• MT VOID, 12/24/21 -- Vol. 40, No. 26, Whole Number 2203

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Dec 26 07:12:11 2021
    Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
    12/24/21 -- Vol. 40, No. 26, Whole Number 2203

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    Our Christmas Issue? (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
    Hugo Awards/Lodestar Award/Astounding Award Winners
    by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper)
    SNOW WONDER (film review by Evelyn C. Leeper)
    THE GREEN KNIGHT (and Other Arthurian Films) (film comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)
    (letter of comment by John Purcell)
    This Week's Reading (A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS) (book comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Our Christmas Issue? (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

    This seems to be a Christmas issue, with reviews of Connie Willis's
    Christmas stories, her Christmas movie (SNOW WONDER), and several
    versions of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", which takes place
    during two Christmases. [-ecl]


    TOPIC: Hugo Awards/Lodestar Award/Astounding Award Winners

    Best Novel: NETWORK EFFECT, Martha Wells (Tor.com)
    Best Novella: "The Empress of Salt and Fortune", Nghi Vo (Tor.com)
    Best Novelette: "Two Truths and a Lie", Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com)
    Best Short Story: "Metal Like Blood in the Dark", T. Kingfisher
    (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)
    Best Series: "The Murderbot Diaries", Martha Wells (Tor.com)
    Best Related Work: BEOWULF: A NEW TRANSLATION, Maria Dahvana
    Headley (FSG)
    Best Graphic Story or Comic: Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel
    Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian
    Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Harry N. Abrams)
    Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: THE OLD GUARD
    Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: "The Good Place: Whenever
    You're Ready"
    Best Editor, Short Form: Ellen Datlow
    Best Editor, Long Form: Diana M. Pho
    Best Professional Artist: Rovina Cai
    Best Semiprozine: FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction
    Best Fanzine: nerds of a feather, flock together
    Best Fancast: The Coode Street Podcast
    Best Fan Writer: Elsa Sjunneson
    Best Fan Artist: Sara Felix
    Best Video Game: Hades

    Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (presented by the World
    Science Fiction Society): A WIZARD'S GUIDE TO DEFENSIVE BAKING,
    T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions)

    Astounding Award for Best New Writer (presented by Dell Magazines):
    Emily Tesh (2nd year of eligibility

    Chengdu (China) won the bid for Worldcon in 2023.


    TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 5 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
    Evelyn C. Leeper)

    Here is the fifth batch of mini-reviews, this time of films
    centered around music.

    FALLING FOR FIGARO: At the beginning of FALLING FOR FIGARO, at
    least one member of the audience has fallen asleep on a performance
    of an opera. Worse, it is the boyfriend of our main character,
    Millie Cantwell (played by Danielle Macdonald), who loves opera and
    dreams of becoming an opera singer. (It is unusual, and a bit
    refreshing, to see a lead actress in a film who is not thin.)
    Though the film takes place entirely in Britain, our main character
    (Millie) is an American. At one time the British would make sure
    the main character has appeal for Americans. I hope this is not a
    return to that requirement. Millie decides to go after her dream,
    quits her job as a London fund manager, and travels to Scotland to
    study under a tyrannical teacher (played by Joanna Lumley). Millie
    wants to compete in the "Singer of Renown" contest. (There
    actually was a "Singers of Renown" contest for many years, but it
    took place in Australia. Its use may be due to the writer/director
    Ben Lewin being Australian, and the film being an Australian film.)
    The film has a nice selection of operatic arias, with the ones
    "sung" by the two leads actually voiced by Stacey Alleaume and
    Nathan Lay.

    Released theatrically 10/01/21. Rating: low +1 or 5/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    THE NOWHERE INN: (**SPOILERS**) A bit of background here: Alice
    Clark is a real actress and musician, whose stage name is St.
    Vincent. Carrie Brownstein is a writer and actress. This film,
    co-written by them, is semi-autobiographical. I will refer to the
    internal documentary that is being made as "the documentary" and
    the film itself as THE NOWHERE INN.

