Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/08/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 45, Whole Number 1857

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted.

All comments sent or posted 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

        A Short SF Film Shot in Bell Labs Holmdel
        LoneStarCon 3 Convention Report Available
        Locus Award Finalists Announced
        McCoy's Racist Outbursts in STAR TREK (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE PERIPHERAL by William Gibson (audiobook review
                by Joe Karpierz)
                MAGISTER LUDI) (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: A Short SF Film Shot in Bell Labs Holmdel

The third film in a nine-part series: "Future Relic 03" by Daniel
Arsham, starring Juliette Lewis:


TOPIC: LoneStarCon 3 Convention Report Available

Evelyn's report for LoneStarCon 3 (Worldcon 2013) is available at  It will
undoubtedly migrate to at some point.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Locus Award Finalists Announced


TOPIC: McCoy's Racist Outbursts in STAR TREK (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

In the March 13 issue I asked, "Am I the only one who is irritated
by the original STAR TREK's attitude about racism?"  It involved
McCoy's racial taunts of Spock.

Jim Susky responded, "Taken in isolation, the insults in that
episode might be considered "offensive," but taken over 78 episodes
and subsequent films it becomes clear that Bones loves Spock as
much as any human.  "How do you know when men are really close?
It's when they casually insult each other.  I was reminded of this
last week when hanging out with friends at Spring Training in
Phoenix.  Some of these friendships go back fifty years to grade
school.  No one tells 'jokes' in the standard sense--all they need
do is tell stories--usually insulting, uncomplimentary ones--and
the hilarity ensues."

Jim may run with a different crowd than I do, but when my friends
get together there are no racial taunts at all.  In fact if I
exclude dramatic media it has been decades since I have heard a
genuine racial taunt.  I would go further and say that outside of
dramatic media it has been decades since I have heard a man make a
negative sexist comment.  I will admit that I have heard and read
women making negative sexist comments about men.  In my area you
still see bumper stickers that say things like "Grow your own dope.
Plant a man."  Some women seem to enjoy an asymmetric privilege.

I agree there is certainly a difference between kidding and bad-
natured insults.  And there is also intended-good-natured kidding
that is taken negatively and seriously.

Most of the public seems to consider the original series of STAR
TREK anti-racist and anti-sexist.  That is easy to do.  The series
boasted having Uhura, a continuing black character.  And she took
part in what is (falsely) claimed to be the first inter-racial kiss
on American television.  That took place in the episode "Plato's
Stepchildren," and was a kiss between Kirk and Uhura.  The network
claimed that it was not really a kiss since the script called for
it to be forced against Kirk's and Uhura's will and hence Kirk and
Uhura did not really kiss.  But under the two characters were
indeed two actors of different race and they actually did
physically kiss.  At least they did according to Nichelle Nichols
who played Uhura; William Shatner claims their lips never actually
touched.  The story is recounted (rather amusingly) at

They make a case that there was no inter-racial kiss there at all
and the first one was really between Sammy Davis Jr. and Nancy

As I said the series takes place in the 23rd century when most
racism has been overcome by most of the human race.  The message of
the episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" was that when
inter-racial hatred gets out of hand the society eventually loses
everything but the hate.  The story makes fun of the aliens for
their racism.  OK the TV producers' hearts were in the right place.
So the series is against all the right things.

But is it?  If Captain Kirk is such an enlightened anti-racist
fair-mined guy, why does he not object to McCoy's frequent and
blatantly racist jibes at Spock.  McCoy likes to taunt Spock
accusing him of being "pointy eared," "inhuman," and being a
"hobgoblin."  Kirk never reprimands McCoy nor gives any sign that
it might represent inappropriate behavior.  Apparently if Spock is
not fully human or if McCoy is a close friend, Kirk does not want
to step in.  This might be acceptable if this was in a context of
best buddies sitting together with brewskies.  But it was happening
in a military context.  Kirk should have been maintaining military
discipline.  And in the series it becomes clear that Spock's human
side was bothered by the insults.  Spock never reacted to the slurs
when he was his normal self, but I believe when he was not in total
control it was clear he objected.

