Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
12/04/09 -- Vol. 28, No. 23, Whole Number 1574

 C3PO: Mark Leeper,
 R2D2: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted.
All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion
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        Atlantic Provinces Trip Logs
        Sad News (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Protests Over Australia Banning Steeplechases (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        A Brief History of the MT VOID and the Mt. Holz Science
                Fiction Society (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        PAUL OF DUNE by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
                (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        Kiva (letter of comment by Tim McDaniel)
        Ravens (letter of comment by Pete Rubinstein)
        Ode to Joy (letters of comment by Kip Williams, Paul Dormer,
                and Doug Wickstrom)
        This Week's Reading (THE MARRIAGE BUREAU FOR RICH PEOPLE and
                THE MOTEL OF THE MYSTERIES) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Atlantic Provinces Trip Logs

Our logs of our recent trip to the Atlantic Provinces in Canada
can be found at: (Mark's) (Evelyn's)


TOPIC: Sad News (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Once again the Large Hadron Collider has to be shut down, this time
probably for good.  It turns out--and it is embarrassing that
nobody thought to check this before now--that there really are no
large hadrons.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Protests Over Australia Banning Steeplechases (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

One commenter points out, "There is an element of risk in many
sports--without this it would become too sanitized and boring."

Hello, horse.  Let's put a heavy human on your back and then have
you jump over hedges with him there.  If you break a leg, you die.
That is just the risk you face.  But if you jump well, you'll get a
feedbag of tasty oats tonight.  Is it a deal, horse?  Oh, I forgot.
You don't get a vote, do you?  [-mrl]


TOPIC: A Brief History of the MT VOID and the Mt. Holz Science
Fiction Society (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

We have had some questions about the Mt. Holz Science Fiction
Society and the MT Void.  Let me try to answer all the questions in
one very short history.

Since we first met Evelyn and I have always mixed out interest
science fiction with our socializing.  We were in the science
fiction club at the University of Massachusetts from before school
started freshman year until we graduated.  The last six months I
was the president of the club.  Evelyn preferred to be the club
librarian and did about six times the work anyone else in the club

When we graduated we married, and while I was getting my Masters
from Stanford we filled the need for a science fiction club by
joining PenSFA, the Peninsula Science Fiction Association, which
included such members as artists George Barr and Jim Thomas.

When I graduated Stanford I went to work for Burroughs Computer
Corporation in Detroit.  Wednesday evenings we would go over to
Wayne State University and attend the science fiction meetings of
the Wayne Third Foundation.  We liked the people of that area, but
Detroit was depressing and cold.  Also, Burroughs was a rather
unpleasant place to work.  After three and a half years, at the end
of 1977, we left and went to work for Bell Laboratories, the
research arm of the telephone company.

Bell Laboratories was one of the primary scientific research
environments in the world, and they treated their employees well.
They even funded social clubs for their staff.  But nobody had
started a science fiction club.  This seemed peculiar for a cutting
edge research facility.  There was a little science fiction
activity, but it consisted of one group what shared the cost of a
subscription to the Science Fiction Book Club and then they passed
the books around by inter-office mail.  This was not entirely
satisfying.  We did go to the Empiricon science fiction convention
in November, 1978.  On the way home I told Evelyn that we really
ought to found a science fiction discussion group at Bell
Laboratories.  Things were never the same again.  By the end of
1978 we had a working science fiction club.

Bell would give some minimal funding to the club and we could use
company facilities if we could get ten people to say they would
join it.  At first we thought finding ten people interested would
be difficult.  That fear was quickly disposed of.  We should have
been able to call ourselves the "Bell Labs Science Fiction Club",
but that was not allowed by the company so we were just the
"Science Fiction Club".

