Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/14/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 11, Whole Number 1719

Bert: Mark Leeper,
Nan: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted.
All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion
unless otherwise noted.

To subscribe, send mail to
To unsubscribe, send mail to
The latest issue is at
An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at

        Corrections to Science Fiction Discussions and Speculative
                Fiction Lecture Series (NJ)
        Huge Explosion on Jupiter Caught on Video
        Regency (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        One of Life's Mysteries (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        Keeping America Safe (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE POSSESSION (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Snowflakes (letters of comment by Kip Williams
                and Pete Rubinstein)
        This Week's Reading (WYRD SISTERS and REDSHIRTS)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Corrections to Science Fiction Discussions and Speculative
Fiction Lecture Series (NJ)

Michael Penncavage spoke on September 8, not Ginjer Buchanan.
Therefore the remaining announced talk is with Ellen Datlow on
October 8.

Oops, GATTACA will be on October 11 (along with FRAMESHIFT).
My apologies for not pointing that out explicitly along with the
announcement that WYRD SISTERS would be postponed to Sept. 13.


TOPIC: Huge Explosion on Jupiter Caught on Video

The title tells it all.  An amateur astronomer was filming the
right place at the right time.


TOPIC: Regency (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

When we went to the Worldcon we stayed at a Hyatt Regency.  Now if
I remember my history a regency is the reigning of a person in the
stead of another person who should be reigning but is too young or
too wounded or just drunk and living a life of dissipation.  I am
curious about the name.  Just who is the regent for whom?  At one
time I thought the name referred to the Regency Period in England.
The room seemed somewhat dated, but I am sure it was not that old.
I am not sure who is the regent for whom.    Will they have to
change the name when the rightful person comes of age or sobers up
and no longer needs a regent?  I was a little afraid to go to
sleep.  I thought that at any moment the real person would come to
power and with a knock at the door I would be thrown out of the
room.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: One of Life's Mysteries (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

Why is it we can send a Martian rover the size of an SUV 350
million miles and land it safely only one-and-a-half miles from its
target, but cannot get Rachel from Cardmember Services to stop
calling me?  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Keeping America Safe (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Let us be realistic.  The shootings in Aurora have brought us to a
new level in citizen safety.  They have upped the game.  For years
the gun fans have been telling us that when everybody has guns we
will be much safer.  As someone put it, "The cure for bad guys with
guns is good guys with guns."  I suppose he had a point.  Would the
Columbine massacre have happened, after all, if everybody at
Columbine High School had guns on their desks?  I mean, when you
have somebody coming into your school shooting at you and your
friends you need to put your hands on some real firepower and fast.
What you need to have on your desk is a Glock, not a copy of SILAS
MARNER.  But most kids in Columbine simply were not allowed to be
packing heat.  Wouldn't we all feel a lot safer if everyone from
fifth grade up could loose a fusillade of bullets just like they do
for pretend in videogames?  Hey, wouldn't it be better if everybody
had guns all the time?

But Aurora changed everything.  That sort of thinking is so 2011.
That was the way it used to be.  The Aurora Massacre has been a
real game changer.  It has pointed the way to the future.  What is
this new game?  Very simply it is body armor.  For sure.  And just
the fact there is body armor out there is going to remove that
thrill of knowing you have the power to kill anyone you see if it
becomes what you want to do.

If you had been in that movie audience with only your simple,
lovable old 9-millimeter or even the AK47 that Mommy gave you for
your tenth birthday, you could still have been in real trouble.  I
mean this guy who came to the movie came ready to boogie.  He came
in body armor--basic black to make him harder to see (and it is
stylish).  And he came with more.  He had an AR-15 assault rifle
with a hundred-round magazine, you know, what everyone really needs
to pop squirrels and such for the cook pot.  He had two shotguns--
just what you want for that pump action feel.  He had a Glock with
him and a spare in the car--just in case, you know.  And this is
the nice touch--he had gas canisters to create a smokescreen and
add to the confusion just like they do it in the Batman movies.
Man, if you have that stuff you have all you need to get something

But, as I say, the big new thing and where he showed that he was
really forward-thinking was the body armor.  This is what SWAT
teams use.  Wearing that he could can take quite a booting and keep
on shooting!!!  What is your best strategy if you are facing that
kind of fire power and only have a simple, cute little 9-millimeter
in your pocket?  I suggest you hide under a seat.  Because, you
know, you go against that kind of bad guy with just a handgun you
are going to be toast.  We need good guys with guns AND body armor.
Without armor, you are just making yourself a target.

