Archive for March, 2012

“The Mind Traders” by J Hunter Holly (1966)

A place of crawl­ing spi­ders and poi­so­nous snakes — where night­mares came true.

That was The Black, where men were pun­ished for chal­leng­ing minds more pow­er­ful and their own. The detec­tive from Earth feared The Black more than any tor­ture his own plan­et could con­ceive. But he had to uncov­er the sin­is­ter plot that threat­ened Earth and all its people.

Descrip­tion: On Rig­an, an alien plan­et where the soci­ety is rigid­ly struc­tured accord­ing to the rel­a­tive tele­path­ic pow­er to con­trol oth­ers, some­one is tak­ing advan­tage of that pow­er to kid­nap defense­less humans and pos­si­bly the natives as well. Mor­gan Sell­ers, an inves­ti­ga­tor from Earth, is matched with Jael Forty, a native inves­ti­ga­tor with lit­tle expe­ri­ence in this sit­u­a­tion as crime on that world of this type is very scarce. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the class­es is severe­ly lim­it­ed, adding to the dif­fi­cul­ty. To obvi­ate that, the human inves­ti­ga­tor is dis­guised as a Trav­el­er, a native alien with­out the tele­path­ic pow­er, one that can pass among all of the class­es with­out draw­ing a chal­lenge, pro­tect­ed from tele­path­ic con­trol by the same rigid class structure.

Jael is a 40, mean­ing he is of the class that con­trols 40 tele­path­i­cal­ly infe­ri­or natives, although it is not shown exact­ly how he does that in prac­tice: how­ev­er, dur­ing the sto­ry, he is shown advanc­ing to become a 50, which is also a plot point that will affect the actu­al res­o­lu­tion of the mystery.

Com­men­tary: “The Mind Traders” is a much more mem­o­rable sto­ry than “The Fly­ing Eyes” by the same author. The depic­tions of the rigid class struc­ture sticks in the mind long after the sto­ry is over: the way the dif­fer­ent class­es seg­re­gate at par­ties, the way dress col­or (Trav­el­ers wear red, 40s were green) indi­cates class, the def­er­en­tial way sub­or­di­nate class­es must address high­er class­es, the men­tal bat­tles that deter­mine ris­ing in class­es. It also shows the dif­fi­cul­ties involved in hav­ing and main­tain­ing that social struc­ture, espe­cial­ly when that soci­ety comes into con­flict with anoth­er soci­ety, and the res­o­lu­tion of the plot sug­gests dras­tic changes to the soci­ety as a result.

Rec­om­men­da­tion: Rec­om­mend­ed more for the soci­etal depic­tion than any­thing else. It shows just how a soci­ety com­prised of mind con­trol­ling telepaths can exist, what lim­i­ta­tions came about to pre­serve the soci­ety and the indi­vid­u­als and how it has adapt­ed to main­tain itself. As a mys­tery it is most­ly flat, the major mys­tery being how the soci­ety works, not so much the actu­al crimes involved. It should also be not­ed that while the Rig­ans are capa­ble of tele­path­ic mind con­trol, they are not com­mu­ni­cat­ing telepaths but they are empaths.

Also of inter­est is the method of pun­ish­ment called “The Black”. From the descrip­tions, it appears to be a total iso­la­tion of all out­side stim­uli, a com­plete men­tal cut-off from the out­side world, which allows all of the inter­nal night­mares full reign with­in the con­scious­ness, pos­si­bly fos­tered by the one enforc­ing The Black. It is the main pun­ish­ment for trans­gres­sions on Rig­an oth­er than being Controlled.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly the title leaves some­thing to be decid­ed, as it just isn’t as descrip­tive as “The Fly­ing Eyes”: some­thing like “The Mind Mas­ters” or “The Mind Rob­bers” would have much more descriptive.

“The Flying Eyes” by J Hunter Holly (1963)

Linc Hosler was sit­ting in a packed foot­ball sta­di­um when the Fly­ing Eyes appeared and cast their hyp­not­ic pow­er over half the crowd. Thou­sands of peo­ple sud­den­ly began march­ing zom­bie-like into the woods where they van­ished into a black pit.

Linc used every resource of the Space Research Lab and the Nation­al Guard to destroy the Eyes. But noth­ing could stop them, for they proved immune to bul­lets and bombs.

In des­per­a­tion, Linc cap­tured an Eye and found a way to com­mu­ni­cate with it through his mind. He learned that radi­a­tion was fuel for the crea­tures’ lives. And then they issued their ter­ri­ble ulti­ma­tum. Explode a series of atom bombs to sup­ply them with radi­a­tion or they would turn the world’s pop­u­la­tion into mind­less robots!

It gave the world two har­row­ing choic­es — self-destruc­tion via fall­out from the bombs or anni­hi­la­tion via the sin­is­ter Fly­ing Eyes!