We met every other week and discussed one book and picked another
for the following meeting.  So two notices had to go out through
inter-office mail for each meeting, one to remind people of the
coming meeting and one to tell people what book had been chosen for
the next meeting.  That was a notice a week, and they started hand-
written and photocopied, then typed, and eventually e-mailed.  A
year or so later the meetings were changed for once every three
weeks so we would send out two notices every three weeks, but we
soon returned to weekly publication.  It seemed pointless to just
have one item per notice so I started commenting on films and
making jokes.  Evelyn would write book reviews and other comments
and announcements.

We at first were based at Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey,
but members would come to meetings from other nearby Bell
Laboratories locations, particularly Lincroft and Middletown.  Each
of these locations had a two-letter code to make addressing in
interoffice mail quick.  Holmdel was HO; Middletown was MT;
Lincroft was LZ.  Why Lincroft was not LC we never found out.  The
meetings were at whichever facility Evelyn and I were at the time.
We were moved around.  At a time when we were in Middletown we
decided that the club and the notice needed a better name.  We
could have called ourselves the Middletown-Holmdel-Lincroft Science
Fiction Club, but we shortened that using the mail codes to the MT
HOLZ.  That is not an abbreviation for a mountain's name, and there
appears to be no Mount Holz.  Instead it is pronounced as if it
were "empty holes."  The weekly notice has was similarly named the
MT VOID or pronounced "empty void."  These names were proposed by
member Paul S. R. Chisholm.

There are still something like 215 real members of the MT HOLZ
Science Fiction Society.  Activities have become increasingly rare.
For a long time there was a video film festival that went along
with the club showing pairings of related films like THE POWER and
participation dropped off the festival died and was reborn once or
twice.  These days we do not even announce showings to the whole
club, but this activity goes on.  The one activity that still goes
strong is a weekly publication of surprising length, the MT VOID.
It may well be the science fiction fanzine that has had the
greatest number of issues.  The notice/fanzine has had 1574 issues
going back to 1978.  The members get the MT VOID emailed to them,
but it is reprinted on numerous web locations and my reviews appear
separately on sites like the Internet Movie Database and Rotten
Tomatoes.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is the most bizarre look at how mad the military can
be since CATCH 22.  The United States military maintains a core of
people who claim to have psychic powers.  The trappings are fun:
men who can run through walls, stare goats to death, and can give
deadly forehead taps.  But there is not much plot or story here to
hang them on.  Through the whole film one has the feeling that the
real story is just about to begin, but like the original military
project, we go nowhere and nothing ever comes of anything.  Rating:
high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

"More of this is true than you would believe."  This is the
statement that starts the film.  Perhaps it is true, and it might
not take a lot to convince me.  Back when I was working for a major
telecommunications corporation the management invested heavily in
pseudo-scientific pop-psychology exercises and the medical
department touted the value of magnetic bracelets.  The moral is
that people in positions of responsibility are easily fooled by
others and by themselves.

There was a time that both the Americans and the Soviets believed
that there might actually be some truth to psychic claims and both
sides did what in retrospect were absurd experiments in
parapsychology.  Perhaps to some degree it made sense.  There may
be a very low probability that anybody could prove and exploit
mystic powers, but if there was truth to the claims neither side
could afford to allow the other to gain a large psychic advantage.
THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS is a fiction film based on the
supposedly non-fiction book of the same title by Jon Ronson.  It is
about the bizarre cadre of men who claimed to have psychic powers
who were paid by the government to see if they could find a
strategic use of these mystical powers.

Bob Wilton (played by Ewan McGregor) is a Michigan newspaperman
sent to interview a local man who claims to have the power to kill
hamsters by just staring at them.  He claims to have used this
power in the military and to have known a very gifted psychic at
that time.  That was Lyn Cassady.  Later Wilton coincidentally
meets Cassady (George Clooney, looking like J. Jonah Jameson from
SPIDER-MAN) and travels with him to Iraq to see him use his claimed
powers.  The story follows their current adventures in Iraq and in
flashback tell Cassady's story in the experimental "New Earth
Army."  This elite group, led by the Timothy Leary wannabe Bill
Django (Jeff Bridges) who trains his people to read minds, pass
through solid walls, and to kill with a stare or a tap on the
forehead.  Meanwhile another bizarre psychic, Larry Hooper (Kevin
Spacey), tries to use the situation for his own advancement.