This is a whole new day.  Just carrying a handgun does not cut it
any more and it never will again.  You need to show people you are
one mean dude who is prepared.  You need to show the bad guys that
you are ready for them too.  You need to be wearing full body
armor.  And I mean you need to be wearing it BEFORE you are
attacked, not after.  In other words wear it all the time.  ALL THE
TIME.  Like the Scouts say, be prepared.  By one guy in Aurora
being able to do so much with the protection of body armor we have
seen the future.  Hey, I am not saying I approve of what he did one
little bit, but you have to admit he got his point across.  Well,
did he or did he?

And you got to get this stuff soon.  Just because the Gun Grabbers
are losing now there is no reason to let down your guard--literally
or really.  Let us not forget they could gum up the works with gun
show background checks and concealed weapons permit requirements
and magazine capacity limits and age limits and the like.  The good
news is that body armor counts as protection.  The clueless anti-
gun nuts haven't been able to ban assault rifles.  What are the
chances they are going to ban something that is obviously defense
and protection like body armor is?  In Aurora the body armor was
the peaceful part of this well-planned balanced arsenal.  But there
are a lot of knee-jerkers around who just don't think.  So we got
to do the thinking for them.  We have to get the word around that
we all need to wear body armor.  Every day.  Certainly to every
grocery store and every movie theater and every public school.
Wear it anywhere you have a bunch of people who are targets.  And
spread the word: us good guys are going to need armor-piercing

We all need to be on our toes to keep America safe.  Every citizen
should be wearing body armor.  And remember that the bad guys are
ruining the world.  Let's be careful out there.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE POSSESSION (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: A family going through a painful divorce is also subjected
to the ravages of a dybbuk, a possessing spirit from Jewish
folklore.  Until this point probably all dramatic stories of
dybbuks have been based on a single famous play by Shalom Ansky.
This film uses the concept of a dybbuk, but seems to have it behave
in ways that are horror-film violent but most un-dybbuk-like.  THE
POSSESSION is a film that may do well with fans of explicit horror
and clichéd plots, but not well with people interested in folklore.
Danish director Ole Borndel delivers just what is expected for a
visual horror film, but besides the reference to dybbuks, there is
nothing at all new or fresh.  Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

THE EXORCIST (1973) was one of the most financially successful
horror films of all time.  After it was released there were a host
of films about demon possession and about exorcisms to trade off
the fame and popularity, almost all had possessing spirits able to
suspend the laws of physics and biology to perform nasty tricks.  A
large percentage claimed to be true.

These films almost always copied THE EXORCIST by couching the story
in Catholic theology.  THE DYBBUK (1937) far preceded THE EXORCIST
basing its story on the Yiddish Play "The Dybbuk" written by Shalom
Ansky in 1914 who in turn based the story on Jewish folklore going
back to the 1500s.  A dybbuk is a possessing spirit that left its
own body to possess that of another.  While I cannot claim to know
a lot about dybbuks the possession is a spiritual one.  If one
could not trace the unfamiliar spirit to someone else, a possession
could be mistaken for a case of multiple personality.  And multiple
personality could well be the origin of the dybbuk stories.  There
are no physical manifestations.  There are no physically
unexplainable contortions or poltergeist-like attacks.  In the
Ansky play the dybbuk is even bringing some justice to an unjust
trick of fate.  It is considered bad enough just possessing someone
else's body without throwing people around rooms.

THE POSSESSION, which tediously claims to be based on a true story,
is a novelty in that it uses the concept of a dybbuk as few films
do.  In fact, it may be the first film to have a dybbuk that is not
based on the play.  However, the script of the film may claim to
have a dybbuk, but it behaves more like a demon from a post-
EXORCIST exorcism horror film.  It can throw people dozens of feet;
it seems to have some sort of intimate relationship with some breed
of large flying insect; it shows up as a small fully formed human
in X-rays.  All of this would be fine in a film about Exorcist-like
demon possession, but it seems very out of place in a story about a
dybbuk, or for that matter a story that claims to be true.

Clyde and Stephanie (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick) are
going through a divorce very upsetting for their two daughters Em
(Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport).  On a day of
custody with her father Em goes with Clyde to a yard sale where Em
is fascinated by a carved wooden box with odd writing.  (Some
viewers will recognize the letters as being just Hebrew upside-
down.)  She buys the box and places it in her bedroom.  Soon Em
starts having some distinct personality changes.  It is almost as
if she is possessed by some strange spirit!!!

