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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