The problem with Peter Straughan's adaptation of the book by Jon
Ronson is that in spite of its shocking view, and its eccentric
characters and situations, the promised story never forms itself.
The viewer (and the main character) just spends some time among
some strange people.  We see a few short segments that tell some of
what happens in the training, but it is all kept at arm's distance.
Rather than moving toward any sort of conclusion about all that has
happened, the film builds to an uninteresting episode of group LSD
in the Iraqi desert and then suddenly the film is over.

This film could have been a very sharp attack on the credulity of
the leaders of the United States military, a sort of latter-day DR.
STRANGELOVE.  But it ends up squishy-soft and undirected.  Where it
should be saying this was a waste of taxpayer money, THE MEN WHO
STARE AT GOATS just says that there are some real wackos in the
world.  But you probably knew that already.  I rate it a high +1 on
the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This ultra-low budget attempt at a science fiction film is
lacking in just about every aspect.  Humans kidnapped by aliens and
turned into super-being by aliens return to Earth to battle for
control of the alien world.  What sounds like the premise of an
"Outer Limits" episode never engages the viewer.  Mysterious film
is probably a first time effort by David M. Epstein.  It mostly
just seems to be people running around and fighting (not very
convincingly).  By the time there is any character development, the
viewer probably no longer cares.  Rating: -1 (-4 to +4) or 3/10

MADE I cannot say very much about the origins of this film or the
person behind it.  As of this writing it is not listed in the
Internet Movie Database or any of the standard movie review sites.
The film has a website,  But
even that website is surprisingly uninformative.  The film was
written, produced, and directed by David Michael Epstein for the
film company David Michael Epstein.  It will be released directly
to video on January 5, 2010, and it was a selection for the Long
Island Film Festival.  But a web search turns up nothing about
Epstein even in conjunction with the film festival.  Even a Google
search does not find any Internet references to the film.

The premise is convoluted.  At some time several years ago eight
astronauts disappeared.  It seems they had been kidnapped by aliens
and taken to the aliens' home planet.  They found it a paradise,
but breathing the atmosphere had a very bad effect on their
thinking processes.  The astronauts formed two conflicting camps,
four humans each, bringing war to the alien world.  The astronauts
have been sent back to Earth, taking their quarrel back to their
home planet.  They have two hours to war with each other, and
whoever wins will also be the lords of the alien world.  This is
all revealed in one large expository lump at the beginning of the
story.  They will fight it out with new super-powers but only
minimal special effects.  One, for example, has "unremitting
musculoskeletal activity in legs."  Presumably that means that he
is compelled to run without stopping.  Most of the astronauts look
human, but one has an oversize head that looks like a fugitive from
a Marti Gras parade.

There are a lot of good films by one auteur who wrote and directed
(and usually produced).  Certainly in these days of video,
production costs are not high and there are a lot of amateur films
being made.  I was however intrigued by the title of the film and
so decided to give it a try.  In some ways the circumstances were a
lot like those for another film by a first timer who wrote,
produced, and directed.  That film was the aptly-titled BAD TASTE
(1987) created by Peter Jackson.  I would not have expected great
things from this Peter Jackson after seeing that first film.
Similarly David Michael Epstein is starting with a somewhat less
than auspicious attempt.  This is a film that seems to be mostly
about people running around a suburban neighborhood.  It has a few
very simple computer special effects, but nothing that makes the
visuals of interest.

This mystery film appears to be a practice effort for a fledgling
filmmaker.  It cannot be recommended, but it does have a moment or
two here and there.  I rate the inaccurately titled THE SECOND BEST
SCIENCE FICTION MOVIE EVER MADE a -1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 3/10.


