Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

06/18/21 -- Vol. 39, No. 51, Whole Number 2176

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Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper)

Correction on Tom Clancy (comments by Keith F. Lynch)

This Week's Reading (PARABLE OF THE SOWER) (book comments

by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 20 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and

Evelyn C. Leeper)

Here is the twentieth--and last!--batch of mini-reviews: a couple

of documentaries, a couple of musicals--basically what is left.

REBUILDING PARADISE: This covers the aftermath of the Camp Fire,

which destroyed the town of Paradise, California (population 26,000

in 2010).  The first ten minutes is entirely archival footage of

the fire from cell phones, dash cams, and firefighting coverage.

There is genuine suspense in not knowing if the people speaking

during this will survive, and a real sense of relief when you hear

someone on a dash cam saying, "Clear sky, guys, clear sky.  We made

it through," and seeing clear sky ahead of them.  (Someone thought

to turn around as they were leaving and take a shot of the "Welcome

to Paradise" sign on fire--a very striking image.)  As one

firefighter understated, "We have a little bit of a fire storm


The rest of the film is about the period of dislocation after the

fire, and about the attempts to rebuild Paradise.  In addition to

questions of whether one should rebuild a town in a highly

dangerous area, there was also the problem of toxicity (e.g., the

air and water were poisoned with benzene released by the fire).  It

is disheartening to see people making the same mistakes again.  The

evacuation was successful in the sense that of the 26,000 people,

there were only 86 deaths.  But the current population of Paradise

is still only about 4500.  Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime and

on DVD.  Rating: +2 (-4 to +4)

DADS: A dozen popular comedians and other celebrities give their

thoughts, both comedic and serious, about fatherhood.  There is

nothing unexpected here, but there is extensive interview material.

The Director is Ron Howard's daughter, and draws upon her family's

experiences, including interviews from three generations of

fathers.  Released 06/19/20; available on Apple TV+.  Rating: high

0 (-4 to +4)

MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM: Though this would appear at first glance

to be a musical, the offstage discussion is better than the music,

encompassing science topics, band politics, and more.  In some

sense, however, this is a feature-film-length blues song.  This

film is notable as Chadwick Boseman's final film.  Released

11/25/20; available on Netflix.


And one review by Evelyn:

THE PROM: Based on the true story of a high school senior's fight

to bring her girlfriend to the prom, this is a mix of drama (from

the two girls, other students, and their families) and comedy (from

the Broadway stars who see this as a PR opportunity).  At the

beginning, an African-American woman announces there will be no

same-sex couples--but apparently interracial couples are okay--

which I find ironic.  There was a reference to Ginger of GILLIGAN'S

ISLAND, which was lucky; if they had picked Mary Ann, they probably

would have to re-dub another name.  What I found most annoying was

that the stereotypically gay actor (?) spends a lot of time getting

the lead all dressed up for the prom.  But if part of the message

is to be yourself, why try to make someone who's butch into a

femme?  All in all, in the subset of "acceptance musicals", it's no

HAIRSPRAY.  Released 11/25/20; available on Netflix.  Rating: +2

(-4 to +4)  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Correction on Tom Clancy (comments by Keith F. Lynch)

Regarding Scott Dorsey's comments on Tom Clancy in the 06/04/21

issue of the MT VOID, Evelyn labeled them as pertaining to Jack


"[Re Jack Ryan] You can take that up with Clancy.  [-sd]"

But Keith F. Lynch writes:

Nobody mentioned Jack Ryan.  We were discussing a different Clancy

character, John Kelly a.k.a. John Clark.  [-kfl]

Evelyn writes:

Ooops!  [-ecl]


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

THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER by Octavia E. Butler (Warner Aspect, ISBN

0-446-60197-7) was published in 1993 and takes place beginning in

2024.  At the time of publication, that was far in the future; now

it's just around the corner.  While comparing Butler's future with

our (basically) present is not the point, once cannot help but do


For example, people keep talking about "when the country gets back

on its feet and good times come back."  Well, that sentiment keeps

showing up after every downturn, but it seems particularly resonant


When Lauren says, "Most of the dead are the street poor who have

nowhere to go and who don't hear the warnings until it's too late

for their feet to take them to safety," it's hard not to think of

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the poor of New Orleans who were told

to evacuate, but given absolutely no way to do so.

She says, "In New York and New Jersey, a measles epidemic is

killing people. Measles!" as if this is totally unbelievable.  But

in our 2019, there *was* a measles epidemic in New York.

Lauren talks of exoplanets; the first one was verified in 1992,

right before the book's publication.  We now know of thousands.

Other than all the predictions (failed and not), the book is

basically a post-apocalyptic scenario, though it is more an

apocalypse not with a bang, but with a whimper.  There wasn't an

atomic war, or a plague, or a big natural disaster--it's just that

everything has been gradually going downhill.  Butler tweaks it a

bit by adding "hyperempathy syndrome"; the main character feels the

pain she sees in other people.  So if she shoots someone, even in

self-defense, she feels it as if she had shot herself.  It's an

interesting idea (I have seen it done in other stories, possibly

inspired by Butler), but having it just affecting one character

makes it seem a bit of a gimmick.  (I suppose one could argue that

most people who would have it would either not survive it or be

driven mad.)

There is a sequel, PARABLE OF THE TALENTS, and there was supposed

to be a third, but Butler never finished it.  PARABLE OF THE SOWER

stands reasonably well on its own, though, so you would not be

reading something that left you hanging as much as other trilogies


Oh, and Butler apparently assumed her readers knew what the Parable

of the Sower was and did not explain it or quote the passage from

Matthew 13 until the end of the book  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          If we would have new knowledge, we must get a

          whole world of new questions.

                                          --Susanne K. Langer