Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

04/16/21 -- Vol. 39, No. 42, Whole Number 2167

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by Mark R. Leeper)

HOW TO MARS by David Ebenbach (book review by Joe Karpierz)

Hugo Awards/Lodestar Award/Astounding Award Finalists

This Week's Reading (LOST HORIZON) (book and film comments

by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 13 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper)

Here is the thirteenth batch of mini-reviews, this time of four

horror films.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON: Apparently inspired by ROSEMARY'S BABY, this

is the story of an elderly couple who are attempting to call up the

Devil to restore their dead grandson to life.  The film nullifies

any sympathy one might have for them, and the pacing is slow, but

there are new interesting twists in the plot.  Released 12/03/20;

not yet available on streaming or DVD.  Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)

THE BEACH HOUSE: For a long time it is not clear where the story is

going.  It seems to be just two couples meeting and spending time

together, but then it turns into something else.  This is an

example of how inexpensive special effects can be used to good

effects.  Released 07/09/20; available on Amazon Prime.  Rating: +1

(-4 to +4)

THE MORTUARY COLLECTION: The anthology horror film, once a form

that was popular, makes a dubious return in this film.  Four

stories of varying length, plus a framing sequence, comprise this

film.  The stories are not as good as the old ones (e.g. those in

DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS) but they still have some punch.

Released 10/15/20; available on Amazon Prime..  Rating: low +1 (-4

to +4)

ALONE: This is a standard stalker film set in the backwoods with a

pinch of DUEL and another of MOST DANGEROUS GAME.  The villain

chases the protagonist in woods and/or at night.  Released

09/15/20; available on Amazon Prime and on DVD from Netflix.

Rating: high 0 (-4 to +4)



TOPIC: HOW TO MARS by David Ebenbach (copyright 2021, Tachyon

Publications, 256pp, $16.95 trade paperback, ISBN 978-1-61696-356-

9, $9.99 digital formats, ISBN 978-1-61696-357-6) (book review by

Joe Karpierz)

What if you were a scientist who was presented with the opportunity

of a lifetime: a chance to go to Mars and do research on the red

planet?  What if there was a catch or two, like a) it's a one-way

trip and b) the mission is going to be the subject of a reality

show?  Would you consider the proposition?  If you were offered a

spot on the mission, would you accept it, knowing that you'd never

come back to Earth, and that your every move would be scrutinized

by not only Mission Control, but by anyone on Earth who cared to


This is the premise of HOW TO MARS, the first science fiction novel

from mainstream writer David Ebenbach.  The idea for the book came

from a news story about a now-bankrupt company called Mars One,

which was going to send twelve people to Mars on a one-way mission.

Ebenbach wanted to explore the idea, including who would even want

to do it, who would propose the idea, and how the people who were

sent to Mars on the mission would live and survive.  It's an

interesting investigation into the possible make up of the people

who would jump at the chance, and just how they would handle

everything that would come up.

To help with that last point, the eccentric owner of the

Destination Mars! corporation wrote a handbook that would try help

the Marsonauts survive on the planet.  The handbook, almost

assuredly entitled "How to Mars", is both whimsical and serious.

It seeks to provide real-world advice, set down rules for the

colony, and remind the Marsonauts that the book itself can't

conceivably cover every eventuality that they would encounter.  It

was also very clear on one thing: there is to be no sex on Mars.

It's actually not a bad idea, although if the owner of Destination

Mars! actually thought anyone would listen to that particular idea

he was mistaken.  Clearly, there could be all sorts of relationship

problems between the people involved, and social implications for

the group as a whole.   Not to mention what would happen if one of

the Marsonauts got pregnant.

Well, life on Mars, including research, is really boring, even for

scientists.  The same thing day after day, with nothing new

happening, results in so much dullness that the reality show is

cancelled and some people actually stop their research.  Things got

so boring, that the inevitable happened.

Yep, you guessed it.  Josh and Jenny had sex, and Jenny got


On the plus side for the Destination Mars! corporation, the reality

series was picked up again because people back on Earth were of

course interested in all the possible sordid things that could

happen now that something new and interesting is actually going on

up there.