TOPIC: PAUL OF DUNE by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
(copyright 2008 Herbert Properties LLC, Tor, $27.95, 512pp,
ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-1294-5, ISBN-10:  0-7653-1294-8) (book review
by Joe Karpierz)

So, I've been sitting here for several minutes in an attempt to
figure out just how to begin a review of the not-quite-latest
"Dune" novel, PAUL OF DUNE--and the best I could do was just tell
you that I was trying to come up with something. I guess that says
something about the novel.

I thought--well, I was hoping anyway--that after Herbert and
Anderson finished the original story, finished what Frank started
in the mid-1960s--we would be done with the "Dune" universe.
Foolish me.  Where there's money to be made, books will be written.
But let me talk about the book first, then on to the "Dune" world
(not the word I'm looking for, but it will come to me eventually).

PAUL OF DUNE takes place between DUNE and DUNE MESSIAH--well, part
of it takes place between DUNE and DUNE MESSIAH, anyway.  There is
a fairly large gap in time between the end of DUNE and the
beginning of DUNE MESSIAH, when Paul's jihad is in full force,
billions have been killed in his name, and he's no longer the hero
that we liked in DUNE.  So, PAUL OF DUNE sets out to tell us what
happened in that period of time, both with the jihad and how he
became such an unlikeable character.

The authors tell the story on two fronts--the actual time period
between DUNE and DUNE MESSIAH, and a period before DUNE takes
place, when Paul was twelve or thirteen years old, learning what it
means to be a Duke from his father Leto.  Most of the action from
Paul's earlier days centers around the War of Assassins, a conflict
that House Atreides was involved in that saw one (or two, depending
on how you look at it) of Leto's prospective brides killed by a
rival house because of perceived wrong doings.  Whether or not
there were any hints whatsoever in the original "Dune" novels
themselves of a War of Assassins and potential politics-based wives
for Leto is irrelevant; they are told about here to bring home the
point that Paul is realizing that certain things must be done in
order to make other things correct.  In the case of the War of
Assassins, it's the retribution that is taken out on the rival
house's planet for the death of the bride.  Paul learns that
violence is necessary to protect your people and your ideals.

In the present day, Paul's jihad is going gangbusters.  We see Paul
agonize over the choices he has made to put this war in motion,
agonize over the violence that he witnesses on a daily basis.  We
watch him survive several assassination attempts on his life (as
you might expect when you've become the despised ruler of an empire
ruled by bloodletting), including one by the daughter of Count
Hasimir Fenring, who planted her there in attempt to get her on the
throne.  We also watch his sterilize a planet when he discovers
that its rulers are plotting to wipe out his home planet of

But I guess the question I have is "so what?" to both counts.
Frank Herbert skipped all that time between DUNE and DUNE MESSIAH
for a reason--there was nothing interesting to say about it--at
all.  PAUL OF DUNE didn't do anything to change my opinion--nothing
interesting happened worth talking about.  The assassination
attempts are to be expected, the planet killings to be expected;
well, what did anyone expect?  The guy takes over as Emperor of the
Known Universe and starts killing anyone opposed to him.  Well,
that's not quite true--his followers are doing the killing, and he
does nothing to stop them.  Neither is there anything very
interesting about Paul's younger days.  I wasn't bored, I was

