Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

01/15/21 -- Vol. 39, No. 29, Whole Number 2154

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FEELS GOOD MAN) (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper)

THE LODGE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

INTERLIBRARY LOAN by Gene Wolfe (book review by Joe Karpierz

Biopics and RADIOACTIVE (letters of comment by Gary McGath,

Peter Trei, Scott Dorsey, and John Halpenny)

Biopics and RADIOACTIVE (letters of comment by Gary McGath,

Peter Trei, Scott Dorsey, and John Halpenny)

Weather in Texas, Incorrect Dates, RADIOACTIVE and

THE AERONAUTS, and Solar Pons (letter of comment

by John Purcell)

This Week's Reading (W. Somerset Maugham's COLLECTED STORIES

(VOLUME 2)) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 4 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper)

Here is the fourth batch of mini-reviews, three documentaries

connected with politics.  Apparently, while the production of

narrative films slowed down this year, that of documentaries was

not as affected, and no one is delaying the release of their latest

blockbuster documentary because of the pandemic.  In fact, the

pandemic, and the election year, probably resulted in even more

documentaries than usual.

TOTALLY UNDER CONTROL:  This documentary takes a comprehensive and

convincing look at COVID-19 from its scientific underpinnings to

its political ramifications.  Controversies are covered in detail,

and there is a strong political dimension in the narrative.  I will

not say whether I agree or disagree (but somebody sure said

something right).  It did not waste time but came to the point and

explained it.  Released 10/13/20; available on Hulu.  Rating: low

+3 (-4 to +4)

SLAY THE DRAGON: This is a documentary about the fight against

gerrymandering.  There are a few too many sequences of young

politicians running around and screaming.  On the whole, this is a

relatively familiar format (talking heads), though it does have to

convey a complicated mathematical situation.  Released 04/03/20;

available on Amazon Prime and on DVD from Netflix.  Rating: +2 (-4

to +4)

FEELS GOOD MAN: Essentially this is the story about three full-

grown men who, needing excitement in life, built themselves a sort

of tree house for adults.  Matt Furie created Pepe the Frog as a

children's character, but a right-wing movement chose it to

represent them.  Furie had initially been sanguine about other

artists using Pepe without permission, but this appropriation was

too much.  Released 10/19/20; available on Amazon Prime.  Rating:

low +1 (-4 to +4)



TOPIC: THE LODGE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

THE LODGE is a production from Hammer Films.  Hammer was a British

company that specialized in horror and science fiction from the mid

1950s to the late 1970s.  In 2008 Hammer came back or (as many

claim) a modern production company acquired the right to use the

Hammer name.  The new Hammer has even taken images from the

original Hammer's films as part of their logo.  Their first film

was the obscure BEYOND THE RAVE, but their second was the much

better known English-language version of John Ajvide Lindqvist's

novel LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.  That novel had been adapted in 2008 by

Tomas Alfredson into a Swedish language film with the same title as

the novel.  This re-use of other material makes sense since Hammer

won their stripes making English cinema versions of television

shows and American horror franchises.

Frankly I do not care if they really are or are not the original

Hammer. They are making movies in the best tradition of Hammer

Films. They are not in the same style, but they are solid genre

films made intelligently to make the most of a smallish budget.

That is the best tradition of the original Hammer.  Even if they

only bought the name, they are doing well by it.

THE LODGE is their eighth film.  A frozen environment is the

setting, leaving the viewer with a chilled feeling.  Two children,

their stepmom-to-be, and a dog are trapped in an isolated New

England cabin in the woods during a blizzard.  (The father has

taken the car to go back to the city.)  Compared with old Hammer

horror films, there is more atmosphere, but the same or less

character development.  The pacing is slow, perhaps to add to the

feeling of isolation.   Soon strange things start happening.  While

not quite up to Hammer's LET ME IN or THE WOMAN IN BLACK, it has

its moments.

Released 02/07/20; available on Amazon Prime.  Rating: high +1

(-4 to +4)

The new Hammer Films productions are:

    BEYOND THE RAVE (2008)

    LET ME IN (2010)

    THE RESIDENT (2011)

    WAKE WOOD (2011)


    THE QUIET ONES (2014)


    THE LODGE (2019)

Film credits: **

What others are saying:




TOPIC: INTERLIBRARY LOAN by Gene Wolfe (copyright 2020, Tor, $25.99

harcover, 238pp, ISBN 978-1-250-24236-5) (book review by Joe


INTERLIBRARY LOAN is the sequel to 2015's A BORROWED MAN, and is

the final novel of Gene's Wolfe's outstanding and celebrated

career.  The novel continues the story of a reclone of a mystery

novelist named Ern A. Smithe.  You may remember that a reclone is a

being that has been cloned from the original, and in fact there can

be and often are many copies of the reclone.  Reclones reside in

libraries, and can be checked out just like any other book, and

must be returned like any other book.  And just like any other

book, the more a reclone is checked out, the longer it stays in the

library.  If a reclone isn't checked out often enough, it is

removed from the library by being sent to the Fire.