    THE NOWHERE INN begins with a chaotic rock song, which is somewhat
    indicative of the film. In fact, all the songs in this concert
    mockumentary have nonsensical lyrics. The main character, singer
    Annie Clark/St. Vincent (played by Annie Clark) asks a friend
    (Carrie Brownstein, played by Carrie Brownstein) to write and
    direct a documentary about her for her fans. But while the stage
    persona of St. Vincent is dynamic and exciting, the reality of
    Annie Clark is boring. THE NOWHERE INN shows a parade of
    miscalculations, mistakes, and personal conflicts along the tour,
    like a low-key THIS IS SPINAL TAP. The problem, Brownstein says,
    is that Annie/St.Vincent is "nerdy and normal in real life." THE
    NOWHERE INN examines the difference between on- and off-stage
    personae; the documentary's director wants the off-screen world to
    be more interesting, but things go awry, and things get even more
    uncomfortable when two of the women go for salacious images. Annie
    keeps trying to control and then stage the documentary, complete
    with planned break-up with girlfriend, and a fake family and back
    story, and not just for herself. Annie doesn't want grit and dirt
    (and jail), she wants a different kind of film and imagines herself
    in a sophisticated party scene instead. Meanwhile, the director of
    the documentary is always reaching for an inappropriate tone or an inappropriate color. Annie and Carrie have profound differences in
    their interpretation of film and eventually it tears their
    relationship apart.

    There are certainly some striking images in THE NOWHERE INN. There
    are the inappropriate color choices mentioned above. In one scene,
    we see only the back of someone's head and straight black hair,
    even as she turns around, like a image from a Japanese horror
    movie. There are aspects of this reminiscent of SYNECDOCHE and of
    THE TRUMAN SHOW. As noted, this is semi-autobiographical; it is
    also somewhat self-referential. (For what it's worth, it also
    seems to fail a reverse Bechdel test--there do not seem to be any
    conversations between two named male characters.)

    Released theatrically 09/17/21; available on Apple TV+. Rating:
    low +1 (-4 to +4), or 5/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    CYCLE is a documentary about several reels of a 1969 film (THE
    VILLAGE DETECTIVE ["Derevenskiy detektiv"]) from the Soviet Union
    that were pulled up in 2016 in an Icelandic fishing trawler's net
    (so yet another film this year with underwater photography!). The
    film introduces itself with a song sung/recited by someone who
    looks to be a Russian peasant in militaristic uniform--the "village
    detective" of the movie. The movie starred Mikhail Ivanovich
    Zharov, and the documentary is apparently called a song cycle
    because many of the films shown have Zharov singing. The
    documentary is more a history of Soviet film and Zharov's career as
    a terrifically popular Soviet film star than about the ocean find,
    but it does begin with an explanation of how the film was preserved
    underwater for many decades. Unfortunately, there are too many
    extended shots of damaged film with no sound or explanation. For
    those interested in popular Soviet film, it is probably worth
    seeing, but it is not of general interest. (On the plus side, the
    subtitling is quite legible, avoiding the "white-on-white"

    Released theatrically and on Apple TV+ 09/22/21. Rating: 0 (-4 to
    +4), or 4/10.

    Film Credits:

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



    TOPIC: SNOW WONDER (film review by Evelyn C. Leeper)

    I *finally* got to see SNOW WONDER. When it was first scheduled in
    2005, we set up to record, but as had happened before, some sports
    game ran over, and the movie was either joined in progress or
    delayed and we did not record the whole thing. It was never re-
    run, and never showed up on home video, and only now did I think to
    check YouTube. (I suspect that is an illegal upload, but who
    knows? Willis actually mentions it on her blog page, so *she*
    doesn't mind.)

    The movie is based on the novella "Just Like the Ones We Used To
    Know", which first appeared in the December 2003 issue of ASIMOV'S
    SCIENCE FICTION. It has several stories: a wedding in Kentucky, a
    young writer in New York cooking for his first time ever, a
    divorced family in Los Angeles, a straying husband in Baltimore, an
    inept weatherman also in Baltimore, and a grieving widow in
    Virginia--all experience a freakish worldwide snowstorm in
    different ways. Most of this comes from the original novella, but
    there are some changes. Some of the stories take place in
    different locations (e.g., the widow goes to a Virginia plantation
    rather than to Santa Fe), and some have additional fleshing out
    (e.g., the young cook and his Aunt Lulla). I particularly liked
    the additions to the story of the husband in Baltimore. As with
    most of Willis's Christmas stories, this is fairly schmaltzy (as
    one review dubbed it). Indeed, her objection to IT'S A WONDERFUL
    LIFE is that it does not really have a happy ending: Potter gets to
    keep the money and keep abusing people, George remains a person who
    is constantly sacrificing for others, etc. She prefers MIRACLE ON
    34TH STREET. If you like Willis's Christmas stories, you'll
    probably want to see this. [-ecl]


    TOPIC: THE GREEN KNIGHT (and Other Arthurian Films) (film comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)

    I recently watched THE GREEN KNIGHT and that brought to mind
    comparisons with other Arthurian films, so here are comments on
    some of those, as well as on THE GREEN KNIGHT.