So, why do I think this is true?  It's something I hinted at in my
review of WHIPPING STAR, when I said  "...see my upcoming review of
PAUL OF DUNE, wherein I finally realize what the problem *really*
is with all the "Dune" sequels--not just the Anderson/Herbert
editions, but the other ones by Frank Herbert himself."  A few
weeks ago, I was chatting with the fellow who was Best Man at my
wedding.  He's a big "Dune" fan--he gave me a first edition
hardcover of DUNE as a wedding present.  Yeah, the dust jacket is
gone, and yes, the flyleaf is a bit torn, but it is still an
original Chilton edition of DUNE.  But I digress.  We were talking
about "Dune" (as is usually the case when we chat) and he said "...
you only read DUNE for the first time once."  And therein lies the
issue with not only the Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson "Dune"
novels, but with everything after GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE (although it
could be argued that this will apply to DUNE MESSIAH and CHILDREN
OF DUNE as well). In DUNE, Frank did what comes along once in a
lifetime for many authors, if at all--he created a story,
characters, and universe so different and unique, and yet one that
resonated with readers of the day in some of its ecological topics
(and I'm pretty sure that's still happening today for new readers
of DUNE), that it became one of the greatest sf novels of all time.
One of the great appeals was that newness, something that is
*missing from all the rest of the 'Dune' novels".  Frank says that
the original three books were intended to be one story, and I
believe him, so I have less of a problem with DUNE MESSIAH and
CHILDREN OF DUNE than the rest of them all.  The point is that
there's nothing new to discover--it's all filler.  I'll have to
admit that HERETICS OF DUNE and CHAPTERHOUSE: DUNE did try to break
some new ground, and thus they were better than GOD EMPEROR OF
DUNE, but for the most part all the authors are doing is playing in
the sandbox (pardon the pun), moving things around here and there,
trying to fill in some spots *that most of us don't really care to
have filled in*.  It's like reading 2010 and finding out what
screwed HAL up; I liked it better as a mystery for the reader to
solve.  Here's the bottom line, in my opinion: DUNE is a novel--the
Brian Herbert/Kevin J. Anderson stuff is *product*, turned out at
regular intervals to generate cash, and is pretty much
uninteresting.  HUNTERS OF DUNE and SANDWORMS OF DUNE were less of
this ilk than the rest as they were interesting in that they
finished the story that Frank was telling. But that's about it.

One of these days I'm going to give up on these things, but after
some fifteen or so novels it's hard to stop now.  I have WINDS OF
DUNE on my bookshelf, and it will be read at some point.  But not
now.  [-jak]


TOPIC: Kiva (letter of comment by Tim McDaniel)

[This arrived a while ago, but got lost in the shuffle.  -ecl]

In response to Mark's comments on Kiva in the 11/13/09 issue of the
MT VOID, Tim McDaniel writes:

That refers to,
about Kiva.

Lenders go to Kiva Web site to find microfinance loans.  For each
loan, Kiva shows pictures and descriptions of the borrower(s), the
purpose of the loan, and its conditions.  Lenders loan money (part
or all of a total loan) to the borrower, who eventually repays to
their lender(s).  Kiva lenders get no interest.  It's touted as a
way to make a connection between individual lenders in the rich
world and individual borrowers usually in the Third World.

Kiva doesn't operate loan offices; it actually partners with
MicroFinance Institutions (MFIs), who do all the lending work in
the locations.  Some people realized something that was implicit
but not emphasized: in most cases, MFIs believe that Kiva will fund
its loans, and will disburse the loans before posting the loan to
Kiva.  The controversy is because the author of the article says
that that means there's no real connection between the borrower and
the lender.

I've just been reading  That's a forum for fans of
Kiva, and "fans" in the SF sense of, say, Babylon 5 or Stargate
fans--devoted, but ready to shout "wunce again ... fale us!!!" at
the smallest incident.  They're generally supporting Kiva on this.

- Some MFIs do wait for Kiva to raise the money before disbursing
   the loan.  When that's so, the criticism is incorrect.

- Heifer Int'l, for example, talks all about buying a poor
   third-worlder a cow, or a pig, or some chickens or rabbits.  They
   have stories from recipients about how their cow &c changed their
   lvies.  They now have a disclaimer on each page that the money
   will actually be given to missions, which will decide how to
   spend the money.

- Kiva has changed the docs to be more accurate.  It's a
   not-for-profit, and docs tend to get out of date.  The
   information (disbursement date for the loan) has been shown for
   some time.

- The Kiva lender does get the loan.  If the borrower defaults or
   the currency shifts a lot in value, unless the MFI guarantees the
   loan, the Kiva lender is the one who gets hit.

- A few analogies were offered.

   - Suppose you buy something for the office and get reimbursed.
     Who do you think of as the buyer, you or the employer?

