Friday, May 20, 2022

LOC for MT Void #2220-2223

The following is a letter of comment sent to Mark and Evelyn Leeper, editors of MT Void, commenting on #2220-2223.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Leeper:

Having recently received several new issues of MT Void via the National Fantasy Fan Federation’s franking service—and having had a letter of column printed and even responded to by a fellow reader (Hello, R. Looney!)—I see fit to write again after reading #2220-2223.

The reprint and discussion of Dale Skran's review of Motherland: Fort Salem is intriguing. Given the current anti-woman and anti-reproduction rights leaning in the United States, I’m not sure if I’d enjoy the television program right now, but I did recently read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Perhaps the fantastic elements of the show will dull the parallels sufficiently. Last weekend, my wife and I participated in a reproductive rights rally in downtown Los Angeles. We definitely don’t need another witch hunt right now. Skran’s review also reminded me slightly of The Nevers, which is streaming broadly—and an excellent television program. Have you watched The Nevers? You and Mr. Skran might also get a kick out of the Image comic book limited series Man-Eaters: The Cursed. Its precursor (Man-Eaters) was an amazing story, and the subsequent miniseries quite good as well, swinging the title’s attention from women as lycanthropes to witchcraft.

I also recently read John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society and appreciated Joe Karpierz’s review. My review appeared in The N3F Review of BooksApril 2022 issue. I read it, while Karpierz listened to it, but I can imagine how enjoyable Wil Wheaton’s narration must have been. Very cool.

The reviews of relevant movies recently aired on Turner Classic Movies were welcome—but I wish I’d been aware of their scheduling beforehand so I could watch them, too! I’ll have to pay more attention to their schedule. I usually do in October for their active classic horror lineup leading up to Halloween. Maybe it’s something my alter ego Cathode Ray could work into his “Celluloid Sentience” movie and DVD release column for FanActivity Gazette. Not a bad idea, and one for which I thank you. (As a side note, I’ve been enjoying the MT Void mini-reviews that Philip De Parto circulates to the The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County. Another pleasant surprise in my in box!) 

Karpierz’s review of Kimberly Unger’s The Extractionist doth compel, but the book isn’t even out yet! (Now, that’s science fiction for you.) The reviewer, lucky fellow that he is, must have received an advance reading copy. Evelyn’s consideration of Arthur Conan Doyle’s “​​A Study in Scarlet” was also inspiring. I’m curious whether you’re active in Mrs. Hudson's Cliffdwellers or The Priory Scholars of NYC. It looks like The Sherlock Breakfast Club in Los Angeles hasn’t met since 2017, but The Curious Collectors Of Baker Street are still active. Thanks for the inadvertent nudge!

And I found Skran’s “Reforming the Short Form Hugo” of high interest. The N3F and its directorate has been having a similar discussion about the categories and approach to nominees for the National Fantasy Fan Federation Speculative Fiction Awards, or Neffy Awards, which while not as notable or visible, still run slightly parallel. I agree with Skran’s proposal: a Dramatic series Hugo focusing on series from the last year. We could even take some cues from the Emmy Awards, which offers useful precedent. My preference—for the Neffy Awards at least—is to focus on shows that premiered during the previous year. But my Neffy thinking hasn’t gone further than that. For the Hugos, the Emmys’ attention to any six eligible episodes for final-round judging might be a useful standard. Skran’s three is also a reasonable number.

The Emmys also concentrate on episode length. They consider Short Form series as having episodes with an average running time of two to 20 minutes, Half-hour series as 20-40 minute episodes, and Hour-long series as 40-75 minute episodes. Taking that approach could still allow room for other shorter-form content. And I think Skran’s general concern about the Hugo category being potentially biased toward large streaming platforms (or network or cable TV, for that matter) has merit. The N3F Directorate has had similar conversations about conventionally published, print-on-demand, and self-published books. I’d advocate for breaking them all out and including them all, while we currently lump them all together and have a slight bias against conventionally published books in some quarters.

But why I’m really writing to you is because I read Catherynne M. Valente’s Comfort Me With Apples last night. I’d requested the ebook from my local library, missed the first hold release, and wanted to jump on the subsequent hold release. So I read it in one sitting lest my 21 days pass uneventfully. What an absolutely wonderful and surprising read. Thank you, Mr. Karpierz, for recommending it. Given my remarks in the letter of comment in #2221, it did not end up being the book I was expecting. Though it was wholly unlike The Cabin at the End of the World, The Couple Next Door, or Lying in Wait—though still a domestic thriller—it was even better than I’d imagined. More along the lines of Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives reimagined by Neil Gaiman. I’m not sure what Looney would make of it. The Comfort Me With Apples he mentioned (by Peter DeVries) is described as “a laugh-out-loud novel about teenage pretensions and adult delusions from an author whom the New York Times has called ‘a Balzac of the station wagon set.’” Valente’s book, a serious doozy of a read, is not that comic, for sure. Instead, it is darkly fantastic, mundane and mythic in its scope, and subtly shocking at times. I would not have read it were it not for MT Void. Thank you.

I hope you and yours are well.

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