THE MT VOID
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/25/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 8, Whole Number 1977
Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, email@example.com
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Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
Lectures, etc. (NJ)
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for September (comments
by Mark R. Leeper)
The Universal Monster Universe (letter of comment by Kevin R)
AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL (letter of comment by Kevin R)
THE MARTIAN (letters of comment by Kevin R
and Keith F. Lynch)
Time Reversal Stories (letters of comment by Keith F. Lynch
and R. Looney)
The Shape of Places to Come (letters of comment
by Keith F. Lynch and Peter Trei)
This Week's Reading (SAPIENS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND)
(book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
TOPIC: Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
Lectures, etc. (NJ)
September 8: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004),
Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
September 14: QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) & "Aficionado"
by David Brin,
Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
September 28: THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY by Genevieve Cogman, Old Bridge
(NJ) Public Library, 7PM
October 12: SOLARIS (1972) & SOLARIS by Stanislaw Lem,
Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
October 13: THE EXORCIST (1973), Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
November 9: CAT PEOPLE (1942) & "The Bagheeta" by Val Lewton
(available in Marvin Kaye's WEIRD TALES and Peter Haining's
VAMPIRE OMNIBUS), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
November 10: CACHE (2005), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
November 16: THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman, Old Bridge (NJ)
Public Library, 7PM
December 8: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) or JOYEUX NOEL (2005),
Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
January 25, 2018: OLD MAN'S WAR by John Scalzi, Old Bridge (NJ)
Public Library, 7PM
Northern New Jersey events are listed at:
TOPIC: My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for September (comments
by Mark R. Leeper)
As I occasionally do with this column I will remind people that I
have no connection to the Turner organization. I write this column
because I am just one of those guys--and there are lots of them
around--who have seen a lot of movies and wants to nudge people
over to the ones I thought were particularly worthwhile. My taste
is arguably dubious, but at least it is experienced. There are
lots of great films out there that nearly nobody has heard of and
even more that somebody has heard of but *you* probably haven't. I
just want to give people tips on what may be movie they will like
and maybe will get some tips in return.
Summer is almost over and it is time to go back to my normal
schedule. As I scanned the listings of Turner Classic Movies I got
something of a surprise. Last April I saw one of the best
documentaries about cinema that I can ever remember seeing. A word
that I hesitate to use, but it is accurate, I found the film
*charming*. Almost certainly it will be on my list of the top ten
films of 2017. The film is HAROLD AND LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE
STORY (2015). I expected the film would get a short playing and
then disappear to some obscure page on YouTube. That is the way it
is with most documentaries. Puff it is here, zap it is gone.
Apparently Turner knows documentary film and knows how transitory
some documentaries are. They are showing HAROLD AND LILLIAN just
five months or so after its release. Now before you say you are
not interested in a love story, look at the trailer. I will
include a link for it below. So what is so good? Let me quote
from my own review:
"This is the story of the lives of a Hollywood couple, Lillian and
Harold Michelson. They were the barely-sung heroes of the
Hollywood film industry for six decades. Harold had an instinct for
how films should look and created pitch-perfect storyboards, often
transforming the director's whole vision of the film being shot.
Lillian had a huge and well-collected research library to find
authentic visions from around the world, from all of history, and
into the future. The story of their private lives is a love story
of a nearly perfect marriage. Their visual style and knowledge
shaped the look and feel of surprisingly many classic films."
Me again: The film is profusely illustrated with images that will
be very familiar. Harold created images for films like THE BIRDS,
WEST SIDE STORY, NORTH BY NORTHWEST and THE GRADUATE, but many,
many more. He would see the scene in his mind's eye and could
rapidly put what he saw on storyboard paper.
For example, in THE GRADUATE you have an iconic image of Benjamin
as shot through an arch that is Mrs. Robinson's naked bent leg.
The idea for that scene was just something that Harold Michelson
thought up and sketched on paper.
