2015-07-13 12:56:32 UTC
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/10/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 2, Whole Number 1866
Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, ***@optonline.net
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, ***@optonline.net
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The Counterfeit "Deguello" (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
Misplaced 1911 Nostalgia (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
ANCILLARY SWORD by Ann Leckie (book review
by Gwendolyn Karpierz)
ANCILLARY SWORD by Ann Leckie (book review by Joe Karpierz)
Pronunciation of Town Names (and Others) (letters of comment
by Charles S. Harris and Sam Long)
Irrational Numbers (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)
This Week's Reading (RAISED FROM THE GROUND and
HAMMETT UNWRITTEN) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
TOPIC: The Counterfeit "Deguello" (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
On March 6, 1836, the Mexican Army under the command of President
General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was ready to attack the Alamo
and completely destroy the remaining forces defending it. For
thirteen days Santa Anna had laid siege to the mission turned
fortress. Now the siege was coming to an end as the defenses
crumbled. To encourage his men and to get their blood up he had
his bugler play "Deguello". This melody had a specific purpose and
was announcing to the Mexican troops that now they must kill with
no mercy. This is the music that is played at a bullfight when the
time had come for the matador to kill the bull. Literally the name
means "the throat cutting." This was that point for this battle.
It was intended to encourage the Mexican soldiers and demoralize
Those who have seen the 1960 film THE ALAMO may remember the moment
in the film's depiction. The theater speakers fill with this
melody that sounded like the best of the Tijuana Brass. It is a
sweet but sad piece of music. I knew I had heard it in at least
one other film, but could not quite place it. When I visited the
Alamo, it is that melody that was going through my head. One thing
that bothered me was that it did not sound like anything a single
bugle could play. Santa Anna had an army, but this melody must
have taken several people to play and Santa Anna's army was
elsewhere engaged fighting a battle. This would certainly not be
the only touch of the 1960 film that would have been fabricated for
the film. I was rather skeptical that I was hearing the real
"Deguello". The melody can be heard at
Then just recently I re-watched the 1959 film RIO BRAVO. John
Wayne was defending a whole town besieged by a wealthy rancher who
had hires a small army of men to spring a son who the John Wayne
sheriff has in jail. To demoralize Wayne and his allies they play
"Deguello". And it is the same melody that I already associate with
that name, but it is the melody that seems too fancy to be the
real "Deguello". One of the characters (played by Ricky Nelson--
yech!) recognizes the melody and identifies it as "Deguello",
claiming that was the melody that Santa Anna played at the Alamo.
I guess that is a sort of corroboration. But I was still
skeptical that Santa Anna's troops would play a melody this
complex. I did a little digging.
RIO BRAVO was made the year before THE ALAMO. Dimitri Tiomkin
scored both films. My guess as to what happened is that Tiomkin
composed the melody himself and put it into the film RIO BRAVO in
1959. There the script identified the melody as "Deguello" and
told how it was used at the Alamo. The following year when Tiomkin
scored THE ALAMO he found he had painted himself into a corner and
would have to use the same melody when he scored the depiction of
the battle. Either that or he might have been working on both
movies at the same time and made one a sort of allusion to the
other. It is by far not the only historical inaccuracy in John
Wayne's THE ALAMO.
So I was really anxious to find out what the authentic "Deguello"
really sounded like. YouTube came to the rescue. Yes, "Deguello"
actually could be played on a single bugle and sounds nothing at
all like Tiomkin's version. But it does sound like something else.
The first phrase sounds like it could have been borrowed by ROCKY
It can be heard at
While I am on the subject of Tiomkin, he frequently would try to
arrange the music of the film so he could get more money on the
side. When he scored HIGH NOON (1952) he wrote the song "Do Not
Forsake Me" which was used liberally in the film. The song was
very popular and my guess is that it earned Tiomkin a fair amount
on the side. After that he seemed to write a song for every film
he scored. George Stevens did not want to have a song in GIANT
(1956). Tiomkin brought a singer--famous, but I forget who it was-
-to the set and introduced him to George Stevens in the hopes of
changing Stevens's mind. Stevens claims he refused, but the
song did get a release without being sung in the film. [-mrl]
TOPIC: Misplaced 1911 Nostalgia (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
An email making the rounds about 1911 claims (among other things)
that there were "about" 230 reported murders in the entire U.S.A.
This set off alarm buzzers in my head.
So I did some googling and came up with the following
- There were at least 60 lynchings of African-Americans. (And I
bet none of these were reported as murders at the time.)
- There were 15-20 killings by the "Atlanta Ripper".
