• MT VOID, 08/04/23 -- Vol. 42, No. 5, Whole Number 2287

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Aug 6 07:59:20 2023
    08/04/23 -- Vol. 42, No. 5, Whole Number 2287

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    Readercon Report by Washington Post Columnist Michael Dirda
    Old Bridge Public Library Science Fiction Discussion Group
    OPPENHEIMER (film review by Mark R. Leeper
    and Evelyn C. Leeper)
    BLACK NARCISSUS (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek)
    TIME, and Richard III) (book comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Readercon Report by Washington Post Columnist Michael Dirda

    Michael Dirda published his Readercon Report in the 07/20/23 issue
    of the Washington Post (for which he is a reviewer):


    Dirda is a mainstream reviewer who is also an unabashed science
    fiction fan.


    TOPIC: Old Bridge Public Library Science Fiction Discussion Group

    After twenty years of meeting, the Old Bridge Public Library
    science fiction discussion group is disbanding. Given that the
    last few meetings have been only three or four people, that sounds
    a bit more dramatic than it really is. Our final book was THIS IS
    HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Saga
    Press, ISBN 978-1-534-43100-3) and all three of us disliked it, so
    we have referred to this as THIS IS HOW YOU KILL THE DISCUSSION
    GROUP. The book swept all the major awards for novellas, so we are
    clearly in some sort of minority here.

    But it was not really the book that killed the group, but the
    gradual drifting away of members. We tried both Zooming and
    in-person meetings. but though we had weathered the pandemic, the
    return to other opportunities for socializing et al made it harder
    to get people to attend.

    The other factor is that everyone who was attending the Old Bridge
    group in the last couple of years is also in the Middletown Public
    Library science fiction discussion group, so it isn't as if we are
    giving up on science fiction discussion groups altogether.

    If you want to be added to the mailing list for the Middletown
    group, contact Charles Harris <xchar2@gmail.com>.

    A complete list of books discussed can be found at <http://leepers.us/obpl_sf.htm>.



    TOPIC: OPPENHEIMER (film review by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C.

    OPPENHEIMER tells the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer. There is a
    lot of substance to the film, but there is a lot of style as well
    (it is after all a Christopher Nolan film), and the style sometimes
    gets in the way of the substance.

    Nolan jumps among three time periods: the 1930s to 1945, 1954, and
    1959. (It could be worse; at least they all run forwards in time,
    as opposed to the two timelines in TENET.) The last two time
    periods are in black and white, reversing the usual practice of
    having older periods in black and white. But Nolan wants the
    "center" of the film to be Oppenheimer's career up to Hiroshima and
    Nagasaki, with his security revocation in 1954, and Lewis Strauss's (non-)confirmation hearing in 1959, more as news reporting of
    after-effects than narrative (although they are not actual news
    footage, but just more narrative film). This is often
    disorienting, and Evelyn said that it took a while for her to
    realize that the back-and-white sequences actually represented two
    totally different hearings five years apart.

    There are a lot of characters, and it is difficult to keep some of
    them straight. And often the people you expect to see don't show
    up at all, or are merely in the background. The one woman
    scientist we see is Lilli Hornig, not Lise Meitner. Richard
    Feynman seemed to be a faceless background character in two scenes, identifiable only by his bongo drums, although his position in the
    credits indicates he may have appeared in other scenes and we just
    didn't notice him.

    One question some reviewers ask is why the film was shot in IMAX.
    It consists primarily of people talking in rooms. The only
    "expansive" scenes would be the exteriors in New Mexico (a rather
    small proportion of the film), and the football field and the space
    below it in Chicago. the New Mexico scenery would look much better
    in IMAX, but to use it for the entire film seems overkill.


    Released theatrically 21 July 2023. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4), or

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:


    TOPIC: BLACK NARCISSUS (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek)

    In response to Mark and Evelyn's comments on BLACK NARCISSUS in the
    07/28/23 issue of the MT VOID, Andre Kuzniarek writes:

    Regarding BLACK NARCISSUS, this amazing (spoiler-laden)
    four-and-a-half-minute sequence says it all as to why it’s so
    compelling and why it can be categorized as horror/fantasy adjacent:




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

    The "Classical Stuff You Should Know" podcast has been doing an
    on-going series about the Plantagenets and is finally getting to
    Richard III (referred to from here on out as just Richard, since
    there is no other Richard in sight here). They have been quoting a
    lot from Winston Churchill, presumably from A HISTORY OF THE
    Academic, ISBN 978-1-472-58524-0), so I decided I should get the
    jump on them for Richard III, since I count myself as a Ricardian,
    which is to say, I believe that Richard did not kill the two
    Princes, and that Henry VII did. (And also that most of the other
    negative claims about Richard are also false.)

    I will admit to being influenced by Josephine Tey's THE DAUGHTER OF
    TIME (Scribner, ISBN 978-0-684-80386-9, although I highly recommend
    the audiobook read by Derek Jacobi, BBC Audiobooks America, ISBN 978-1572702448), but I realize that is a work of fiction.
    Therefore what I base my conclusions on are facts that I can verify
    in real sources, and logical conclusions from them, rather than
    citations from (possibly) fictitious sources (e.g., Oliphant).