I always thought that McCoy's insults were a breach of discipline
was odd, but in 1960s TV that was the sort of thing that would have
passed for humor.  This was about the time of Gomer Pyle.  I guess
it was because my feelings for the Spock character were positive
and I was less fond of Bones.  Of course that was somewhat
influenced by the fact that at this time of my life I was greatly
enthusiastic about mathematics and logic.  Spock represented the
application of logic and mathematics to the real world.  Though he
did not do it all that well.

Even at that time I did not think that Spock's pronouncements
always made sense as being logical.  I did not blame the Spock
character as much as the benighted scriptwriter.  It pretty much
takes a genius to create or portray a genius on TV.  When people
who are not brilliant write dialog for people expected to come off
as geniuses they just don't capture the right feel.  Often they say
really stupid things for a character supposed to be very smart.

I just don't think in a military context making racial jibes at a
ship's officer would result in hilarity ensuing.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE PERIPHERAL by William Gibson (copyright 2014, Putnam,
486pp; 2014 Penguin Audio, 14 hours 5 minutes; narrated by Lorelei
King; ISBN 978-0-698-17070-0), (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices:
an audiobook review by Joe Karpierz)

I have a confession to make.  I've never read NEUROMANCER.  I was
one of those who had to be pulled kicking and screaming into the
cyberpunk era.  I didn't want to read cyberpunk at all.  Not only
didn't I read NEUROMANCER, but I didn't read the other really big
cyberpunk novel of the day, Neal Stephenson's SNOW CRASH.  I wanted
my space ships, I wanted my aliens, I wanted my galactic space
opera.  What the heck was this cyberpunk stuff, and why was it
getting in my science fiction?

I swore I was never going to like cyberpunk.  I read Gibson's COUNT
ZERO and VIRTUAL LIGHT.  I read Stephenson's THE DIAMOND AGE.  I
decided I didn't like the style *or* the subject matter.  Heck, I
even tried to read THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE, by both Sterling and
Gibson, and I decided that steampunk (yes, that was steampunk, but
no one seems to credit it that way these days, at least not that I
hear) was a waste of my time too.

That was 30 years ago.  Times change.  People change.  Writers
change.  Genres change.  I don't mind reading steampunk these days-
-I feel that some of it is really pretty good.  I absolutely loved
ANATHEM by Neal Stephenson, although I generally don't read his
books because they are monstrous doorstops that I don't have time

And I tried Gibson again.

THE PERIPHERAL was being talked about on podcasts, in blogs, and
everywhere else that I pay attention to in the field.  It was
getting good reviews, and it was being hailed as "Gibson's return
to undeniable science fiction".  I was dubious of that last
statement, as I didn't think anything else he wrote was science
fiction, so how can he return to it.

But as I said, things change.  And since this was the year I was
going to get ahead of the game by reading novels that would
assuredly be on the Hugo ballot, I figured I would give it a try
(and as far as getting ahead of the game, well, we all know how
THAT turned out).

And wouldn't you know, I liked it.

THE PERIPHERAL takes place in a not too distant future.  Well, I
should rephrase that.  It takes place in two futures:  one not too
distant, and one a century or so further on.  The near-ish future,
in America, or some form of it, is a bit of a mess.  There's the
drug trade, an updated version of what the reader presumes is
Walmart, and a very bleak economy.  The further along future that
we see is in London, after an event called The Jackpot had killed
off a great portion of the world's population.

We begin in the near future.  Flynne lives with her brother Burton
and her mother.  Burton is a military veteran who suffers from
trauma he suffered while serving in the U.S. Military.  He is
getting aid from the U.S. government because he's not supposed to
be able to work.  He has, however, found a job beta testing some
video game software for a Colombian outfit called Coldiron.  One
day he goes off to be part of a protest group against a religious
organization, and asks Flynne to cover for him on the job for a few
days.  His job in the game is that of security.  He tells Flynne to
keep an eye on a particular tower and fend off little nano-
paparazzi type devices.  However, on the second day of the job she
witnesses a murder, and something doesn't seem quite right to her
about it.  And off we go into the story.