The new story has Ern A. Smithe getting sent to a libary in small

town Polly's Cove on an interlibrary loan along with a cookbook

writer--Millie--and a romance writer--Rose.  Ern is checked out of

the library by a girl name Chandra on behalf of her mother, Adah

Fevre.  There are a couple of mysteries for Ern to get involved

with here.  The first is that Adah's husband Barry, an anatomy

professor, has been missing for several years.  The second is a

book that contains a map which appears to mystical powers. Adah

hopes that Ern can help her with these mysteries, as the last copy

of Ern that she check out from the library was unable to help her

with the problem.

And that's just the beginning.

After poking around at the university where Barry taught, Ern

charters a boat to head to Corpse Island, where Barry supposedly

gets cadavers to aid in teaching his anatomy class.  Along with

Ern, Auda, and Chandra comes another reclone named Audrey who is

known for her seafaring exploration books and exploits.  The group

encounters a surprise during their journey (it would be spoilers, I

suppose, to say what the surprise is, but I suspect that it's not

hard to figure out) to the island, where they discover that the

residents have been burying their dead in ice caves for hundreds of

years.  Other things that the reader encounters include a magical

box that seems to shift realities, a portal to another world that

reminds the reader of the portal from A BORROWED MAN, the discovery

of the death of the aforementioned prior version of Ern A. Smithe,

a western writer reclone, and a hidden treasure, among other


The problem is that the story doesn't seem to fit together very

well, if at all.  While it turns into something else entirely--even

though I'm not sure what that something else is--after starting out

as a straightforward mystery, it's hard to discern where Wolfe was

going with all this.  The book also ended on something of a

cliffhanger, which leads me to believe that Wolfe intended to write

a third book in the series.

INTERLIBRARY LOAN was turned into the publisher not long before

Wolfe's death.  If that is indeed the case, then there was no time

for editing to be done, for plot threads to be tightened up, and

for the story to be made more coherent.  It is a book that feels

rushed, and probably was.  If so, one could argue that it shouldn't

have been published at all.  Then again, as I stated in my review

of A BORROWED MAN, I found reading the classic Gene Wolfe stories

difficult, potentially because I wasn't mature enough as a reader

back then.  I think I'm a better reader now than I was then, and

while I could be wrong about this book, I don't feel I am.  There

is a Twitter account that says, and I may be paraphrasing here,

"You don't read Gene Wolfe, you reread Gene Wolfe".  I will not be

rereading INTERLIBRARY LOAN.  [-jak]


TOPIC: Biopics and RADIOACTIVE (letters of comment by Gary McGath,

Peter Trei, Scott Dorsey, and John Halpenny)

In response to Evelyn's comments on biopics and Mark's review of

AMMONITE in the 01/08/21 issue of the MT VOID, Gary McGath writes:

I don't care very much for biopics, for this reason.  If I watch

one, I try to think of it as an alternate-universe version of the

historical people portrayed.  [-gmg]

Peter Trei writes:

My favorite bit of Marie Curie trivia is that she was utterly

cavalier about radiation safety.  She, her lab, her possessions,

her home became heavily contaminated.  In later life, when she

visited other labs, radiation alarms would go off.  She and her

husband now lie  in the Pantheon in Paris, interred in inch thick

lead coffins.



Scott Dorsey replies:

Everybody was at the time, though.  Nobody had any idea that this

energy would be harmful.  People were carrying around pitchblende

in their pockets, walking around energized x-ray tubes, and

drinking radium water for their health.  [-sd]

John Halpenny adds:

Radium was the wonder drug of the time.  There is a "Radium Hot

Springs" in Alberta.   I was once in Bad Gastein, Austria, and was

told that the naturally radioactive caves were at one time famous

for their healing properties.  You could still go in for a form of

radiation therapy if you had a note from your doctor.  [-jh]


TOPIC: Weather in Texas, Incorrect Dates, RADIOACTIVE and THE

AERONAUTS, and Solar Pons (letter of comment by John Purcell)

In response to various comments in the 01/08/21 issue of

the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:

I hope you two are doing well today, and that the weather over

there in New Jersey today is better than here in

SouthCentralEastern Texas.  At present it is a whopping 35 degrees

Farenheit here, which is about 20 degrees colder than the normal

January temperature in this region.  It's also raining as this cold

front zings rapidly through--should be back into the 50s and 60s in

two days--and there is even a chance of snow flurries this evening.