    Starting with the obvious, Churchill seems determined to take Sir
    Thomas More's biography as reliable. First he explains why More
    should be considered unreliable: "Sir Thomas More late in the next
    reign wrote his celebrated history. His book was based of course
    on information given him under the new and strongly established
    regime. His object seems to have been less to compose a factual
    narrative than a moralistic drama. In it, Richard is evil
    incarnate, and Henry Tudor, the deliverer of the kingdom, all
    sweetness and light. The opposite view would have been treason.
    Not only is every possible crime attributed by More to Richard, and
    some impossible movies, but he is presented as a physical monster,
    crookbacked and withered of arm. No one in his lifetime seems to
    have remarked on these deformities, but they are now very familiar
    to us through Shakespeare's play [based on Holinshed's Chronicles,
    which were written under the Tudors as well]. Needless to say, as
    soon as the Tudor dynasty was laid to rest defenders of Richard
    fell to work, and they have been increasingly busy ever since."

    (Just a reminder: Thomas More was eight years old when Richard was
    Killed Bosworth, so hardly a reliable witness to the goings-on of
    Richard's reign.)

    After King Henry VI was replaced by Edward IV, Henry VI said (as
    quoted by Churchill), "Since my cradle, for forty years, I have
    been King. My father was King; his father was King. You have all
    sworn fealty to me on many occasions, as your father swore it to my
    father." Then Churchill goes on to say, "But the other side
    declared that oaths not based on truth were void, that wrong must
    be righted, that successful usurpation gained no sanctity by time,
    that the foundation of the monarchy could only rest upon law and
    justice, that to recognize a dynasty of interlopers was to invite
    rebellion wherever occasion served, ..." Churchill conveniently
    ignores what this means in terms of Henry VII, who was arguably a
    usurper and interloper (and who specifically claimed the kingship
    by right of conquest), or for that matter King William I (a.k.a.
    William the Conqueror).

    Churchill acknowledges the possibility of an earlier marriage of
    Edward IV, saying, "[Clarence] may have discovered the secret of
    Edward's alleged pre-contract of marriage with Eleanor Butler which
    Richard of Gloucester was later to use in justifying his
    usurpation. Certainly if Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville
    were to be proved invalid for this reason Clarence was the next
    legitimate heir, and a source of danger to the King [Edward IV]."

    But then he announces, "More's tale however has priority." And
    why? Apparently because it describes a very dramatic scene at the
    Council in the Tower. Whether there is any evidence that this
    scene took place, or is one of the "impossible crimes" of Richard,
    Churchill does not say. But the fact that it is dramatic does not
    make it real.

    Churchill also quotes Fabyan's Chronicle about how the English
    people came to hate Richard because of his crimes, and though he
    adds, "It is contended by the defenders of King Richard that the
    Tudor version of these events has prevailed," he still seems to
    take Fabyan as accurate--even though Fabyan's Cronicle was
    published (posthumously) in 1516, thirty years into the Tudor

    Later, he says of Richard's tour of England, "Yet he could not
    escape the sense that behind the displays of gratitude and loyalty
    which naturally surrounded him there lay an unspoken challenge to
    his Kingship." Apparently, Churchill can not only read minds, but
    can read minds 450 years dead. This is fabrication, pure and

    Churchill says, "[We] are invited by some to believe that [the
    Princes] languished in captivity, unnoticed and unrecorded, for
    another two years [after what Churchill says was their last
    appearance, in July 1483), only to be done to death by Henry
    Tudor." But apparently he believes that Richard would have the
    Princes killed in secret and pretend they are still alive--and
    expect to keep up this pretense for years, if not decades. As many
    have pointed out, if he had them smothered, the smartest thing to
    do would be to announce they had died of a sudden fever and display
    their bodies, thereby removing them as a rallying point.

    Richard is quoted to have asked, "Whom should a man trust when
    those who I thought would most surely serve at my command will do
    nothing for me?" This is too similar to "Will no one rid me of
    this turbulent priest?" (Henry II speaking of Thomas Becket) to be
    taken as accurate without some real evidence.

    Of the supposed actual murderer, Sir James Tyrell, Churchill
    writes, "But it was not until Henry VII's reign, when Tyrell was
    lying in the Tower under sentence for quite a separate crime, that
    he is alleged to have made a confession upon which, with much other circumstantial evidence, the story as we know it rests." Why he
    would have confessed these murders is not clear (unless Churchill
    is referring to a confession to a priest). But note that it is
    merely alleged that he made such a confession, and all the other
    evidence is circumstantial.

    In 1674, two skeletons were found under some rubble in the Tower,
    They were the apparent ages of the Princes, and the royal surgeon
    and others "reported that they were undoubtedly the remains of
    Edward V and the Duke of York." Charles II had them buried in
    Westminister with an inscription blaming Richard. Churchill
    dismisses attempts to clear Richard and to blame Henry VII by
    saying, "However, in our own time (1933), an exhumation has
    confirmed the view of the disinterested authorities of King
    Charles's reign."

    Even if the exhumation proved the skeletons were those of the
    Princes (and there have been many criticisms of it, including that
    no tests were done to determine even the gender of the children, or
    the number, since what was found was not two intact skeletons, but disarticulated bones in a wooden chest), it is certainly true that
    in 1674, there was no way to determine whether they were murdered
    in 1483 or 1485.

    Churchill does have a sense of humor, at one point saying,
    "Money--above all ready money. There was the hobble which cramped
    the medieval kings; and even now it counts somewhat." [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    The best effect of any book is that it excites
    the reader to self-activity.
    --Thomas Carlyle

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