And while one of the other points of the missions was starting to

prepare their location for further Marsonauts with the long-term

goal of starting a true colony, this was not the way the

Destination Mars! corporation wanted to go about it.  And so, the

novel is really an exploration of the characters and backgrounds of

the 6 scientists who were selected for the mission and how those

backgrounds prepared them to handle the ultimate unexpected (but

really, it should haven been expected) situation.

Well, maybe not the ultimate unexpected situation.  While the group

was hoping to eventually discover life on Mars, they certainly did

not, at least not the conventional type of life.  No, to this point

I haven't mentioned the native Mars life form, which calls itself

the Pattern, and how it revealed itself only to Stefan, a Marsonaut

prone to anger and violence.  I'd like to call the Pattern aliens,

but if the Pattern is native to Mars then aren't the humans the

aliens?  Yes, an age-old question.

Ebenbach's novel is lighthearted and fun, but thought-provoking.

Just how would we handle ourselves in the situation the six

Marsonauts found themselves, and would our natural humanity take

over just when things were entering uncharted territory?  Although

the question of how our natural humanity would actually play out,

it's probably a pretty good bet that things would come out okay in

the end.  They usually do.  [-jak]


TOPIC: Hugo Awards/Lodestar Award/Astounding Award Finalists

Best Novel

    BLACK SUN, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press)

    THE CITY WE BECAME, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

    HARROW THE NINTH, Tamsyn Muir (

    NETWORK EFFECT, Martha Wells (

    PIRANESI, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)

    THE RELENTLESS MOON, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books)

Best Novella

    Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (

    The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (

    Finna, Nino Cipri (

    Ring Shout, P. Djeli Clark (

    Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (

    Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (

Best Novelette

    "Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super",

        A. T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine, May/June 2020)

    "Helicopter Story", Isabel Fall (Clarkesworld, January 2020)

    "The Inaccessibility of Heaven", Aliette de Bodard

        (Uncanny Magazine, July/August 2020)

    "Monster", Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2020)

    "The Pill", Meg Elison (from Big Girl, (PM Press))

    Two Truths and a Lie, Sarah Pinsker (

Best Short Story

    "Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse", Rae Carson

        (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020)

    "A Guide for Working Breeds", Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to

        Order: Robots and Revolution, ed. Jonathan Strahan


    Little Free Library, Naomi Kritzer (

    "The Mermaid Astronaut", Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies,

        February 2020)

    "Metal Like Blood in the Dark", T. Kingfisher

        (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)

    "Open House on Haunted Hill", John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots,

        2020, ed. David Steffen)

Best Series

    The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)

    The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor Books)

    The Lady Astronaut Universe, Mary Robinette Kowal

        (Tor Books/Audible/Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)

    The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (

    October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)

    The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)

Best Related Work

    Beowulf: A New Translation, Maria Dahvana Headley (FSG)

    CoNZealand Fringe, Claire Rousseau, C, Cassie Hart,

        Adri Joy, Marguerite Kenner, Cheryl Morgan,

        Alasdair Stuart.

    FIYAHCON, L.D. Lewis--Director et al

    "George R.R. Martin Can F**k Off Into the Sun, Or: The 2020

        Hugo Awards Ceremony (Rageblog Edition)", Natalie Luhrs

        (Pretty Terrible, August 2020)

    A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia

        E. Butler, Lynell George (Angel City Press)

    The Last Bronycon: a fandom autopsy, Jenny Nicholson (YouTube)

Best Graphic Story or Comic

    DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party, written by Kieron Gillen and

        Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)

    Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over, Author: Seanan McGuire,

        Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosie Kampe (Marvel)

    Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything, Author:

        G. Willow  Wilson, Artist: Christian Ward (Dark Horse


    Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild, Author: Marjorie Liu, Artist:

        Sana Takeda (Image Comics)

    Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead, written by Kieron

        Gillen, illustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra

        Bonvillain, lettered by Ed Dukeshire (BOOM! Studios)

    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

    Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of

        One Harley Quinn)

    Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

    The Old Guard

    Palm Springs



Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

    Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon

    The Expanse: Gaugamela

    She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Heart (parts 1 and 2)