Director Ole Bornedal claims to have liked what he saw as the
subtlety (?) of THE EXORCIST, and that clearly was the kind of film
he was trying to make.  He should have seen the 1937 film THE
DYBBUK.  Or perhaps he would have been better off never having seen
any story of a dybbuk possession.  Then he might have given us
something new and fresh.  This is an old plot being with its roots
in bad horror films rather than folklore.  I rate THE POSSESSION a
0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Snowflakes (letters of comment by Kip Williams and Pete

In response to Mark's comments on snowflakes in the 09/07/12 issue,
Kip Williams writes:

I've been saying for years that no two snowflakes are entirely
dissimilar, and that the similarities between any two flakes vastly
outweigh any differences they may have.  [-kw]

Pete Rubinstein asks:

I have often heard that no two snowflakes are alike.  How do you
know that this contention is true?  [-pr]

Mark responds:

The probability of two snowflakes having the same number of atoms
in the same locations is very small.  The chances that they would
have the same number of atoms in the same locations for any
interval of time is much, much smaller.  [-mrl]


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

The book/film discussion group this month chose WYRD SISTERS by
Terry Pratchett (ISBN 978-0-451-45012-8).  This is the sixth of the
Discworld books, and Pratchett is starting to focus on particular
subjects.  At one point, within the space of a half-dozen pages,
Pratchett has the playwright of a traveling theatrical company
referencing the Phantom of the Opera, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and
Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, and William Shakespeare.  A few pages
earlier, Pratchett bemoaned the fact that it was easier to portray
the rapid passage of time than to describe it, and then said,
"[The] kingdom did not ... move through time in the normal
flickering sky, high-speed photography sense of the word. It moved
around it, which is much cleaner, considerably easier to achieve,
and saves all that traveling around trying to find a laboratory
opposite a dress shop that will keep the same dummy in the window
for sixty years, which has traditionally be the most time-consuming
and expensive bit of the business."

REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi (ISBN 978-0-7653-1699-8) takes place on
the Universal Union Capital Ship "Intrepid" in the year 2456.
Andrew Dahl, a new ensign on the ship, begins to realize that he is
living in a universe that appears to be, well, illogical.  Every
Away Mission ends up with some minor crew member dead in some
peculiar, unlikely, improbable way, and although one of the
officers is often injured, he always recovers fast enough to be
back at work within hours.  Others have noticed this, too, and soon
they are trying to figure out why this is the case.  The problem is
that the explanation is obvious to the reader, and one finds
oneself thinking, "GALAXY QUEST did this first" (or something very
like this, which is encapsulated in Sigourney Weaver/Gwen DeMarco's
reaction to the chompers: "Whoever wrote this episode should

Scalzi does have something beyond this, and it is based on the
difference between GALAXY QUEST and REDSHIRTS.  In GALAXY QUEST,
there are real people (well, Thermians) who think that a television
show is the real world, and that the actors from it are actually
the characters they play.  They then construct their world (as much
as possible) to match the television show.

In REDSHIRTS, the "real" world *is* the television show, and, as
one character says, "There's no way to hide from this.  There's no
way to run from it.  There's no way to avoid fate.  If the
Narrative exists--and you and I know it does--then in the end we
don't have free will.  Sooner or later the Narrative will come for
each of us.  It'll use it however it wants to use us.  And then
we'll die from it." (page 136)  The GALAXY QUEST characters are not
controlled by any explicit "Narrative" (a.k.a. God), though they
are constrained by the laws of their universe insofar as they have
constructed their equipment to match the television show (e.g., the
computer responds to only Weaver's voice).

Scalzi did a report on the Creation Museum at Renovation.  Though
he did not say so, that and this seem consistent with the idea that
he is an atheist, yet when I read his blog and other writings, I
think he has a more nuanced belief.  On the one hand, the
comparison of God with a bad script writer can hardly be considered
favorable to God.  On the other, Scalzi does not impute the level
of evil to God that an author like Philip Pullman does.  You will
have to read it and decide it for yourself.

There's also some discussions about whether the 2456 future is the
future of the 2010 of the writers of "Chronicles of the Intrepid",
or if it is a separate timeline.  (After all, as someone notes,
there is no "Chronicles of the Intrepid" show in the past of the
characters on the "Intrepid".)  This is not dissimilar from
discussions about time travel and alternate history paradoxes, so
this is not entirely new.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton:
           Not everything that counts can be counted,
           and not everything that can be counted counts.
                                           --Albert Einstein