- There were 49 "Mulatto Ax Murders". (This extends a few months
into 1912, so calling it 40 is reasonable.)
The total of these is about 120, before one even looks at any "one-
off" murders: domestic violence, deaths during robberies, and so
And indeed, one blog I found cites "Murder Statistics from
Statistical Abstract of the United States" (United States
Department of Commerce) as saying that the homicide rate for 1911
was 5.5 per 100,000. For a population of about 92,000,000 (1910
census), that would be a little over 5000, *not* 230.
(The murder rate was 4.8 per 100,000 in 2010, a 13% *reduction*.)
So when you get all nostalgic over the way things were, first make
sure that *was* the way things were. [-ecl]
TOPIC: ANCILLARY SWORD by Ann Leckie (copyright 2014, Orbit, $16.00
paperback, 356pp, ISBN 978-0-316-24665-1) (excerpt from the Duel
Fish Codices: a book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz)
ANCILLARY SWORD picks up shortly after ANCILLARY JUSTICE, with Our
Hero Breq--formerly a spaceship controlling countless "ancillary"
bodies, now a spaceship (fleet) captain controlling countless crew
members--being sent off to Athoek Station by the Lord of the Radch
(whom she spent the last book trying to kill... it's a thing).
I'm not actually sure why "the tyrant"--as Breq calls her--needs to
send a ship there, but it doesn't really matter. The reason Breq
consents to go (Breq is a spaceship--she only takes orders she
wants to take, apparently) is because the younger sister of
Lieutenant Awn (whom she spent the last book trying to avenge)
lives on Athoek Station, and Breq wants to ... pay her respects or
Breq interacts with Lieutenant Awn's sister so infrequently during
this book that I don't even remember her name.
I definitely enjoyed ANCILLARY SWORD a great deal more than
ANCILLARY JUSTICE, mostly because I didn't spend the entire book
being denied knowledge of what was going on. And there was a /lot/
going on in ANCILLARY SWORD: Breq arrives at the station to
discover innumerable social injustices crowding up the artificial
air, and she immediately takes it upon herself to fix them. All of
them. At the same time. There are so many threads running through
this novel that it starts to get a little out of hand, and you
think Breq can't possibly solve or resolve all of them by the end.
Leckie, however, does an unexpectedly good job of pulling
everything back together and tying it up properly. It's okay if
the reader forgot about one of the plotlines, because Leckie
didn't--and there were enough others to pay attention to that it
wasn't frustrating to not remember what was going on in that one
over there. There isn't really one central plot thread, unlike in
the first book; this one felt more like a setup for the final book
than one that could entirely stand on its own. (And I would have
been happy to let book one stand on its own.)
Breq herself is shaping up to be an appealing character (and I love
her tendency to sing without noticing), but the problem I have with
her is that--well, there aren't any problems with her. She doesn't
really have any flaws; she knows everything that's going on (mostly
by spying on her crew), she knows just the right solution for
everything that's broken... and even if someone questions one of
her decisions, she turns out to be right in the end. Nothing she
does every really goes wrong, and it gets a little boring knowing
that Breq will do everything right.
The rest of the characters all feel like children? Their emotions
and reactions and interactions are all written as stilted and
simplistic, and none of them seem real to me. I'm not sure if this
is intentional--after all, everything comes to us through Breq's
point-of-view, and as a former spaceship, she is clearly Older and
Wiser than everybody else, and emotions would seem strangely
stilted to her. Except you'd think that after a thousand years
being entrenched in other people's heads, she'd be used to them
having emotions by now.
I suppose in reviewing any book in this series, it's expected to
mention Leckie's choice to refer to everyone using she/her
pronouns, but honestly, at this point it's not worth mentioning
again. It no longer has the novelty it had in the first book, and
it doesn't really accomplish anything; it's just there, another
facet of this civilization. If the author had pushed it a little
harder, it might have been interesting. That's the case for most
of this series, I think: a handful of great concepts, held back and
kept shallow so they don't really amount to anything new. While I
had a lot more fun reading this book than ANCILLARY JUSTICE, I
would have been quite content to /not/ read it, too.
