time SF readers have probably read the book decades
    ago. So the challenge is reviewing it with those readers in mind,
    while still aiming to get younger, newer readers of sf interested
    in reading a book from more than fifty years ago.

    The story is set in an English-speaking town called Harmont, and
    takes place after an event called the Visitation in which
    extraterrestrials stopped by to visit the planet for a couple of
    days. Harmont is the location of one of six Zones where the aliens
    landed. The aliens were pretty good about hiding themselves; no
    aliens were ever seen, nor was their arrival or departure ever
    seen, and this fact is true of all six Zones. What they did leave
    behind was an abundance of strange objects and technology in the
    Zones. The Zones also exhibit weird phenomena, much of which is
    dangerous to humans.

    But where there are weird unknown objects, there is an opportunity
    for profit. Young people, known as stalkers, venture into the
    Zones (in spite of the dangers) to retrieve artifacts that are
    valuable on the black market. The novel follows Red Schuhart, one
    of these stalkers, who lives for entering the Zone and retrieving
    artifacts to sell. Of course, this fact in and of itself would
    make this a boring novel. Early in the novel, one of his trips
    inevitably goes wrong, and the events of the novel proceed from

    While the novel deals with science fictional concepts, it is a less
    of a straightforward novel with conflicts and clear cut endings,
    and more of a philosophical story about the effect the visitation
    has on the characters in the book and humanity in general. Take,
    for example, the title of the novel. Doctor Valentine Pilman
    compares the Visitation to a picnic held by humans in a meadow off
    a country road. After a day and evening, the people continue on
    the journey they were on the day before, but in the process leave
    lots of junk behind. The local wildlife comes out of hiding to
    find all the stuff that is there, stuff they know nothing about or
    do not understand. He states that the Visitation was simply a
    roadside picnic. The aliens were traveling from one place to
    another, and stopped to rest for a couple of days. When they
    resumed their journey, they left a bunch of incomprehensible stuff
    behind. Humanity is the wildlife, coming out of the shadows to
    discover all junk left behind.

    Another interesting thought is that the aliens didn't make their
    presence known. It's likely they didn't even know humanity was
    around. It's almost as if the human race was beneath their notice.
    Most alien encounters in SF imagine face to face contact, either
    in an adversarial way or in some pleasant fashion where we become
    friends with our visitors. Here? They didn't even notice us.
    Didn't care. How does that make us feel? There's nothing like
    feeling insignificant in the aftermath of the most important event
    in human history.

    The novel is compact, clocking in at just over 200 pages, including
    the Foreword by Ursula K. Le Guin and the Afterword by Boris
    Strugatsky. Both of those are well worth the read, and I highly
    recommend them. The Strugatsky brothers tell a heck of a tale in
    this short book, and you can see the influence of Russian society
    throughout the novel. ROADSIDE PICNIC is a terrific novel, 50+
    years after its original publication. Is it one of the best sf
    novels of all time? I'm not one of those people that would make
    that kind of pronouncements, but you know, it's really good.


    by Sean Carroll (book review by Gregory Frederick)

    The quest to understand the universe and our place within it has
    captivated human curiosity for centuries. In THE BIGGEST IDEAS IN
    THE UNIVERSE, renowned physicist Sean Carroll presents a compelling
    and accessible exploration of the most profound concepts that shape
    our understanding of the cosmos. From the fundamental laws of
    nature to the mysteries of mechanics and the nature of time itself,
    Carroll takes readers on an awe-inspiring intellectual journey.

    One of the greatest strengths of this book is Carroll's ability to
    distill complex scientific ideas into digestible nuggets of
    knowledge. He possesses a rare talent for making abstract concepts comprehensible without oversimplification. Each chapter serves as
    a window into a different facet of the universe, with Carroll
    guiding readers through the intricacies of space, time, space time,
    gravity, and black holes.

    Carroll's writing style is engaging and conversational. He strikes
    a balance between scientific rigor and accessibility, ensuring that
    both novice enthusiasts and seasoned scientists can appreciate his explanations. By weaving historical anecdotes and personal
    insights into his narrative, Carroll injects a sense of wonder and
    humanity into the profound questions he tackles. But this book
    does require the reader to know Algebra and even some knowledge of
    calculus to fully understand the text.

    THE BIGGEST IDEAS IN THE UNIVERSE covers a wide range of topics,
    providing readers with a comprehensive overview of the fundamental
    principles that underpin our current understanding of the cosmos.
    Carroll navigates the intricacies of these concepts with clarity
    and enthusiasm. He explores concepts like the Einstein-Rosen
    bridge which is a wormhole and spinning black holes. He talks
    about classical mechanics and how the macroscopic realm is also
    governed by special and general relativity, offering readers a
    glimpse into the cutting-edge of scientific research.

    Additionally, due to the fast-paced nature of the book, readers
    without prior exposure to physics might find themselves
    occasionally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information.

    Despite these minor shortcomings, THE BIGGEST IDEAS IN THE UNIVERSE
    remains a remarkable achievement in science communication.
    Carroll's passion for the subject matter shines through every page,
    igniting a sense of wonder and curiosity in the reader. The book
    serves as a testament to the power of scientific inquiry and the
    enduring human desire to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos.