That's going to blow quite a few Texan minds.  I consider this

sweater weather.  In fact, yesterday when it was in the mid-40s and

the sun was out, which is really nice weather to me, an ex-

Minnesotan, so when I went to Kroger to get a few items I was in

jeans, t-shirt, sneakers, no jacket.  It felt great to me.  Most of

the native Texans going into and out of the store were dressed up

as if they were part of the Shackleton Expedition.  Needless to

say, I garnered some very strange looks.  The good news is that

everyone I saw was wearing face masks, so at least that part of the

national situation is seeping through skulls here.

Anyway, a couple comments on the latest MT VOID are in order,

notably your date snafu.  Personally, I don't want a do-over of

2020; so far the first week and half of 2021 has not been much of

an improvement.  At this point--given what happened in Washington,

DC a few days ago and its ensuing fallout--the only thing that

could improve 2021 right now is whether a large asteroid impacts

Earth or the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts before Easter; the

sooner the better.  Life has definitely taken a surreal turn, and I

truthfully do not want to see what happens next.

Valerie and I watched both RADIOACTIVE and THE AERONAUTS on Amazon

Prime on our not-so-new-anymore large screen television, and we

enjoyed them both.  As biopics go, they were good, and we thought

that the focus on Marie Curie's personal life, especially the

misogyny of the academic world that she endured, was well done,

giving the viewers more than just the historical viewpoint into her

life's work.  I really liked the focus being how her work fit into

her life.  A good movie.  As for the AERONAUTS, that was pure

escapism based on a real event.  Even so, it was fun, and the

visual effects on our 50-inch screen were like being in a private

theater.  Very cool! They made you feel as if you were actually on

top of that balloon or floating along in the gondola with the

characters.  Taken simply as an adventure film, THE AERONAUTS works

just fine.  We have not seen TESLA or AMMONITE yet, but they are

saved on our watchlist.  Valerie and I tend to like historical

mash-up biopics, just fyi.

I have always enjoyed Sherlock Holmes stories, whether part of the

original canon or pastiches, and the Solar Pons tales of August

Derleth are very good.  I need to find them either online or at our

Half-Price Bookstore.

Holy crap!  It started snowing outside.  [-jp]


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

I have returned to W. Somerset Maugham and his COLLECTED STORIES

(VOLUME 2) (Penguin, ISBN 978-0-14-001872-7).  These are billed as

being set in the South Seas, though there are some set elsewhere.

Most are novelette length (around 15,000 words, give or take).  All

are gems, and usually have a bit of a twist in the end, albeit an

often predictable one.

"The Vessel of Wrath" tells of Miss Jones, a straight-laced

missionary and her attempts to reform (or have deported) Ginger Ted

a drunken reprobate.  But the fates conspire to send them together

to a an isolated cholera-ridden island.

In "The Force of Circumstance", while Guy, a white planter from

Malaya, is on vacation in England, he meets and marries Doris and

takes her back to Malaya.  She is full of good intentions but

discovers there are aspects of Malaya that she simply cannot adjust


"Flotsam and Jetsam" has another Englishwoman who marries a white

expatriate in Malaya.  She expects glamour and excitement in the

jungle, but finds that she has made a big mistake.

On the surface, "The Alien Corn" is a well-known story: someone

wants to undertake an artistic career against his family's wishes,

both sides agree to a trial period at the end of which his talent

will be judged by an expert, and if he is lacking, he will give up

his hopes and follow the family's plans.  But there is another

level: the family is Jewish, but has changed their name and hides

their origins, trying to pass themselves off as Englishmen for many


But the story also raises the question of whether Maugham is

promoting anti-Semitic tropes.  Certainly the first-person narrator

seems to do so, but the question is whether those view represent

Maugham's views, or the views held by much of the English

population of the time and placed into his narrator.  Not every

first-person narrator is the voice of the author.  And in fact

Maugham says this explicitly in a preface to this volume: "... the

'I' who writes is just as much a character in the story as the

other persons with whom it is concerned."  Maugham goes on to use

this as an explanation of why the 'I' may be better in some way

than the writer, but it is also a reason not to attribute all the

characteristics of 'I' to the writer.

In this case, however, one can discover that Maugham expressed

anti-Semitic feelings when writing as himself, so one much concede

that these negative views are indeed Maugham's own.  Then, of

course, one is left with the question of what to do when an artist

whose work you respect turns out to be (as one person has

understated it) "a jerk."  As that person has said, it is much

easier when the artist has been dead for years (and especially if

their work is in public domain), but more difficult if your

continued purchase of their books or music or whatever is putting

money in their pocket.  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          Every time you stop a school, you will have to build

          a jail.  What you gain at one end you lose at the other.

          It's like feeding a dog on his own tail.  It won't

          fatten the dog.

                                          --Mark Twain