But my favorite part of this series is the fascinating little
twists Leckie plays with in exploring language and language
barriers--like how "radchaai" means "civilized," in a universe
where someone who hasn't been assimilated by the Radch is
considered lower class, and how certain things don't translate at
TOPIC: ANCILLARY SWORD by Ann Leckie (copyright 2014, Orbit, $16.00
paperback, 356pp, ISBN 978-0-316-24665-1) (excerpt from the Duel
Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz)
Ann Leckie's debut novel, ANCILLARY JUSTICE, was one of the most
successful first novels of all time as measured by the number of
awards won in 2014: Hugo, Nebula, Locus, BSFA, and Arthur
C. Clarke. It was shortlisted for a few other awards too. It was
heralded, in part, due to its treatment of gender and for me, its
concept of ancillaries, the hive mind of the starship that is at
once part of the ship and the ship itself. In my opinion, the
accolades it received were well-deserved.
ANCILLARY JUSTICE was book one of the Imperial Radch series, and
knowing that, many people were looking forward to book two,
ANCILLARY SWORD. ANCILLARY SWORD has already garnered lavish
praise and a couple of awards, this year's BSFA and Locus awards,
and was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula. It didn't win the
Nebula, and the Hugos are to be given out next month, so it still
may end up with three major awards this year.
A little bit of background never hurts. Anaander Mianaai, the Lord
of the Radch, has split into two different personalities. One is
against the military expansion of her empire, and the other, well,
wants it to continue. Breq, our ancillary of Justice of Toren from
ANCILLARY JUSTICE, is adopted into Mianaai's house, made a Fleet
Captain, put in charge of the ship Mercy of Kalr, and sent to the
Athoek system to protect it. The other returning character is
Seivarden, who really doesn't seem to have much place in this
story. Breq, Seivarden, and a 17 year old Lieutenant Tisarwat, who
Anaander forces Breq to take as part of her crew, head for the
Athoek system and, as you might expect, find more than a few things
out of place going on there.
What follows is a series of events that do not seem to have that
much of a relationship to each other. Breq, who is called Fleet
Captain so much so that the reader almost forgets that her name
*is* Breq, attempts to make reparations with Basnaaid, the sister
of Awn, whom Breq loved in ANCILLARY JUSICE. She also meets,
however briefly, a translator for the feared Presger alien race.
She survives an attempt on her life. And there is the question of
the missing transportees from worlds that have been conquered by
the Radch, who Breq suspects have been handed over to a ship
looking to stock up on ancillaries, a practice which has been
banned by the Anaander who is Breq's benefactor.
There appears to be a lot going on here, but on the flip side there
really isn't. The Imperial Radch series is billed as a space
opera, but ANCILLARY SWORD reads almost like a *soap* opera, what
with all the family squabbles and intrigue. And to be a bit nit-
picky about the whole thing, most of the action takes place upon a
space station in the Athoek system, which hardly qualifies it as a
space opera. There's a lot of character interaction and
development going on, but nothing much else actually *happens*
until the aforementioned attempt on the Fleet Captain's life.
ANCILLARY SWORD seems to suffer a bit from "second book in a
trilogy" syndrome. It is clear that Leckie is setting up the story
for the final book, ANCILLARY MERCY, due out later this year. And
while that's okay, my feeling is that in my mind, the book falls
far short of not only the quality of its predecessor, but of the
expectations that were predating its release. The two major
selling points of ANCILLARY JUSTICE, its treatment of gender and
its concept of ancillaries, are almost nonexistent in this volume.
All the characters are referred to as *she*, and the only time one
of the characters is addressed as a male by Breq is when it was
appropriate to do so based on that character's societal norms.
It's almost as if Leckie is saying "been there, done that", rather
than exploring that concept even more than she did in the first
book. Ancillaries, while not non-existent, take a back seat in
this story. The concept certainly plays a part in this story, but
ancillaries are nowhere near as important in this book as they were
in the original.
Having said all that, I actually didn't dislike the book. Rather,
I was disappointed in the book. It feels more pedestrian than it
ought to be. Leckie has built a universe which contains some
fascinating concepts and which appears to be set up for a climactic
battle between the two Anaander Mianaiis. I hope ANCILLARY MERCY
lives up to the expectations that were set by ANCILLARY JUSTICE; if
so, that would redeem a series that started with much promise.
TOPIC: Pronunciation of Town Names (and Others) (letters of comment
by Charles S. Harris and Sam Long)
In response to Peter Trei's comments on town names in the 07/03/15
issue of the MT VOID, Charles Harris writes:
Four of the former Bell Labs locations in NJ were often
Murray Hill: Murry Hills
Note: Eliding the first "l" in Holmdel is probably more common
than not. Murray Hill is never pronounced Murr-ray. [-csh]
And Sam Long writes:
I enjoyed the discussion on the pronunciation of names in Friday 3
July's MT VOID. I have some comments that may be of interest:
1. Even in Scotland, some pronounce Menzies as "men-zez" and some
as "Minge-ez" and yet others "Ming-ez". You have to ask which to
2. The Scottish grouse called the capercailzie is often written
capercaillie; but it is pronounced "kape-er-cay-lee".