    In conclusion, THE BIGGEST IDEAS IN THE UNIVERSE is a captivating
    and thought-provoking journey through the deepest realms of
    physics. Having previous experience with basic physics and math
    like Algebra is really needed to have a better understand of this
    book. But an aspiring physicist or simply an avid science
    enthusiast should enjoy this book. [-gf]


    TOPIC: The History of the MT VOID (letters of comment by Glen
    Taylor and David Leeper)

    In response to Mark and Evelyn's comments on the history of the MT
    VOID in the 07/07/23 issue of the MT VOID, Glen Taylor writes:

    Greetings from the distant past! I hope you are both (reasonably)
    well. It has been a very long time since we last spoke (probably
    on the order of 40 years), but I'm still enjoying reading what you
    have been up to via the MT Void. I particularly enjoyed the
    history of the publication. I can still recall seeing some of
    Mark's movie reviews printed out and posted on the door or wall in
    his office in Holmdel before you had even coalesced them into a
    fanzine. Of course, I would certainly still remember why it was
    "The Mt Holz Science Fiction Club." And, not really trying to take
    any undue credit, I think I may have been the person (one of the
    people) who helped rename it the MT VOID. I recall having an email
    exchange with you many years ago where I facetiously and as a joke
    suggested that "MT (empty) and Void" go together well so you should
    use MT Void.

    Again, great to read this history and be reminded to reach out to
    old friends from decades past! [-gat]

    And David Leeper writes:

    Good story on the origin of MT VOID!

    I recall, decades ago, when you published an advisory that said,
    "AT&T assumes no responsibility for anything that MT VOID says, and
    MT VOID assumes no responsibility for anything AT&T says. It's a
    very comfortable relationship." [-dgl]

    or something like that(?).

    Evelyn replies:

    Glen could be right about the name. I remember I was pushing for
    "Last Dangerous Visions". The only record I have is what was
    printed in the 07/03/87 issue:

    Eight years of being "The Holmdel Science Fiction Club," "The
    Lincroft Science Fiction Club," "The Holmdel-Lincroft Science
    Fiction Club," "The Lincroft-Holmdel Science Fiction Club,"
    "The Lincroft-Holmdel-Middletown Science Fiction Club," and
    numerous variations on these have led to some confusion with
    outside organizations we deal with. Internally, of course,
    we are still simply "the science fiction club at the Holmdel
    location," but in order to get referred to in a reasonable
    manner externally we are now using the pseudonym "the Mt. Holz
    Science Fiction Society." (We had considered the "Holzmt
    Science Fiction Society" and the "Lzmtho Science Fiction
    Society," but we thought a name that could be pronounced by
    humans would be a nice touch.)

    We have also finally named this publication. Since we are the
    only weekly science fiction newsletter that I know of,
    I thought we at least deserved a name. So welcome to THE MT
    VOID. Oh, and even though the volume number is only 6, we are
    really in our ninth year. We didn't start numbering the issues
    until 1982."

    And while I don't have on-line archives going back to the AT&T days
    (versus Lucent), the disclaimer sounds like something Mark would
    have said. [-ecl]


    TOPIC: Proof-Reading (letter of comment by Hal Heydt)

    In response to Jim Susky's comments on proof-reading in the
    07/07/23 issue of the MT VOID, Hal Heydt writes:

    When my late wife--Dorothy J. Heydt--wrote A POINT OF HONOR, one of
    the characters described a particular design debate among the
    programmers who wrote the VR system in the book as a "big
    endian vs. little endian" difference.

    When the proofs came back for checking, the copy editor had changed
    it to "big indian vs. little indian." Dorothy rather indignantly
    changed it back and added a marginal note, "See: J. Swift." When
    she mentioned this to me, I was able to point out that "big endian
    vs. little endian" is a real dispute among those who design
    computer hardware architectures. (She hadn't known that.) [-hh]


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

    I know people say that synchronicity is just a fancy name for
    coincidence, but seriously ...?

    Christopher Priest has a new novel out, EXPECT ME TOMORROW. I'm a
    big Christopher Priest fan, so I didn't read a description of the
    book: I saw my library had it and so I picked it up.

    I also had read a review of Simon Winchester's latest book, KNOWING
    WHAT WE KNOW. My library did not have it (yet), but I saw that we
    had his book KRAKATOA, which I hadn't read yet. So I decided to
    read that for now.

    In the early morning of June 2, I was reading the chapter of
    KRAKATOA that described the final explosion of Krakatoa, and how
    its effects were seen, heard, and felt around the world. There
    were spectacular sunsets in London, a shock wave that circled the
    earth seven times, and so on.

    After lunch on June 2, I picked up EXPECT ME TOMORROW, which had
    been following a grifter, a glaciologist, an opera singer, and so
    on. But the chapter I read on June 2 was the glaciologist
    describing, not glaciers, but a news article about a volcanic
    explosion in the Dutch East Indies, followed by spectacular
    sunsets. This intrigued him, so he did more research, and
    discovered the shock wave, the change in the London fog due to
    particulate matter from the explosion, and so on. In other words,
    exactly what I was reading about in Winchester's book only eight
    hours earlier. And just to remind you: the books were chosen
    totally independently, and started totally independently as well.


    Mark Leeper

    My fake plants died because I did not pretend to
    water them.
    --Mitch Hedberg

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