Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/01/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 31, Whole Number 1739

Humphrey Bogart: Mark Leeper,
Lauren Bacall: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Lectures,
                etc. (NJ)
        Semper (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Does Mathematics Have a Personality? (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        It's Hard to Predict, Especially the Future (comments
                by Dale L. Skran, Jr.)
        2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        This Week's Reading (THE MIRAGE, Agatha Christie, and
                "12 Byzantine Rulers" podcast) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Lectures,
etc. (NJ)

February 7: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (film), Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 6:30PM
February 14: SLEEP DEALER (film), Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
        5:30PM; discussion after the film
February 21: THE STRANGER by Albert Camus, Old Bridge (NJ) Public
        Library, 7PM
March 7: TBD (film), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 6:30PM
        (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM; discussion after the film
March 28: THE RAPTURE OF THE NERDS by Cory Doctorow and Charles
        Stross, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
April 18: FANCIES AND GOODNIGHTS by John Collier (some subset TBD),
        Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
May 23: THE STARS MY DESTINATION by Alfred Bester, Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 7PM
June 20: FLOATING OPERA by John Barth, Old Bridge (NJ) Public
        Library, 7PM
July 25: TRSF by the MIT Technology Review, Old Bridge (NJ) Public
        Library, 7PM

Speculative Fiction Lectures:

February 2: Hildy Steveman and Neal Levin on the business side of
        writing, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
March 2: Ginjer Buchanan (Editor-in-Chief, Ace and Roc Books),
        Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


TOPIC: Semper (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

All I can say is if the Marines really were marine, their motto
would be Semper Fish.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Does Mathematics Have a Personality? (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

I feel a little funny writing about this week's topic because I
think it will sound a little like I am getting old and the cheese
has fallen off my cracker, so to speak.  But most of my life
mathematics has been very important to me.  It is like a friend
that I can always call on when I have nothing else to do.  Some
people feel that way about crossword puzzles or other mental
pursuits.  For me it is mathematics.  And I can do mathematics on a
smaller piece of paper than I would need to carry to do a crossword
puzzle.  I am not sure to what extent this happens in other
disciplines, but I think mathematicians have a sort of personal
relationship with their subject.  Personally I get to the point
where I feel that mathematics makes choices and expresses
preferences.  There are times I even feel it is laughing at me in
some joke at my expense.

I can be doing a problem and the math will tell me I am correct to
think about a problem a certain way, but the mathematics suggests a
better approach.  Consider the following simple word problem a
student asked me for help on:  A car starts out on a straight road
going at 20 mph.  An hour later a second car starts out on the same
road and direction going 60 mph.  How long will it take the second
car to catch up?

The standard way to solve the problem is to say we will measure
time from when the second car starts.  The first car has travels 20
miles so his position at time t is 20(t+1) and the second car's
position is 60t.  They will have gone the same distance when
20t+20`t.  Subtract 20t from both sides and you get a new
equation 20@t, so t /40=1/2. That was pretty easy. I got the
right answer.  So I am happy.  But what the mathematics is asking
why are we subtracting from both sides?  We are measuring how far
each car is from the starting point at time t.  But the starting
point is unimportant once the race has started.  Think about the
problem as how far apart the cars are at time t.  They start 20
miles apart and the second car is eating the distance between them
at 40 mph.  Once you see that you don't need to write any equations
20/40 is 1/2.  The mathematics says that it is fastest to consider
the distance between the cars rather than the distance each has
traveled.  You can do it either way, but the mathematics will give
you extra work if you do it the natural way.  The mathematics
recommends concentrating on the distance between.  Okay, that is a
simple algebraic example.

When it comes to logarithms you can have logs with a base of any
real number greater than 1.  (You could stretch a point an even
have logs with base between 0 and 1, non-inclusive.)  However, we
have a number system based on 10 because we have ten fingers and
ten toes.  As a result it seems to mean that when we deal with
logarithms it might make the most sense to deal with logarithms
with a base of 10.  That works nicely until we get to calculus.
Then it turns out that the derivative log(x) is log(e)/x where e is
some strange number having to do with compound interest among other
things.  That is fairly ugly and the mathematics seems to be
forcing in the use of this funny number e.  On the other hand if
you are going to use logs with a base of e--what are called natural
logs--the derivative of ln(x) (that is the "natural" log of x) is
1/x.  The math is saying," you can work with logs of any base, but
you aren't going to get away from using e and your life will be
miserable with all the constants you have to worry about."  Math
will just bully you until you give in and use natural logarithms.
You don't want to make the mathematics too angry with you. You want
to work with it and not fight it.  Similarly you can measure angles
in degrees where there are 360 degrees in a circle.  You will be
okay again until you get to calculus.  Then in calculus the
mathematics starts having preferences again.  It will be easier on
you if you measure angle in radians.  There are 2*pi radians in a
360-degree circle.  If you take a wedge of a circle that has an
angle of one radian, the length of each straight side will be the
same as the arc length of the rounded side.  You would not think it
is a big deal, but if you want nice numbers to come out when you
differentiate, you have to use radians for your angle measure.  The
mathematics will punish you without more complicated expressions
unless you measure angles the way the mathematics recommends.