    The best-known Arthurian movie is probably CAMELOT (1967), but it
    also may be the worst, and not just on a historical basis. Yes,
    everything is too clean, and the make-up and hairdos are all wrong,
    and where on earth did Guenevere (this movie's spelling) get that ridiculous-looking carriage?, but go a *little* deeper and there is
    even more wrong.

    What an ego Arthur has, that he thinks *everyone* is thinking, "I
    wonder what the king is doing tonight?" In fact, he's pretty
    obnoxious throughout the film--but then, everyone is.

    Clearly this is Christian England, but it must be somewhere between
    when the Romans left and before the Normans arrived. On the other
    hand, chivalry seems to have been invented already. Pellinore
    makes a reference to Charlemagne, putting this at least in the 9th
    century. So we're pretty much between 800 and 1000.

    When her entourage stops to rest, Guenevere asks for tea. There
    was no tea in England then.

    "By 9PM the moonlight must appear." How exactly is this managed
    when the moon is new? Or for that matter, in general? This seems astronomically questionable.

    There is no way Guenevere's wedding train could be splayed so
    perfectly if she walked unattended.

    The English Channel is labeled as such on Arthur's map, but was not
    called that in England until the 18th century.

    "The knights will whack only for good. Might for right." But who
    is defining what is good or right? I mean, I suspect the knights
    thought that having the peasants grovel to them was good and right.
    (Later Pellinore reinforces this theory when he is having a
    Socratic dialogue with Arthur about trial by jury.)

    The Queen won the May Day footrace--what a surprise! Her requests
    to the knights before the joust also seem quite bloodthirsty.

    "I'll barbecue him." The word was first used in English in 1661.

    There is THE SWORD OF LANCELOT (1963) with Cornel Wilde, which may
    be more accurate, but the dialogue and the music are both a bit

    GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT (1973) was basically a children's film
    which had very little to do with the actual Gawain legend. Yes,
    the Green Knight shows up with his challenge, but the film
    concentrates on Gawain's adventures during the following year
    rather than his temptations by the lady of the castle at the end,
    although the green scarf and Gawain's flinching do make an
    appearance. And there is also SWORD OF THE VALIANT (1984) with
    Sean Connery, but that got even worse reviews than GAWAIN AND THE
    GREEN KNIGHT, so I watched only part of it.

    EXCALIBUR (1981) claims to take place during "the Dark Ages", but
    the armor, stirrups, and so on are basically those of the 15th

    Merlin makes Arthur a king upon whom the health of the land depends
    (the Fisher King), rather than any sort of Christian king. (There
    are echoes of this sort of king/leader in THE WICKER MAN.)

    EXCALIBUR certainly shows more of the dirt and blood of the time
    (either time) than CAMELOT.

    The scene where the callow youth (Perceval) wants to serve
    Lancelot, is rejected, catches and cooks dinner for Lancelot, and
    then is accepted seems inspired by a similar sequence in THE
    MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. The sword between Lancelot and Guinevere is
    taken from the legend of Tristan and Iseult.

    THE MISTS OF AVALON (2001) was based on Marion Zimmer Bradley's
    book of the same name. It is much more focused on the women of the
    story, and much more centered on "the religion of the Goddess" and
    its power. (The priestesses of the Goddess must have special
    powers: their cloaks always drag at least a foot on the ground, yet
    remain completely clean, with no trace or dirt or mud.) It's not
    very accurate to Malory et al, yet it is not wildly divergent
    either, and certainly better than a lot of more traditional
    Arthurian films.

    musical comedy that has both Sir Thomas Malory and Mark Twain
    spinning in their graves.

    The movie doesn't even have Hank Martin get hit on the head in
    Britain; he goes unconscious in Connecticut in 1912 and wakes up in
    England in 528--a very clean England, by the way. The filmmakers
    seem to have decided that Pendragon Castle is in Cornwall, although
    the name "Pendragon" is Welsh. For reasons unknown, everyone calls
    Hank "Monster".

    The date being 528, there are anachronisms galore: stirrups,
    battlements on castles, full armor, a telescope, and slave markets.
    The language is a totally mangled version of Early Modern English.

    In reality, London was basically abandoned in 528, and there is no
    way the characters could have walked from any reasonable location
    for Pendragon Castle to London in the time shown.
    And finally we have the latest film, THE GREEN KNIGHT (2021).