   - You can fund a Kiva loan with a credit card.  (I think PayPal
     eats the fee.)  You might even get the first repayment from the
     loan before you even have to pay money for the loan.  Does that
     arrangement, symmetric with the controversial one, mean that
     you broke the connection yourself, and that Visa, MasterCard,
     or PayPal is the real lender?

In lend-then-post-to-Kiva, what's really happening is that the MFI
is making loans, then selling them.  The lenders on Kiva are
assuming slices of the loan from the MFI.  (It's a derivative!)
The MFI has unloaded the risk (in most cases).  The Kiva lender
capital allows them to loan again.  There's still a connection--
just as a second owner.  If the loan expires before being funded
(q.v.), though, the MFI has its own capital at risk, and is
therefore not as able to lend to the next.

Another factor is something I pointed out on kivafriends years ago
and didn't seem to worry anyone, and the article writer didn't
notice. If a Kiva loan doesn't fund fully in 30 days, it's expired,
and all the lenders get their money back.  No loan had ever timed
out like this until recently.  Even now, very few have done so, and
it may well be due to a Web site design mis-feature.

If no loans expire--if every loan eventually accumulates enough
people to fund it--then it doesn't matter which loans you select.
OK, it matters on objective criteria: the duration of the loan, and
the probability of default by either the borrower or the MFI.  What
doesn't matter is the purpose.

Say you have a choice between Sister Cecilia's Home for Sick
Orphaned Kittens, and Larry's Liquor and Ladies, I posited that
both are going to get funded fully.  If you're revolted by liquor,
Larry will still get all his money: your loan to Cecilia just
displaces some other lenders who, after a cascade, will fund Larry.
You might as well ignore all scruples and fund Larry; it doesn't
make one whit of difference.

After I realized that, I still refused to loan for products that I
didn't want to support.

(C.f. state lottery proceeds being "reserved for funding
education", or people earmarking United Way contributions.)  [-tm]


TOPIC: Ravens (letter of comment by Pete Rubinstein)

In response to Evelyn's comments on the use of the nickname "Raven"
in FOUNDATION in the 11/27/09 issue of the MT VOID, Pete Rubinstein

I think that ravens and crows were ill omens long before Poe.

"white-winged crow bird of evil omen" [Chinese Folklore: Jobes,

"Wotan's ravens of misfortune, usually fatal" [Ger. Opera: Wagner,
Götterdämmerung, Westerman, 245]

On land, the themes of ominousness and transmigration are attached
to corvids, specifically crows and ravens, which were not always
distinguished.  From classical times to the present day, the raven
(Corvus corax) and crow (Corvus corone) have been thought birds of
ill omen.  A document written in England between 680 and 714 C.E.
reported that once, when King Edwin (585-633 C.E. ) was on his way
to church, a crow "sang with an evil omen." The king stopped to
listen until Bishop Paulinus had a servant shoot the bird. He later
showed it to the catechumens (converts before baptism) in the
church to prove that heathen superstitions were worthless, since
the bird did not know it was its own death that it was prophesying.

Read more: Soul Birds - world, body, beliefs, time, human



TOPIC: Ode to Joy (letters of comment by Kip Williams, Paul
Dormer, and Doug Wickstrom)

In response to Mark's comments on Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" in the
11/27/09 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes, "Mark, have you
checked the words for 'Ode to Joy'?  It's not just 'be happy...
happy is good... happy happy joy joy.'  It's specific. It may be
called 'Ode to Joy,' but it might better be called 'Ode to
Brotherhood.'  All men are brothers--that's what I take away from
this. Beethoven underscores it by going into a Turkish march,
despite the history of bloodshed between Austria and Turkey.
Revolutionary stuff.  'Embrace each other now, you millions!  This
kiss is for the whole wide world!'  [-kw]

Mark replies, "Ah, so he mislabeled it.  He was giving joy credit
that should have brotherhood.  Shame on you, Ludvig.  Brotherhood
gets little enough credit without you misdirecting your ode to it.
:-)  Actually it reminds me of the original BUFFY THE VAMPIRE
SLAYER movie.  It was overall not much of a film, but I did like
the theme of their prom which was 'Hug the Earth'."