Other times the mathematics almost seems to be laughing at you.  I
was doing a problem I set for myself.  A parabola that is the graph
of a quadratic equation crosses the X-axis at A and B.  If I add C
to the quadratic it now crosses the X-axis at D and E.  Is it
possible to find E in terms of the other variables?  I said the
graph had to be some multiple of


But if you add C to it, it had be a multiple of (X-D)(X-E).

This means


Looking at the x terms we get (A+B)=(D+E) so E=(A+B-D)

What an interesting relationship.  Or is it?  All this is really
saying is that

This says that adding a constant to a quadratic will not change its
axis of symmetry.  The roots will move, but they will still be
centered around and equidistant from the axis of symmetry which
will itself remain unchanged.  I should have immediately seen


I did not have to go through so much trouble.  I missed seeing what
was going on so the mathematics laid it out for me.  The
mathematics was telling me that I went through all that mathematics
when there was a simple answer.  And mathematics can be
patronizing.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: It's Hard to Predict, Especially the Future (comments by
Dale L. Skran, Jr.)

Okay, I'll fess up--I'm a "future junkie."  I have a large
collection of books on futurism and prediction, and rank Arthur
C. Clarke's PROFILES OF THE FUTURE as one of my all-time favorite
books.  Now that I have reached "a certain age" I can look back at
predictions made earlier in my lifetime and provide my personal
assessment of their success or failure.  It was with great interest
that I noticed "Writers of the Future" had created a time capsule
of predictions by SF writers made in 1987, and now, twenty-five
years later, have posted them on the web.  I propose to briefly
discuss some of the set of predictions, with an emphasis on
analyzing why they went wrong--or right.  I won't address all of
them since, frankly, some are just plain silly or are obviously
intended as a joke or parody.


The first set of predictions is from Gregory Benford, a well-known
hard SF writer that I generally like.  Benford has provided a neat
and easy to follow list, so here goes:

* World population is nearly 8 billion:  It turns out to be a mere
7 billion; the reason for the shortfall is that in the olden days
of 1987 the extent to which increasing global wealth would depress
birth rates was not well understood.  Benford's prediction was a
very reasonable one--it just turned out to be wrong.
* Benford next throws out a snide little line about how "Most
Americans are barely literate ... just like today."  Although this
statement is clearly intended to be witty, it turns out to be true.
There seems little doubt that the increasing usage of computers and
the playing of video games has decreased the general level of
literacy, but, as Benford reminds us, it was never that high
* As far as I know, Berkeley does not have a theme park dedicated
to the 1960s as Benford predicted. This does not seem like it was a
seriously intended prediction.
* Benford walks off the deep end, holding hands with just about
every futurist who wrote anything about space in the 1980s,
predicting a base on the moon and an expedition to Mars, along with
vague evidence of intelligent life off the Earth.   None of these
things have come to pass.  Generally predictions of progress in
space made before about 1940 tend to be very pessimistic compared
to what actually happened between 1940 and 1970, while predictions
written from 1960-1990 tend to be wildly optimistic about space
exploration.  Perhaps the simplistic way to understand this
phenomenon is that the earlier group of writers failed to grasp how
the Cold War would drive the space race, and the later futurists
failed to grasp that the Cold War would end, and with it, the space
* "I will be old, but not dead"--Benford won on this one all

GERALD FEINBERG (physicist who coined the term "Tachyon")

Feinberg, who has written no SF, and is perhaps best known for
various speculative popular science tomes, limited himself to
suggesting that the world of 2012 would be based in large part on
nanotechnology.   As a Foresight Institute advisor, Mr. Feinberg
was in a good position to understand the promise of nanotechnology
as envisioned by Eric Drexler.  He would be quite surprised to find
that in 2012 very little of Drexler's vision has been implemented,
but the name "nanotechnology" has been appropriated by others to
refer to any science done in the nanometer range.  Many interesting
discoveries have been made, but society is a long way from being
transformed.  It is safe to say that in 2012, the greatest age of
nanotechnology--whatever that means-- still lies in the future.