    [My first comment is that it was a mistake to try to watch this
    right after I got home from a cataract operation. Between one eye
    being partially covered by the tape holding the shield on, the
    distortion caused by the shield itself, the pain in the eye which
    made me want to keep it closed, and the falling asleep that
    happened when I closed my eye, my first viewing was less than
    ideal. So I watched it again the next day under more normal

    There are quite a few changes in this version from the canonical
    poem. In this version, for example, that the "game" involves a
    beheading is not explicitly known before Gawain accepts the
    challenge, so Gawain has no reason to think there will be any sort
    of real reckoning in a year. It becomes, therefore, a different
    sort of test--he had the option to show mercy and *not* behead the
    Green Knight. The Gawain of this film also tries to avoid seeking
    out the Green Knight, and there seem to be multiple green sashes.
    The ending, much discussed, is also different from the poem's (and
    I won't reveal it here). The film was worth watching, and better
    as a film than either of the two earlier versions I watched.

    (Apparently Dev Patel is considered quintessentially English,
    having now played both David Copperfield and Sir Gawain. Still,
    when I picture him, it is in his roles as Sonny in THE BEST EXOTIC


    TOPIC: Mini-Reviews, CRYPTOZOO, and DESIGNER GENES (letter of
    comment by John Purcell)

    In response to various comments in the 12/17/21 issue of the MT
    VOID, John Purcell writes:

    Well, it has been very, very long since I last wrote a letter of
    comment to you two, but now that the semester is over I can start
    in the next issue of ASKANCE (gonna try to get it done before the
    year runs out) and write some letters of comment, and finish an
    article for Justin Busch's fanzine. Wish me luck, but truly feels
    wonderful to not be grading essays and such from dawn to dusk for a

    The mini-film reviews are a nice touch, and of these three the one
    that I'm interested in watching is CRYPTOZOO. The premise sounds
    like fun, and thanks to my eight-year-old grandson, the Japanese
    anime shows he enjoys watching end up catching my eyes whenever he
    and his little sister are in our care. There is always something
    on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime that he likes, so once in a while
    we succumb to his pleading and put one on our large-screen
    television. The artwork style is what interests me, not so much
    the storylines and dialogue, so I suspect he will want to watch
    this at some point, that is, if it is offered on a streaming
    service we get. We shall see.

    Hmm. I am not much for e-books, but I do understand their
    attraction both in terms of saving shelf-space and costs. Brian
    Stableford is an author who I have not read very much of, and
    interesting. In fact, the only book of his I have in severely
    trimmed down collection is THE EMPIRE OF FEAR (1991), and even that
    book sits unread on the shelf. *sigh* Some year.

    Well, I think I shall do a little fanzine work and maybe enjoy some
    light reading for a change. It will be a challenge to not grade
    it, though. [-jp]


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

    After I watched SNOW WONDER, I wanted to re-read the original story
    to compare it. The story, "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know", is
    in a collection of Willis's Christmas stories, but other than that
    has not been anthologized more than once or twice.

    The collection, A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS by Connie Willis (Del Rey,
    ISBN 978-0-399-18234-1) is an expanded edition of MIRACLE AND OTHER
    CHRISTMAS STORIES and contains a dozen stories. (It also drops
    "The Pony", which is annoying for completists.)

    "Miracles" (1991) is dated, not just by its mentions of videotapes

    and such, but by a corporation that is so intensely Christmas-
    focused (Christmas parties, Secret Santas, Christmas gifts etc.).
    Maybe I've been influenced by being in a fairly diverse corporate
    environment, but these days I suspect the "Christmas" element is
    scaled back and the "holiday aspect promoted. And employees are
    probably more likely to get bonuses than useless presents from the

    "All About Emily" (2011) is just completely unlikely. I like all
    the classic film references and the basic premise/conflict. I just
    think the resolution is completely unrealistic, and as evidence I
    will point out that you don't see American farm workers picketing
    and signing petitions to allow illegal immigrants to take jobs
    here--and the illegal immigrants are actually human. The idea that
    we would see such support for non-humans strikes me as being
    impossibly Pollyana-ish. In other words, this is your typical
    Connie Willis Christmas story.

    "Inn" (1993) is one of the more overtly religious of Willis's
    Christmas stories. There is some humor, but it is not at the level
    of, say, "Now Showing". It is also only the second of her
    Christmas stories, so that might be the reason.