3. Towcester in England is "toaster", just as Worcester is
"wooster" and Bicester is "biss-ter".
4. Athens, Georgia, is "ath-ens" with the ath as in bath; but
Athens, Illinois, is "ay-thins", with the ay as in bay.
5. Cairo, Egypt, is "kye-roe", but Cairo, Illinois, is "kay-ro" as
in Karo Syrup.
6. Up to and past the late-'60s moon landings, the BBC would
pronounce Houston, Texas, as "Hoose-ton", but I understand now they
say "hyus-ton", i.e., like Euston Station but with an H preceding
it, same as we do.
7. I've heard Dalziel pronounced "Dal-yell". never "dal-zeal", and
not "deal" or "de-al" either.
8. The British pronunciations "zed" and "shed-yule" for Z and
schedule are historically more justified than American "zee" and
"sked-yule", but both are acceptable, and neither will change.
When I was teaching my son, whose mother is British, the alphabet
decades ago, I would sing the Alphabet Song, but end it with:
Q, R, S, and T, U V,
W, and X, Y, Zee,
Or, as it is sometimes said,
W, and X, Y, Zed.
<http://tinyurl.com/void-20-towns> lists "20 Towns Named for Other
Towns But Pronounced Differently", of which the best known is
probably Lima, Ohio. [-ecl]
TOPIC: Irrational Numbers (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)
In response to Mark's comments about irrational numbers in the
07/03/15 issue of the MT VOID, Charles Harris writes:
[Mark said,] "Now isn't that interesting? The factor we cancelled
from the numerator and denominator is 142857. Notice anything
familiar about that number?"
Just to make sure I'm not missing something: You mean familiar
because you've just been discussing its 1-rotation, right?
Not that it's well-known for some other reason (e.g. it's an
important physical constant, or the number of troops in a
historic battle)? [-csh]
Right. It was almost the same as the segment of digits I has just
mentioned. That is no coincidence. Actually coincidences are hard
to come by in math. Pretty much everything is connected to
everything else. [-mrl]
TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
RAISED FROM THE GROUND by Jose Saramago (translated by Margaret
Jull Costa) (ISBN 978-0-15-101325-8) was written in 1980 but not
translated into English until 2012. In general, this is not a good
sign, and the fact that even after Saramago won the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1998, it *still* took fourteen years for it to be
published in English.
RAISED FROM THE GROUND was reviewed in "The Guardian" by Ursula
K. LeGuin, who wrote of Saramago, "Saramago left journalism and
began writing novels late in his life, as if a fine old apple tree
should suddenly grow heavy with fruit." LeGuin compares RAISED
FROM THE GROUND to two other "novels of the oppressed": UNCLE TOM'S
CABIN and THE GRAPES OF WRATH.
And that, oddly, may be the reason for the delay. Most of
Saramago's later novels have some fantastical element, but RAISED
FROM THE GROUND is a realist novel. One wonders if publishers had
decided that people expected something "unusual" from Saramago, and
so this was put on the back burner.
HAMMETT UNWRITTEN by Owen Fitzstephen (pen name for Gordon
McAlpine) (ISBN 978-1-51514-714-3) is a convoluted novel. The
author listed on the cover, "Owen Fitzstephen", is actually a
character in Dashiell Hammett's novel THE DAIN CURSE. The plot
takes place between 1922 and 1959, and begins with the "true"
events that Hammett (supposedly) experienced that he converted into
THE MALTESE FALCON. The characters are all the people who
(supposedly) took part in those events, plus others he met later,
such as Lillian Hellman, John Huston, and so on. It turns out that
while the Falcon wasn't all it was claimed to be, it may not be
entirely mundane either.
In addition to treating fiction as fact, or at least claiming there
is fact behind the fiction, Fitzstephen/McAlpine has his narrative
jumping around in time, at least at the beginning, going from 1922
to 1959 to 1933 before settling in to a mostly linear story, though
with many references to previous events. Even if you do not
entirely believe the explanations within the novel, they do manage
to explain events that happened in our world. This is a must for
fans of meta-fiction and of Dashiell Hammett. [-ecl]
There exists, if I am not mistaken, an entire world
which is the totality of mathematical truths, to
which we have access only with our mind, just as a
world of physical reality exists, the one like the
other independent of ourselves, both of divine