Lillian did research for films. If you want to know what Roman
armor looked like at the time of BEN HUR, she could find it in her
library. If you want to know what women's underwear in the shtetl
looked like so that FIDDLER ON THE ROOF would get it right--she
could do the research. Want to know how drug lords live in South
America? Lillian did not immediately know, so she contacted a real
drug lord and was all ready to fly down to South America and back
so he could show her his home, when Harold convinced her it was a
bad idea. [Wednesday, September 13, 8:00 PM]
[Trailer at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfc3aAQ_UTI>;]
Best film of the month: I just recently saw AMERICA AMERICA
written, produced, and directed by Elia Kazan. The story is mostly
true and about Kazan's uncle who make an epic journey from Turkey
to America, which he saw as a land of miracles. [Thursday,
September 7, 12:30 PM]
TOPIC: The Universal Monster Universe (letter of comment by Kevin
In response to Mark's comments on the 1930s and 1940s Universal
monster universe in the 08/18/17 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R
DELL COMICS, after it split with Western Publishing, which
continued publishing what Dell had as "Gold Key," tried the
"monsters as super-hero" idea in the 1960s.
It did not go well.
They did FRANKENSTEIN (not to be confused with Dick Briefer's
wonderful work for PRIZE COMICS) and WEREWOLF.
Horrible, in the wrong way. Film studios, do not repeat this!
I thought I heard that Dracula was originally part of the
inspiration for Batman. [-mrl]
TOPIC: AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL (letters of comment by Kevin R and
Keith F. Lynch)
In response to Art Stadlin's review of AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL in
the 08/18/17 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:
The idea that the need to save the environment justifies statism is
the irritant among free marketers, though I know of social
conservatives of the James Watt variety who have the "use the Earth
up, we won't need it when Jesus comes back" mindset.
Gauchely quoting himself.....
Ever read "After Communism" by Robert Heilbroner? [The New Yorker,
September 10, 1990 P. 91]: "Socialism may not continue as an
important force now that Communism is finished. But another way of
looking at socialism is as the society that must emerge if humanity
is to cope with the ecological burden that economic growth is
placing on the environment."
IOW, using environmentalism to sneak a planned economy back in
after it failed so massively. The watermelon strategy. Green on
Heilbroner was no right wing nut.
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Heilbroner>;: "Published in
1953, THE WORLDLY PHILOSOPHERS has sold nearly four million copies,
making it the second-best-selling economics text of all time (the
first being Paul Samuelson's ECONOMICS, a highly popular university
textbook). The seventh edition of the book, published in 1999,
included a new final chapter entitled "The End of Worldly
Philosophy?", which included both a grim view on the current state
of economics as well as a hopeful vision for a "reborn worldly
philosophy" that incorporated social aspects of capitalism.
He also came up with a way of classifying economies, as either
Traditional (primarily agriculturally based, perhaps subsistence
economy), Command (centrally planned economy, often involving the
state), Market (capitalism), or Mixed. Though an outspoken
socialist for nearly his entire career, Heilbroner famously wrote
in a 1989 New Yorker article prior to the collapse of the Soviet
Union. Less than 75 years after it officially began, the contest
between capitalism and socialism is over: capitalism has
won...Capitalism organizes the material affairs of humankind more
satisfactorily than socialism."
He was someone who could see that the side he used to carry the
banner for had lost. He also knew what bolt hole the communists
and fellow travelers would make for: a coat of green over the red.
Now, this isn't to say they aren't authentic enviros, honestly
concerned about the future of the planet. But their are power-
lusting statists among them, so I reserve the right to be
suspicious of them.
Note: I accept that average temps are up, and I accept that human
activity probably is contributing to it. That doesn't change the
fact that, as the USSR was collapsing, statists of "the left"--for
whatever value of "left" we are talking about--reached for ecology
as a life ring to keep their control-freak fetishes afloat. Hence,
Keith Lynch responds:
Ironic [environmental statism], since the USSR wasn't exactly known
for their environmental stewardship. They were perhaps the least
green nation that ever existed.
Much of the skepticism about climate change is probably due to how
statists seem downright gleeful, as if it was the best news they'd
heard in years. "At last, an excuse to...."
I'm skeptical of economic growth. We keep hearing about how the US
is becoming at least 2% wealthier every year. I just don't find
that plausible. Except for things relating to electronics and
communications, almost every category of goods and services is less
affordable to the typical American than it was half a century ago.
