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                        Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
                    Club Notice - 2/25/00 -- Vol. 18, No. 35

       Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-817-5619, mleeper@lucent.com
       Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218, eleeper@lucent.com
       Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell, robmitchell@lucent.com
       HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt, jetzt@lucent.com
       HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer, njs@lucent.com
       Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper
       All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

       The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the
       second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call
       201-447-3652 for details.  The Denver Area Science Fiction
       Association meets 7:30 PM on the third Saturday of every month at
       Southwest State Bank, 1380 S. Federal Blvd.


       1. Nigel Kneale got it wrong.  It was not five million  years  ago,
       it  was  only two million years ago.  And it may not have been done
       by aliens, it may have been natural forces.  But  maybe  not.   Who
       knows?  Anyway it did happen somehow to the human race.  And we are
       all different because of it.  Nigel Kneales's great  leap  forward,
       and  Arthur  C.  Clarke's  great  leap  forward,  may have actually

       But I am getting ahead of myself.  Okay, let's talk about it.  1968
       was  an  interesting year for science fiction films.  Two different
       films came out on the same theme.  One was 2001:  A  SPACE  ODYSSEY
       and  the  other was QUATERMASS AND THE PIT. The former film is many
       people's favorite science  fiction  movie  and  the  latter  is  my
       favorite  science  fiction  movie.   Each film was built around the
       idea that in our distant past the ancestor of humans was guided  to
       intelligence by alien species.  Each said that if you looked at the
       record there suddenly was an astounding jump forward  in  evolution
       that could only have come about by tampering by aliens.  In 2001: A
       SPACE ODYSSEY the unknown aliens use a sort of slab.  When our  ape
       ancestors  came  in  contact  with the slab, their intelligence was
       suddenly increased.

       QUATERMASS AND THE PIT came out the same year with the  same  idea.
       Five  million  years ago aliens modified apes genetically to become
       more intelligent.  They were to  become  the  kings  of  the  world
       because  of  physical  and  mental  modifications.   (In the United
       States, incidentally, QUATERMASS  AND  THE  PIT  was  renamed  FIVE
       MILLION YEARS TO EARTH.  If you want to see it, they seem to run it
       once a month on the American Movie Classics cable channel.   It  is
       well  worth  seeing.)  Nigel Kneale is the author of QUATERMASS AND
       THE PIT.  Did he borrow his ideas from Clarke?   Actually,  it  was
       more  likely  that  it  was  the  other  way  around.   2001 was an
       expansion of Clarke's story "The Sentinel."   That  story  did  not
       have  the uplift idea in it.  QUATERMASS AND THE PIT was based on a
       1950s TV serial "Quatermass and the Pit," which did have the uplift
       idea.   So  if  anything  Clarke  borrowed from Kneale.  And Kneale
       tells the better story.  What Clarke does with the idea is say that
       we were uplifted once, it will happen again.  Kneale's approach was
       actually more intelligent.  He looks at how are  humans  noticeably
       different  than  they would be if the uplift had been natural.  But
       talking up how good QUATERMASS AND THE PIT/FIVE  MILLION  YEARS  TO
       EARTH  is is an old theme with me.  I have been a vociferous fan of
       the film for years.

       One problem with the film, of course, has always  been  that  there
       was  no  point in pre-human history when in a very short time there
       was a big jump to  human.   Now  there  is.   You  can  go  to  the
       University           of          Michigan          site          at
       and  read  the  article  for  yourself.  It begins: "Ann Arbor--Two
       million years ago somewhere in Africa, a small group of individuals
       became  separated  from  other australopithecines.  This population
       bottleneck led to a series of sudden, interrelated changes--in body
       size,  brain  size,  skeletal proportions, and behavior--that jump-
       started the evolution of our species."  Next to it was a picture so
       extreme  that  Kneale  would  not  have  used  it for fear of being
       accused of extreme exaggeration.  It stands side-by-side  a  before
       and  after  australopithecine.   The  before stands up about to the
       after's pelvis and has a brain pan maybe five times as  big.   That
       such  changes  could happen so suddenly is certainly surprising and
       Nigel Kneale's explanation that the difference was caused by  alien
       intervention is only slightly less believable. The article covers a
       study  in  the  January  2000  issue  of  "Molecular  Biology   and
       Evolution."   The   study  brings  together  genetic,  fossil,  and
       archeological evidence.  As for this change, University of Michigan
       anthropologist Milford Wolpoff says, "Insofar as we can tell, these
       changes were sudden and not gradual."

       It is difficult to look at this article and not realize  how  close
       Nigel  Kneale  got it, even if he placed it back five million years
       and it was only two million.  [-mrl]

                                          Mark Leeper
                                          HO 1K-644 732-817-5619