SHELDON GLASHOW (Nobel Prize in Physics 1979)

Glashow has an interesting set of predictions, including:

* "Mutual nuclear disarmament of the major powers"--a big zero
* "SDI ... will have come to nothing"--this is true in the sense
that the United States did not build a mighty missile defense
shield, in part due to the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed in
1989!   However, SDI is widely credited as being part of the Regan
defense buildup that bankrupted the Soviets, and tactical missile
defense ("Iron Dome" in Israel and "Patriot" for the United States
and a few allies) has become an operational reality.
* "Japan will be the central economic power in the world"--another
big zero.
* "Many diseases will be curable ... AIDS will not yet have been
controlled."--a huge zero here--the exact opposite happened, with
AIDS largely under control in the developed world and no cure for
any of the other diseases he listed, such as diabetes and gout.
* "The American economy will have experienced a ... decline"--more
or less true, but this decline came only after a long rise.
* "The spread between the right and poor will have grown"--this one
hit the spot.
* "Agriculture and higher education will be our most successful
exports"--pretty much spot on.
* "No fast trains connecting American cities"--another hit.

As near as I can tell, Glashow is not an SF writer, and I am a bit
surprised to see his predictions here.  As you can see, a Nobel
Prize is of little value in predicting the future, as Glashow seems
to have achieved about the record that could be obtained by asking
questions and flipping a coin.


Pohl makes a variation of Pascal's wager here--betting if anyone is
alive to open the capsule in 2012 then things went very well
indeed.  He predicts, among other things, a powerful World Court,
mass disarmament, space colonization, machines replacing hard
labor, a higher life expectancy, and so on.

In a way, Pohl is right on the money--all the bad things on the
horizon in 1987 like nuclear war and a mass die-off from AIDS did
not happen.   However, as someone committed to various liberal
causes, Pohl missed the direction of the solution.  Many credit
Reagan's defense build-up, and especially "Star Wars" with
bankrupting the Soviet Union and setting the stage for a decade of
real peace.  Life expectancy did rise, and machines did replace
brute labor, although space colonization has been slow going.

However, the World Court is pretty much the joke it always was, the
world is awash in weapons, and hardly a day goes by without fresh
reports of fighting.  Recently France has entered Mali to battle a
new Al-Qaeda off-shoot.  The fine print, of course, is that Russia,
the United States, Europe, and Japan co-operate on many levels to a
remarkable degree, including running the ISS as a joint project.
China is off in left field, but tightly tied to the United States
economy in a fashion unimaginable in 1987.  So, perhaps, in the
end, Fred is right--we do live in a kind of utopia!


Jerry made a single sweet and simple prediction--in 2012 a computer
would win the Campbell Award for Best New SF Writer.  Plainly, this
has not occurred, and we don't seem anywhere near it occurring.
Please find below some sample text produced very recently by a
large, modern recurrent artificial neural net:

He was elected President during the Revolutionary War and forgave
Opus Paul at Rome.  The regime of his crew of England, is now Arab
women's icons in and the demons that use something between the
characters? sisters in lower coil trains were always operated on
the line of the ephemerable street, respectively, the graphic or
other facility for deformation of a given proportion of large
segments at RTUS).  The B every chord was a "strongly cold internal
palette pour even the white blade."

As you can see, although it is an improvement over Chatterbots like
Eliza, it is also not likely to win any awards.  As someone
actively involved in the computer revolution, I can sympathize a
bit with Jerry's desire that things move faster.  We are certainly
moving toward the point he predicted, but obviously are not there
yet.   I note in passing that if Jerry's prediction had come true,
almost certainly 2013 would be post-Singularity, but Jerry was only
looking at his little patch (SF) of how the computer would affect
the world.