I think it's an illusion, partly due to inflation rates being
underestimated, and partly due to GDP being a junk number. GDP
not just positive goods or work, but also telemarketing, spamming,
casinos, cigarettes, prosecutors convicting the innocent, defense
attorneys acquitting the guilty, insurance policies that people buy
only because they're required to, etc.
Or maybe the growth is only happening in other countries. It would
hardly be fair of the US, EU, etc., to say that the environment can
only afford a few advanced countries, and the rest of the world
will have to remain primitive. No more draining swamps. No more
building nuclear reactors. Crocodiles have to eat someone or
they'll starve, and Americans certainly aren't about to volunteer
to be eaten. [-kfl]
TOPIC: THE MARTIAN (letters of comment by Kevin R and Keith
In response to Evelyn's comments on THE MARTIAN in the 08/18/17
issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:
["How does Watney even know what a phone booth is by the time THE
MARTIAN takes place?"]
I'm old enough to remember phone booths, but when I was a kid I saw
movies with crank-style phones, and the ones with the earpiece on a
cable and the mike on the main part of the device. Maybe Watney
saw some old media with phone booths, or it just survived as an
idiom, like "the whole 9 yards?" [-kr]
Keith Lynch notes:
According to "The Martian Wikia," Watney was born in 1994. He's
already in his 20s [in our time]. He grew up with phone booths.
Kevin R responds:
Full-height, enclosed phone booths are rare out here in the 'burbs.
The Big Apple still has some;
Still ... SUPERMAN (1978). This clip. Skip to 2:24
The "payphone kiosk" had made such inroads against the phone that
it made this joke possible. [-kr]
TOPIC: Time Reversal Stories (letters of comment by Keith F. Lynch
and R. Looney)
In response to Evelyn's comments on time reversal stories in the
08/11/17 issue of the MT VOID, Keith Lynch writes:
I seem to have read more such stories than you have. Unfortunately
I don't remember the titles or authors of most of them. I remember
one in ANALOG in which a space station is discovered that is in two
halves held apart by magnets. Half is matter. The other half is
antimatter and contains a time-reversed alien. People enter the
matter half and communicate with the alien. Of course the more
people teach it, the less it knows.
A story I read in an anthology within the past few years recounted
what seemed to be an average American's life, only completely in
reverse, and nobody saw anything odd about that. He came into
existence at the scene of a serious car crash, and the first thing
he saw was the headlights of a car rapidly receding. The story
includes his mother being dug up in a graveyard and coming to life
in a hospital.
A recent (to me) instance is Greg Egan's "Orthogonal" trilogy. In
one subplot, some "people" land on an uninhabited time-reversed
planet. Shortly before landing, they notice that their spaceship
is very dusty inside, but they're unable to clean it. However,
after they land, the dust all gets tracked outdoors and the
spaceship is clean inside when they leave. When they land, they're
surrounded by footprints, which disappear as they walk in them.
When they go to plant some plants, they find the holes already dug
for them. The plants won't grow. They decide they need time-
forward soil, so they make some by using some time-forward
explosives on some rock. This works. And the fresh rock face
created by the explosives has some ancient carvings, which are in
their honor, (un)carved by their remote descendants.
Earlier Egan wrote "The Hundred Light-Year Diary" about the near-
future discovery of time-reversed galaxies. Just charge a CCD, aim
it at a blank part of the sky, and see if it discharges. (I wonder
if anyone has ever tried that.) By reflecting their light back and
forth and modulating it with a signal, it's possible to send
messages back through time.
I was much more impressed with CRYPTOZOIC! than you were, perhaps
because it was my first exposure to the idea. The idea was that
we're objectively wrong about the direction of time because we were
hypnotized into thinking it went in what we regarded as the normal
direction. People from the near future are visiting to undo this
hypnosis--after which we realize that no, they are from the near
past, and they're doing, not undoing, the hypnosis. The reason for
it is to save us from the despair at the pending collapse of
science and technology, shrinkage of the population, devolution
into dumb animals, and finally the implosion of the universe. Yes,
it's also a time travel novel. The big reveal is that the
Cryptozoic (Precambrian) isn't in the distant past, but the distant
The "Swedish bookstore" scene in the movie TOP SECRET was filmed in
reverse. You can see the scene at
And R. Looney writes:
I enjoyed your recent survey of reverse-time books in the most
recent MT VOID but thought you missed one, shouldn't Roger
Zelazny's "Divine Madness" deserve an honorable mention? But it's
just a short story, not a whole novel. [-rl]
Thanks for the additional stories and comments. When I initially
looked up "time reversal stories," I found only the ones I
mentioned. But now when I look in (say) John Clute's THE
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION, I find a lot more, so I have no
idea how I missed them originally. [-ecl]
TOPIC: The Shape of Places to Come (letters of comment by Keith
F. Lynch and Peter Trei)
In response to Mark's comments on the changing shapes of states in
the 08/04/17 issue of the MT VOID, Keith Lynch writes:
[Mark writes,] "My nice comfy feeling that I knew the shape of all
the states is gone. I will no longer recognize the shape of
Louisiana. That worries me more than that Pluto is no longer a
planet for me."