    "All Seated on the Ground" (2007) is a typical sentimental
    Christmas story from Willis. This one appeals to me even less than
    some of her earlier ones--the notion that a single line from a
    Christmas carol is the key to inter-species communication leaves me
    cold. (Surely one can find similar lines in popular songs--why not

    "In Coppelius's Toyshop" (1996) reminds me of Thomas M. Disch's
    "Descending" and is more a Christmas horror story than the more
    cheerful Willis offerings.

    "Adaptation" (1994) is a fantasy updating of Charles Dickens's "A

    "deck.halls@boughs/holly" (2001) drives me crazy with the totally
    scrambled syntax of the title. The plot revolves around people
    hiring decorators/planners for Christmas events, but implies this
    is a product of the Internet age. The Internet may have nurtured
    it, but it was around long before then.

    "Cat's Paw" (1999) seems patterned after Agatha Christie's
    ADVENTURE OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING in set-up and setting, and is a
    bit predictable and barely a Christmas story.

    "Now Showing" (2014) has an interesting premise (regarding the
    current trend in movies and movie theaters), but goes on way too

    "Newsletter" (1997), not surprisingly is about Christmas
    newsletters. (My observation: One can argue that they are too
    impersonal, but in fact, now that they are generated on your
    computer, the ability to produce subtle variations for various
    people can make them *more* personal. You can add a line about
    teaching flower arranging to your aunt who loves flowers, and take
    out the line about Jimmy's football success from the one to your
    cousin, who just broke his leg playing hockey.)
    "Epiphany" (1999) is another updating, this time of the story of
    the Three Magi.

    "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know" (2003) is the basis of the
    film SNOW WONDER, which I reviewed above.

    For a full list of Willis's Christmas stories, see her blog page on
    them at <http://azsf.net/cwblog/?page_id=223>. [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words
    left unsaid and deeds left undone.
    --Harriet Beecher Stowe

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  • From Gary McGath@21:1/5 to eleeper@optonline.net on Sun Dec 26 10:56:32 2021
    On 12/26/21 10:12 AM, eleeper@optonline.net wrote:
    FALLING FOR FIGARO: At the beginning of FALLING FOR FIGARO, at
    least one member of the audience has fallen asleep on a performance
    of an opera.

    There's a filksong about someone who always falls asleep watching
    Wagner's Goetterdaemmerung. Understandable, since it's one of the
    longest operas in the regular repertoire.

    The film has a nice selection of operatic arias, with the ones
    "sung" by the two leads actually voiced by Stacey Alleaume and
    Nathan Lay.

    Marnie Nixon's ghost is glad they got credited.

    Gary McGath http://www.mcgath.com

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  • From Dorothy J Heydt@21:1/5 to garym@REMOVEmcgathREMOVE.com on Sun Dec 26 18:23:49 2021
    In article <sqa3bh$dkh$1@dont-email.me>,
    Gary McGath <garym@REMOVEmcgathREMOVE.com> wrote:
    On 12/26/21 10:12 AM, eleeper@optonline.net wrote:
    FALLING FOR FIGARO: At the beginning of FALLING FOR FIGARO, at
    least one member of the audience has fallen asleep on a performance
    of an opera.

    There's a filksong about someone who always falls asleep watching
    Wagner's Goetterdaemmerung. Understandable, since it's one of the
    longest operas in the regular repertoire.


    I'm blanking on the name of the famous 20th-century conductor who
    habitually conducted without a score, having memorized the whole

    One day he was preparing to conduct _Goetterdaemmerung_ (where
    "preparing" consisted of things like finding his cufflinks and
    checking to make sure the soloists had all shown up), and a
    friend of his suggested that he have the score on hand "to keep
    track of all the tempo changes."

    "My dear Ermintrude," he answered, "there ARE no tempo changes in _Goetterdaemmerung._ It plods along from 7 p.m. to quarter past
    midnight like a damned old cart-horse."

    Dorothy J. Heydt
    Vallejo, California
    djheydt at gmail dot com

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  • From Paul Dormer@21:1/5 to All on Mon Dec 27 11:19:00 2021
    In article <r4qJ3p.qv6@kithrup.com>, djheydt@kithrup.com (Dorothy J Heydt) wrote:

    "My dear Ermintrude," he answered, "there ARE no tempo changes in _Goetterdaemmerung._ It plods along from 7 p.m. to quarter past
    midnight like a damned old cart-horse."

    Which reminds me of the comment by an American music critic: "Parsifal is
    one of those operas that start at 6 p.m. Four hours later, you look at
    your watch and it's a quarter after 6." (I now like Parsifal, but it
    took me a long time to get into it.)

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