THE PERIPHERAL is a murder mystery, pure and simple.  Well, maybe
not so pure and simple, since we *are* talking a) science fiction,
and b) science fiction by William Gibson.  It's probably not too
much of a spoiler to say that the murder was in the future, a
future life is also stark and bleak--never mind just a bit weird--
due to The Jackpot.  One of the devices that the future has is some
sort of mysterious server, built by the Chinese (but never really
visited in detail or explained at all in the book) that allows
residents of that future to travel back and interact with various
different pasts, which may or may not be their own past (It really
is all a bit wonky but kind of cool. I didn't let myself get too
distracted by the lack of details or even the not quite
understanding of how pasts and that particular future relate.  It
was better that way.), call "stubs".  People who do that are called
"continua enthusiasts", and while in the novel we don't much deal
with them, the people we deal with do have to go back to the past
to try and figure out what they can about the murder that took

I'll tell you what--this is a really cool story with some really
neat concepts.  While the idea of telling a story that takes place
in two separate times is not new, the way of the two timelines
interacting with each other is new--at least to me.  Yeah, it's a
bit of "hand-wavium", but hand-wavium is a time-honored tradition
in our field, and it is acceptable some times and not in others.  I
think it works well here.  The future is populated with a bunch of
interesting--at least to me--characters, including an investigator,
Lowbeer, who reminds me a lot of Paula Myo from Peter F. Hamilton's

The novel is not without its faults, minor though they be.  The
first hundred pages or so (yes, I looked while I was listening to
the audiobook) were a bit of a slog to get through.  Gibson
introduces new terminology that makes readers scratch their heads
for awhile until they figure out just what it is he is talking
about (although it could be argued that a science fiction reader,
especially one who reads Gibson, should not only be used to it by
now, but shouldn't need anything spelled out for them anyway), and
it does take awhile to figure out that Gibson is switching back and
forth between two timelines. However, once all that stuff is
squared away and the reader figures out the basics, the story moves
along at a pretty good pace, and is a good read.  The conclusion
was, for me, satisfying.  Gibson wraps everything up fairly nicely
with a little bow, which is something many writers don't do these
days (although it can be argued that this is a standalone novel--
for which I am grateful--and he darn well should tie things up

As far as the narration goes, well, I didn't think anyone was going
to top R. C. Bray, the narrator of THE MARTIAN.  I was wrong.
Lorelei King was magnificent. She handled the voices of the
different characters terrifically, in my opinion.  The pacing was
terrific, and I loved the accent.  She didn't intrude upon the
story; rather, she enhanced it from the very beginning.  I would
hope I run across her in other audiobooks I listen to in the

NEUROMANCER was one of those novels that comes along once a
generation that changes the face of the field of science fiction,
at least that's what I'm told.  I will have to go back and read it,
30+ years after the fact.  THE PERIPHERAL is not that kind of
novel, but it doesn't have to be.  It just is what it is--a
terrific book.  [-jak]


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

978-1-61614-747-1) consists primarily of demonstrating various
errors people (mostly students, one suspects) might make in algebra
and geometry.  But it does have a discussion on pages 222-225 of
what I think of as a drafting problem (because that was the context
in which I first encountered it).  Is there a figure which when
viewed from the front is a circle with radius 1 unit, when viewed
from the side is an isosceles triangle of radius and height 1 unit,
and when viewed from above is a square with a side of 1 unit?  The
authors claim most people would get this wrong, though frankly,
just the asking of the question seems a signal that there is.  Take
a cylinder of height and diameter 1 unit, draw a diameter on the
top, then slice diagonally on each side from the diameter to a
single point on the base directly below the midpoint of the semi-
circle on each side of the diameter.

Why I particularly like this figure is that it seems to me a
mathematical analogy to the Trinity: one figure, but three very
different appearances, depending on where you are standing.  (Then
again, what do I know?)

[If you want to see a figure that has three projections, one "G,"
one "E," and one "B," there are not just one but two of these
figures carved in wood used for the cover of GODEL, ESCHER, BACH.
They may be seen at  -mrl]

I gave up on MAGISTER LUDI (a.k.a. THE GLASS BEAD GAME) by Herman
Hesse (ISBN 978-0-312-27849-6) after about a hundred pages--it just
was not working for me.  However, I did run across an interesting
description of the main character, Joseph Knecht, "who [has] not
been driven by a single talent to concentrate on a specialty, but
whose nature rather aims at integration, synthesis, and
universality..."  In this he reminds me of Mia in Alexei Panshin's


                                           Mark Leeper

           The study of mathematics, like the Nile, begins in
           minuteness but ends in magnificence.
                                           --Charles Caleb Colton