Pluto is still there, and is unchanged. Its name and its category
are the least interesting things about it.
[The Louisiana change should worry you], as it's an actual change,
unlike anything that happened to Pluto. But is it real? That
article says the change happened between 1932 and 2000. But I just
checked Google Earth, and it shows me photos allegedly taken from
2015 to 2017 which show the Pelican State with the familiar old
shape. Can you find any photos online that show the new shape?
The only changes I've noticed in Google Earth from my childhood
globe are in the opposite direction: Lake Chad and the Aral Sea
have almost entirely disappeared. [-kfl]
Peter Trei adds:
If Keith were to check out the Dead, Caspian, and Salton Seas
sometime, he might add those to the list.
The Great Salt Lake also changes a lot. [-pt]
There is much more, often off-topic, at
<https://tinyurl.com/void-rasff-louisiana>;. The gist seems to be
that there is a lot of area in Louisiana that may look like land
from the air, but is actually at best swamp. [-ecl]
TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
SAPIENS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND by Yuval Noah Harari (ISBN
978-0-099-59008-8) covers Homo sapiens through four "revolutions":
the Cognitive Revolution, the Agricultural Revolution, the
Unification of Humankind, and the Scientific Revolution. The third
("the Unification of Humankind") is often overlooked or rather, not
often considered as a major change in Homo sapiens. Harari also
looks forward to a possible fifth revolution, which would be the
end of Homo sapiens as it changes into a new species.
Harari is careful to distinguish between our specific species,
"Homo sapiens" (which he refers to as "sapiens"), and all members
of the genus Homo," (which he refers to as humans"). He does this
to encompass not only the past (extinct) species of the genus Homo,
but possible future species as well.
I found Harari's account of how we got to where we are engaging.
However, I was not convinced by his explanation of religion, and I
am sure that many will disagree with his account of economics in the
sections on the unification of mankind, continuing into the
scientific revolution. There is a lot to think about--and to argue
about--in his analysis of how one should measure happiness,
particularly in people long dead.
Harari is on shaky ground as well when he offers opinions on
subjects he has not sufficiently researched. Harari writes about
the quest for immortality (or at least "a-mortality"), and then
says, "This is not science-fiction. Most science-fiction plots
describe a world in which Sapiens--identical to us--enjoy superior
technology such as light-speed spaceships and laser guns. The
ethical and political dilemmas central to these plots are taken
from our own world, and they merely recreate our emotional and
social tensions against a futuristic background." One gets the
distinct impression that Harari is getting his impressions from
films, rather than from a knowledge of written science fiction.
(That he uses Shelley, Huxley, and Orwell to illustrate some of his
points proves that science fiction is not all light-speed ships and
As far as the future, Harari sees energy and resources as basically
limitless, though he recognizes that all energy(*) comes from the
sun and is limited to 3,766,800 exajoules a year. (Harari does
acknowledges nuclear and gravitational energy but does not quantify
them.) He says that we now use 50 exajoules a year, so we are a
long way away from ever reaching the limits of the sun's energy.
But he does not note that our energy use has been doubling every
twenty years, nor that at this rate, in only 300 years or so, we
will be using it all. (Yes, I realize this may be comparable to
Mark Twain's extrapolations about the length of the Mississippi
In SAPIENS, there is a lot that is informative, a lot that is
thought-provoking, a lot that is arguable, and some that is just
wrong. Each reader must figure out for themselves what is which.
A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal
is going somewhere.