Paul Dormer points out, "Schiller wrote the ode.  Beethoven
*merely* set it to music."  [-pd]

And Doug Wickstrom adds, "And Schiller used 'Freude' (joy) as code
for 'Freiheit' (freedom), which van Beethoven knew very well.  I
was taught this both as a student of music and a student of German,
in music history and German literature courses."  [-dw]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

978-0-399-15558-1) was recommended by the speaker at a pot-luck
dinner for local book discussion groups.  It sounded promising, but
it had several major flaws.  To start with, it was full of info-
dumps--even more than all those science fiction books that everyone
complains about.  There are is a long description of a Muslim
wedding, a long description of a Hindu wedding, a long description
of cooking dinner, and long descriptions of just about everything
else.  With good editing it might work, but the editing is, well,
peculiar.  For example, "It was a crisp winter morning and some of
the motorists and pedestrians were wrapped up in watch caps and
woolen clothes.  He opened the gate and stepped outside.  Mr. Ali
loved the garden he had created in the modest yard, about twenty
feet wide and ten feet long.  He rubbed his hands to warm them up--
sure that the temperature was less than seventy degrees."

What's wrong?  Well, first of all, when I'm reading from the point
of view of an Indian, I expect to read metric units--and especially
if the book's author is English.  I can only conclude that the
American publisher decided that American readers are slow.  But in
addition, if it's cold enough that people are wearing watch caps
and woolen clothes on a "crisp" morning, then Mr. Ali should be
thinking that it is under *fifty* degrees (or even forty), not

The book is very episodic.  There is an arc, but most of the book
is individual stories that last a paragraph or two, and seem
designed to convey some particular homily that Zama is promoting:
be good to your daughter-in-law, look for a good wife rather than a
beautiful one, compromise is important, etc.

The one point in its favor is that it is a fast read, but this is
hardly enough to recommend it.

0-395-28424-4) is perhaps the best-known of what might be called
"future archaeology" books.  A thousand years from now, after
civilization was destroyed by being buried under a flood of junk
mail and solid pollutants, which apparently destroyed all knowledge
of our era without driving everyone back into the Dark Ages.
Howard Carson, a future archaeologist discovers and excavates a
motel.  The story seems like a cross between Howard Carter's
discovery of King Tut's tomb, and Heinrich Schliemann's discovery
of Troy.  For example, Carson says he sees "wonderful things," and
one of the illustrations shows Carson's wife wearing the "jewelry"
and "ornaments" that he found in the motel.  The fact that one of
the pieces of jewelry is an old-fashioned bathtub plug on a chain,
and one of the ornaments is a toilet seat gives you some idea of
both Carson's accuracy and the nature of the book.  (The motel is
called the "Motel Toot'n'C'mon".)

Gary Westfahl wrote an article about this genre: "The Addled
Archaeology of the Future".  As he says, "there is a sporadic
tradition of science fiction stories about future archaeology which
endeavor to argue, albeit in a humorous manner, that this
[misinterpreting of artifacts] is a genuine danger; however, these
texts are rare, they are written by people who are not considered
science fiction authors; and they are generally unsuccessful, both
financially and aesthetically."  He discusses four of these: Edgar
Allan Poe's "Mellonta Tauta" (1849), John Ames Mitchell's THE LAST
AMERICAN (1889), Robert Nathan's THE WEANS (1960), and Macaulay's
MOTEL OF THE MYSTERIES (1979).  [-ecl]

[One recent example of the "addled history" genre is this look at
the Beatles from the year 3000:  -mrl]


                                           Mark Leeper

            The sole cause of all human misery is the inability
            of people to sit quietly in their rooms.
                                           -- Blaise Pascal, 1670