    The Mandalorian: Chapter 13: The Jedi

    The Mandalorian: Chapter 16: The Rescue

    The Good Place: Whenever You"re Ready

Best Editor, Short Form

    Neil Clarke

    Ellen Datlow

    C.C. Finlay

    Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya

    Jonathan Strahan

    Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form

    Nivia Evans

    Sheila E. Gilbert

    Sarah Guan

    Brit Hvide

    Diana M. Pho

    Navah Wolfe

Best Professional Artist

    Tommy Arnold

    Rovina Cai

    Galen Dara

    Maurizio Manzieri

    John Picacio

    Alyssa Winans

Best Semiprozine

    Beneath Ceaseless Skies

    Escape Pod

    FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction


    Strange Horizons

    Uncanny Magazine

Best Fanzine

    The Full Lid

    Journey Planet

    Lady Business

    nerds of a feather, flock together

    Quick Sip Reviews

    Unofficial Hugo Book Club Blog

Best Fancast

    Be The Serpent

    Claire Rousseau's YouTube channel

    The Coode Street Podcast


    The Skiffy and Fanty show

    Worldbuilding for Masochists

Best Fan Writer

    Cora Buhlert

    Charles Payseur

    Jason Sanford

    Elsa Sjunneson

    Alasdair Stuart

    Paul Weimer

Best Fan Artist

    Iain J. Clark

    Cyan Daly

    Sara Felix

    Grace P. Fong

    Maya Hahto

    Laya Rose

Best Video Game

DisCon III used their authority under the WSFS constitution to

create a one-time Special Hugo Award Category for Best Video Game.

See this announcement for further details.

    Animal Crossing: New Horizons


    Final Fantasy VII Remake


    The Last of Us: Part II


Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (presented by the World

Science Fiction Society)

The Lodestar Award is not a Hugo Award, but is an Award established

by the World Science Fiction Society and administered in the same

manner and in parallel with the Hugo Awards.

    Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)

    A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)

    Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)

    Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (Margaret K. McElderry/ Simon &

        Schuster Children's Publishing)

    Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet / Hot Key)

    A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher

        (Argyll Productions)

Astounding Award for Best New Writer (presented by Dell Magazines)

The Astounding Award is not a Hugo Award, but is administered in a

similar manner and in parallel with the Hugo Awards.

    Lindsay Ellis (1st year of eligibility)

    Simon Jimenez (1st year of eligibility)

    Micaiah Johnson (1st year of eligibility)

    A.K. Larkwood (1st year of eligibility)

    Jenn Lyons (2nd year of eligibility)

    Emily Tesh (2nd year of eligibility)


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

I just watched LOST HORIZON (the 1937 version, of course) for the

tenth time this millennium.  I have commented on this before, but

given the recent trend toward re-evaluating the attitudes of

classic films (and books, and other art), I thought I would note

what would raise eyebrows these days, not to claim the film should

be burned, but to recognize.

- The credits are in a pseudo-Oriental font.

- Conway rescues only the white people, though he does acknowledge

that 10,000 Chinese will die

- Gloria talks about "a Chinaman's chance."

- Lovett wonders if the rescuers are cannibals.

- The lamasary seems to be an example of Le Corbusier's Modernism

(a European style), which does predate the film's date, but not

sufficiently for Shangri-La to have become familiar with it, and

build the entire lamasary, especially since they presumably already

had a lamasary.

- Chang is played by H. B. Warner, a white man.  (He also played

Jesus--another person of color--in the 1927 KING OF KINGS.)

- Women are treated as something the men give or take, and fitting

the stereotype of obedience and compliance, rather than having an

equal say in their relationships.

- The grooms speak English, and the children are all being taught

English, even though the native English speakers are a tiny


- Father Perrault is the classic "white savior."

- George Conway calls Chang a "Chinaman."

And completely separate from these is the problem that while one

can suspend disbelief about a valley being so salubrious as to

prevent ageing, it is pushing it into the realm of the supernatural

to suppose that someone who has remained young for years would have

all that ageing catch up with them in a few minutes if they leave

the valley.  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          Never express yourself more clearly than you are

          able to think

                                          --Niels Bohr