Power predicted that many people would be frozen on "death" and
that it would be possible to converse with them via electronic
means, leading to substantial changes in probate and copyright law.
This has *CLEARLY* not happened, nor do we seem to be on an
especially rapid track in this direction.   I think Powers was
guilty of not fully appreciating how difficult it might be to read
the minds of frozen dead people.  We have gotten in 2012 to the
point of being able to use a machine to create a blurry picture of
whatever a person is seeing.  In time, we may be able to "read" a
living mind, at least to some degree.  If we could do what he
suggests, it probably implies the solution of the "download"
problem and the Singularity as well, although I guess we could be
keeping the brains in vats and using bionic interfaces (which we
have made a lot of progress on, since bionic hearing is widely
deployed and bionic vision in development) to communicate with


Card predicts the following:

* "The collapse of Imperial American"--America is certainly less
dominant than in 1987, but basically off the mark.
"World economic collapse"--arguably true, but a bit like predicting
war in the Middle East
* no "Russian hegemony"--strongly true, although Card does not
specifically refer to the fall of the Soviet Empire
* "Re-tribalization of Africa"--also arguably true, or at least
having a good bit of truth.
* "The destruction of the illusion of Islamic unity"--was there
ever an illusion of Islamic unity???  Well, the Iran-Iraq war and
the never-ending Sunni-Shia split have made Card a winner on this
* "Mexico and Japan may change rulers, but they will still be
strong"--pretty much wrong--both countries are struggling, and have
been supplanted by China.

It seems like Card was anticipating the end of the Cold War with an
American collapse.  A lot of his predictions are still good if the
Cold War ends due to Soviet collapse, as actually occurred.


Wolfe makes a number of specific predictions:

* "America and the USSR preserve an uneasy accord"--a big miss
here--in 1987 the end of the USSR was only two years away!!!!
* Many Americans are less than fully fluent in English--I'd rate
this at least half true.  The real situation is not quite as bad as
Wolfe's description, but his general idea that computers will
operate against literacy is on the money.
* "Sports and televised dramas are the only commonly available
recreations."--a big miss here as many traditional outdoor
activities are still widely practiced, but mainly since Wolfe
failed to mention computer games, which are actually driving down
television viewing.
* "Computer generated images indistinguishable from living people"-
-we're not quite there but we're pretty close.  In any case, we
have dinosaur images that appear real.
* "Although science fiction and fantasy characters characterize the
majority of these dramas, they are no so identified."--this is a
remarkable prediction, which I think is mainly true.  If you look
at the top grossing movies of all time, over 90% are SF/fantasy.
Most so-called "techno-thrillers" sold in drug stores and airport
shops would in the 50s have been considered "hard SF."   Popular TV
shows like "Alias" and "The Mentalist" are SF/fantasy posing as a
spy show and a police procedural respectively.
* There is little sex outside marriage due to plague similar to
AIDS but much worse--world population is 6 billion--this is a good
guess, but as it fortunately turned out--it did not happen, and we
have brought AIDS under substantial control.
* "People live in space and on the moon but their numbers are not
significant"--right on the nose with this one!  Six people
continuously live in the ISS, and zero people live on the moon.
* "A literate stratum ... is experimenting with sociological
simulations that take into account the individual characters and
preferences of most of the population."--this sounds like Google to
me, although not implemented as Wolfe probably envisioned it.


Wolverton predicts that:

* The world will start to flatten technologically--this one turns
out to be true. We call it "globalization."
* There will be a men's rights movement--there is certainly such a
movement, and it may have gotten better custody treatment for men
as Wolverton suggests, but it has not proven to be nearly as
significant as the women's movement.
* "Rapid progress in gene splicing"--given that I just watched a
NOVA episode on how we have reconstructed the Neanderthal genome
and used related studies to prove how much each part of the human
family has inter-bred with Neanderthals, and that this is just one
instance of what gene splicing has done, I'd give Wolverton full
marks for this prediction.


Roger made the following specific predictions:

* "Cashless, checkless society"--not there yet, but we're certainly
on the way.
* "Defense spending has finally slowed"--a big miss on this one,
but then Zelazny also missed predicting what some call World War IV
(the USA and allies vs Al Quaeda), following the end of World War
III in 1989, aka the Cold War.
* "Older, slightly conservative, but longer-lived and healthier
society"--full marks on this one.
* "Much industry located off-planet"--another big miss here,
although the economic impact of weather satellites, communication
satellites, and the GPS system has greatly exceeded most
expectations that were held in 1987.
* Zelazny's latest book will be published in 2012, and has a
working title of GRANDCHILDREN OF AMBER--In fact, Zelazny's last
publication date was 2009, when THE DEAD MAN'S BROTHER, a mystery
he completed in 1971, was finally published, many years after his
untimely death in 1995.