Quite a ter­ri­fy­ing dilem­ma: phys­i­cal death by fall­out or men­tal death by alien men­tal dom­i­na­tion. If only the Fly­ing Eyes pos­sessed some weak­ness that human sci­ence could exploit. But no phys­i­cal attacks seemed to hurt them. The alien Fly­ing Eyes, or Zines as they called them­selves, were not lim­it­ed to just man­i­fest­ing eyes as they can also man­i­fest limbs which appar­ent­ly could pass through sol­id walls.

But their immu­ni­ty to bombs and bul­lets, plus their abil­i­ty to pass through sol­id objects and their need for radi­a­tion also explains their weak­ness: they are not tru­ly mat­ter as we know it, but most­ly of ener­gy. And as crea­tures of most­ly ener­gy, they require raw ener­gy to sur­vive. Such would allow them to trav­el across space but they had to be wary when enter­ing the grav­i­ty field of a plan­et, because, as per Ein­stein, ener­gy can be affect­ed by grav­i­ty. By the use of a project to con­trol grav­i­ty, the Fly­ing Eyes are sub­ject­ed to a field of increased grav­i­ty that caus­es the struc­tured ener­gy that com­pris­es their forms to degrade, essen­tial­ly killing them.

Com­men­tary: Author J (Joan) Hunter Hol­ly wrote a num­ber of short nov­els start­ing in the very late 1950’s through the mid­dle 1970’s, includ­ing anoth­er, “The Mind Traders”, which is also in the Col­lec­tion. This isn’t a very mem­o­rable work, bet­ter remem­bered for the fan­tas­ti­cal image of float­ing alien eyes con­trol­ling thou­sands of peo­ple at once than any­thing else. She also wrote one “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” nov­el, #10, “The Assas­si­na­tion Affair”, as did a num­ber of oth­er mid-list SF authors of the period.

A “Mandrake the Magician” movie appearing?

Well, accord­ing to the Hol­ly­wood Reporter, Warn­er Broth­ers had obtained the rights to the near­ly 80-year-old char­ac­ter of Man­drake the Magi­cian and is team­ing up with a pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny named Atlas Pro­duc­tions to pro­duce it. Of course, this does have to be tak­en with a cer­tain lev­el of skep­ti­cism: just the act of obtain­ing the rights and announc­ing that a movie is in the works has hap­pened so many times in the past, to just about every pos­si­ble prop­er­ty avail­able. Its all part of the high-stakes mon­ey game that is Hol­ly­wood. In fact, even the Man­drake prop­er­ty has been through the poten­tial pro­duc­tion cycle a few times itself.

The arti­cle goes on to name some names that I don’t rec­og­nize but must be known to the Hol­ly­wood insid­er tar­get audi­ence. Accord­ing to the arti­cle, the pro­duc­ers want to give Man­drake a “21st Cen­tu­ry makeover” as what hap­pened to the most recent Sher­lock Holmes movies, but I would more pre­fer an actu­al updat­ing of the prop­er­ty to not only bring it actu­al­ly into the present day but also get rid of the ear­ly racial stereo­typ­ing embed­ded in the stories.

I for one would be very inter­est­ed in see­ing what might come of this, if it actu­al­ly makes it to the big screen. That being said, I would hope it would be done by peo­ple who respect the orig­i­nal source and the con­cepts with­in it.

New Year’s Resolution Scorecard — Week 10

A very dis­ap­point­ing week: I watched two of the teams I work for lose two games each this week­end, three of them by let­ting the oth­er team catch up and take the lead in the last min­utes. Then there was the prob­lems I’ve been hav­ing record­ing mate­r­i­al for a client, which I will have to record again this week, mak­ing it the third time for these same tracks.

Plus doing all this left lit­tle time for any­thing else. Thus no real updates this week.

“The Hypnotizer” — Sims 3

For a per­for­mance that is mes­mer­iz­ing both on stage and off, the audi­ence will be cap­ti­vat­ed (and con­trolled) when your Sim steps into the spot­light with The Hyp­no­tiz­er, and full col­lec­tion of the Show Stop­ping Styles! With the See­ing Stars Set, in no time at all, your Sims will be see­ing stars!

Why is it that the online games get all the good­ies? The online game / social event net­work Sims3 is now offer­ing a most inter­est­ing item as part of its See­ing Stars Pre­mi­um Con­tent items: the Hyp­no­tiz­er! With the pow­er of the Hyp­no­tiz­er at your com­mand, you can make your­self or oth­er Sims3 char­ac­ters “strut, pout and put it out” as they can be com­mand­ed to flex their mus­cles, jam on the an air gui­tar and act like a chick­en. Just have them stare into the pret­ty spi­ral and let the fun begin!

All of these hyp­not­ic effects can be yours for mod­est price.

Update: I just found the fol­low­ing pro­mo­tion­al video about the Hypnotizer!

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