February 1, 2014
A couple of strong historical films that we'd missed showed up on TV last week. "Hyde Park on Hudson," made in 2012, portrays the relationship between FDR and his cousin Margaret (Daisy) Suckley as it played out during the critical visit to the United States by King George VI and Elizabeth in June 1939. By then, everyone knew that war with Germany was inevitable, and the British were trying to lock in U.S. support.
Roosevelt is played by Bill Murray, and Daisy by Laura Linney. Olivia Williams portrays Eleanor, and that was the aspect of the relationship that was especially striking. Eleanor knew early on that her husband couldn't be trusted, but she seemed willing to accept reality to keep things together.
The other film was "The Queen," from 2006, in which the royal family tries to deal with the unexpected death of Diana on August 31, 1997. Elizabeth, played by Helen Mirren, is unhappy with the manner in which Diana has behaved. And now suddenly she is a martyr, and pressure is being put on the Royals to lower the flag and to make a public display of their affection for the woman who has embarrassed them.
I lived through all that, of course. But I'd forgotten the details of the aftermath. Or maybe it was simply that the royal angst didn't get much play in the U.S. What does remain in my memory is the affection everyone had, and still has, for Princess Diana. And which she deserved.
Another aspect that stays with me is that the news of the fatal accident arrived while Maureen and I were attending the 55th World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio. And that for the balance of the weekend, it seemed as if nothing else mattered. The only thing going on during Worldcon weekend was the reaction to a woman everybody cared about.
A major piece of science news surfaced last week when Stephen Hawking stated that he'd been wrong about black holes. In "Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes," he says "there are no black holes." They apparently don't fit well with quantum theory.
Neither did my Uncle Harry.
Neither he nor I were ever been able to get our heads around quantum mechanics. The notion that a particle can be in multiple places at the same time is just a bit too much. So is the notion that objects don't exist unless someone's looking at them. I may not be stating either of these concepts correctly. But that's okay. The issue here is that those of us who have written about black holes may have to face the reality that the scientific underpinning has been ripped away. That we are now doing pure fantasy. (As if that's any different from time travel.) There are some classics, like David Brin's Earth and Larry Niven's "The Hole Man" which will survive regardless. But I'm glad I'm not currently working on a novel for which a black hole is central.
Michelle Bachman had an interesting response to Hawking's admission: "Actually, Dr. Hawking, our biggest blunder as a society was ever listening to people like you. If black holes don't exist, then other things you scientists have been trying to foist on us probably don't either, like climate change and evolution."
She goes on to say that kids who learned about black holes in their science classes should sue Hawking. And that, fortunately, she never took any science classes. Not sure what classes she did take, but I'll bet her teachers are proud.
I've spent the last two weeks catching up on the year's short fiction, prior to filling out my Nebula ballot. I expect to finish that today when I complete reading Impossible Futures, an anthology edited by Judith K. Dial and Tom Easton. One of the stories in it is my own "Searching for Oz." (I should point out that voters may not include their own work, or work in which they have a vested interest, in the preliminary ballot.) When that is complete, I'll settle in to my first real challenge of 2014: Coming up with a narrative concept for my next novel.
Coming Home, featuring Alex & Chase, will be released in November. Beyond that, I have no clue. The most difficult part of the procedure is the initial concept. But even prior to that, I have to decide what sort of book is next. I've considered another outing for Priscilla, bringing back the time travelers, or arranging a fresh puzzle for Chase & Alex. Or doing something completely out of left field.
I've always been annoyed by people who can't make up their minds.