That was fun!  I'd like to conclude with a few general observations
about predicting the future:

* It's hard to be objective about a subject you are deeply involved
in.  Your predictions may be spot-on, or wildly off the mark.
* Even very good prognosticators like Arthur C. Clarke can go wrong
by assuming a "commonplace" will continue i.e. the conflict between
the United States and the Soviet Union will continue in essentially
the form it had in 1955 well into the 21st century.
* The trick of assuming nothing really bad happened if someone is
reading your predictions in the future seems to work--at least this
time.  Of course, it could be evolved raccoons or aliens reading
the predictions millions of years in the future!
* It's easy to view the future through the lens of your own field,
i.e. Pournelle predicting a computer will win the Campbell award in
2012.  A lot of SF writers pre-Vinge are guilty of greatly
underestimating the degree of change likely to result from
information technology and AI.
* You can have a decent track record using what I would call
"historical analogy."  For example, sooner or latter the US/USSR
conflict will end, and when it does, all the conflicts the two
empires have been suppressing will burst forth.  We know this will
happen because it has happened many times in the past.  We can also
predict with certainty that there will be another war in the Middle
East, etc.
* Based on this sample (and on other readings) SF writers have a
better track record than Nobel winners!

One final thought--I've found personally that it is easier to build
the future than to predict it.  In other words, if you lay down
Herman Kahn as a bet, I'll meet your bet with Bill Gates and raise
with Steven Jobs.  [-dls]


TOPIC: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (copyright 2012, Orbit, 563pp,
e-book edition, ISBN 978-0-316-19280-4) (book review by Joe

Raise your hand if you read the Mars Trilogy (RED MARS, GREEN MARS,
BLUE MARS) by Kim Stanley Robinson.  Yeah, I thought so.  A whole
bunch of you.  They were good, weren't they? All three were
nominated for Hugos, with GREEN MARS and BLUE MARS winning the Hugo
for best novel the year each was eligible.  Absolutely great stuff.

Some would argue that Robinson continued to write good stuff.  I
guess he did.  THE YEARS OF RICE AND SALT was nominated for the
best novel Hugo in 2003, but did not win that year.  I personally
did not care for the book--so much so that I gave up after 80
pages, more or less.  After that, I did not find the subject matter
of Robinson's books interesting to me at all, so I didn't read

And then came 2312.

With 2312, Robinson returned to more traditional science fiction.
From everything I've read and listened to, the novel is one of the
most talked about and "important" books of 2012.  One of my old
friends, whom I saw at Chicon this year for the first time since
Chicon in 2000, said he liked the book.  I respect his opinion,
since his tastes and mine are quite similar.  With all that, I
figured I'd better read the thing and get a head start on the Hugo-
nominated novels (that was kind of my thought about REDSHIRTS too,
but I may be on shakier ground, there).

And while I'm probably right about it being nominated for a Hugo,
I'm pretty sure it's not going to get my vote as the number one
novel of 2012.

2312 is a brilliantly and beautifully written book about what life
would be like 300 years from now, in the titular year.  Mankind is
confined to the Solar System, as the technology to travel to the
stars does not exist, and, as stated in the novel, may never exist.
The Solar System is a fractured place, with factions that have
different agendas, different outlooks, and, well, different lives.
And yet, it is a wondrous place, with beautiful, breathtaking
adventures, but at the same time is a place with struggling
civilizations.  Earth is a mess, with much of it underwater after
the climate has gone out of control.  New York has been rebuilt
above the water, with the old New York still underneath it.  There
is a project afoot to rebuild Florida as well.  Mercury, Venus,
Mars, and the vicinities of the gas giants are populated.

It is a place of grandiose technologies and possibilities.
Terminator is a city on Mercury that travels on rails around the
circumference of the planet, staying ahead of the sun in the shade
because of the expansion and contraction of the rails in the sun.
Adventurous people can *surf the rings of Saturn*, for crying out
loud.  2312 is full of cool and neat stuff just like this.  Full to
the brim.

And therein lies the problem, because, well, nothing much happens.

Robinson inserts a story of sorts into the travelogue that is 2312.
The aunt of Swan, one of our protagonists, dies under suspicious
circumstances.  Swan comes to learn that Alex (her aunt) is part of
a secret team that is investigating a new breed of "qubes", AIs
that are quantum computers.  It is possible that the rogue qubes
are responsible for Alex's death.  Swan must try to convince Alex's
friends and colleagues that she can be trusted and can help with
the investigation of Alex's death.  One of those people is Wahram,
from the Saturn system.  Throughout the novel Swan and Wahram
encounter each other, and then separate again, for months at a
time.  The eventually become close and develop a relationship that
ends in marriage.

The problem I have with the book is that all this stuff with Swan,
Wahram, the qubes, and all the rest of it takes up a very small
portion of the book.  The rest of it is, well, an advertisement for
the Solar System circa 2312.  As I said at the beginning, the book
is beautifully written, but it almost seems like the plot, if there
really is one, was inserted after all the ideas were laid out,
almost as if Robinson thought, "Oops, I'd better put something in
here to hold it all together."

One of my major complaints about Arthur C. Clarke's RENDEZVOUS WITH
RAMA was that nothing happened.  At all.  Period.  I think that
2312 is the RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA of the current generation.  Both
books contain a wealth of ideas, a wealth of wonderful vistas, and
an absolute lack of any compelling storyline to keep it going.  I'm
sure there are a lot of folks who like that sort of thing.  I get
bored really easily.  I'm not in it for form, I'm in it for story.
And the story here is that there is none to speak of.  But unless I
read my tea leaves wrong, 2312 is a strong contender for the Hugo
this year.  It won't have my vote.  [-jak]


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

THE MIRAGE by Matt Ruff (ISBN 978-0-061-97622-3) is an odd
alternate history, more satire than serious.  There are far too
many specific reversals of the current world situation in our
timeline (Baghdad rather than New York having a World
Trade Center, the Muslims rather than the United States declaring a
"War on Terror", and so on) for it to be taken as a serious
counterfactual, and indeed many reviews have criticized it for this
reason.  However, if one recognizes that it is not supposed to be a
completely realistic scenario, it is well-written and engaging.

I have a new Agatha Christie trope to mention.  Christie wrote
twelve "Miss Marple" novels:
- 4.50 FROM PADDINGTON (1957)
- NEMESIS (1971)

Of these, four have misidentified bodies, three have "false"
targets, and seven have women who have married or fallen in love
with disreputable or otherwise unsuitable men, this last being a
trope I have not mentioned before.  (For example, in one, the
deceased husband had squandered his inheritance in bad
speculations.)  I mention this last in the context of the Miss
Marple novels, because it is much less prevalent in the Hercule
Poirot novels than some of the tropes unrelated to gender.
(Actually, the Poirot novels seem slanted more against women,
although there are unsuitable men as well.  But there are a lot
more Poirot novels, so I am a bit less familiar with some of them,
especially those not dramatized by BBC-Radio.)

I listened to the podcast "12 Byzantine Rulers" by Lars Brownworth
RESCUED WESTERN CIVILIZATION, which Greg Frederick reviewed in the
01/04/13 issue of the MT VOID).  This podcast (which predates the
book) was not as good as "The History of Rome" podcast, and
Brownworth made a couple of annoying errors.  He repeatedly
referred to "Richard the Lion-Hearted"--the correct appelation is
"Richard the Lionheart".  And he claims that Voltaire said, "Those
who do not study history are condemned to repeat it."  While it is
true that no one can find a definite reference to this quote, it is
almost universally attributed to George Santayana.

It also hits only the high points.  While it does cover more than
twelve emperors--it includes some background for each one, which
usually means discussing an emperor or two before him--it omits a
lot of the "connective tissue."  After all, there were eighty-eight
emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire.

But Brownworth also makes some important points in a more
accessible-length podcast.  This is 18 episodes; "The History of
Rome" is about 200, and "The History of Byzantium" podcast (which
is the sequel to "The History of Rome") will probably be closer to
the latter than to the former.  In particular, Brownworth notes
that the conquest and sacking of Constantinople by the Fourth
Crusade was probably one of the main causes that allowed the spread
of Islam in the Middle East and into eastern Europe during the
Middle Ages.  Had Constantinople remained, it could have stopped
the Muslims.  As it was, it held them back for eight hundred years,
making Europe vastly different today than it would have been.

He notes in this regard that in the West we learn that the Roman
Empire fell in A.D. 476, and completely ignore the Eastern Roman
Empire, which continued for almost another thousand years.  It was
the source of 40,000 of our 55,000 ancient Greek texts.  Literacy
vanished from the West, but flourished in the East.  Justinian
preserved and codified Roman law, which forms the basis of most
Western law these days.   As Brownworth concludes: "Thomas Cahill
was wrong.  The Irish didn't save civilization; the Byzantines

(Even 1453 is an inaccurate year for the fall of the Eastern Roman
Empire, because Trebizond held out until 1460.)  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The humour of Dostoievsky is the humour of a
           barloafer who ties a kettle to a dog's tail.
                                           --W. Somerset Maugham