Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/07/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 6, Whole Number 1870

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Star Trek Economics, SF Books You Pretend to Have Read,
                Worldcons and Art, and Bell Labs in the 1960s (links)
        MINYANS (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        My Little Contribution to the World's Ills (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        CIBOLA BURN by James S.A. Corey (book review
                by Gwendolyn Karpierz)
        MISSION IMPOSSIBLE--ROGUE NATION (film review by
                Mark R. Leeper)
        AURORA (letter of comment by Gregory Benford)
        Time Zones, ZIP Codes, Unabridged Editions and Readers Digest
                Condensed Books, and THE DEATH OF CAESAR
                and THE LEOPARD (letter of comment by John Hertz)
        THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING and Jonathan Strange
                (letter of comment by Kevin R)
        UNIVERSE (letters of comment by Kevin R and Keith F. Lynch)
        ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME (LAUDATO SI') (letters of comment
                by Kevin R and Philip Chee)
                (Introduction) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)        
        This Week's Reading (ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
                (LAUDATO SI') and THOMAS WORLD) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Star Trek Economics, SF Books You Pretend to Have Read,
Worldcons and Art, and Bell Labs in the 1960s (links)

Bloomberg has a short article on the economics in "Star Trek":

io9 has a list by Charlie Jane Anders of "10 [Science Fiction]
Books You Pretend to Have Read (And Why You Should Really Read

Bob Eggleton writes about why Worldcon art shows (and art tracks)
are not what they used to be:


And for all you Bell Labbers, Brian Kernighan talks about "How It
Felt to Work at Bell Labs in the 60s":


TOPIC: MINYANS (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Isn't there supposed to be a new film around called MINYANS?  I
think it I supposed to be about little artificial people who have
been around from the beginning of time and who run around in groups
of nine looking for a tenth to join their group.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: My Little Contribution to the World's Ills (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

Many years ago I worked for Bell Laboratories on a project called
Net 1000.  At various places on the network there were staffed
technical offices with computers that managed the network.  I did
not know much about that end of the business.  I was just a
software developer.  But when the communications workers union went
on strike I found myself with strike duty at the Greensboro, North
Carolina node.  There were only managers (not allowed to strike)
left to operate the node so developers were sent to the nodes to

My first day in the node I went over to the control terminal and to
look at what programs they had running.  The programs on the screen
had a familiar look.  The manager came running over with fear in
his eyes and said I should be very careful with that program.  It
controlled the tape backup that they were doing.  I told him, yeah,
I knew what the program did.  I wrote it.  That did seem to put a
different complexion on things.  He told me, "Well, it's a real
good program."

I got to be good friends with that manager.  One day I told him it
would not be difficult to write a front-end program that would save
time.  Instead of a procedure that took forty minutes each morning
I could write a procedure that would take a minute or so to start
and then could run independently of the operator.  That would free
up the operator to do something else.

By the time the strike duty was over I had made the operator's job
much less time-intensive.  Much less staff effort was required.  I
pictured my changes would be welcome by staff and management.  I
guess I pictured the strikers returning to work and discovering
that their jobs had gotten easier for them in their absence.  I
pictured them being pleased.

I now realize that my software was probably exactly what the
strikers did not want.  It did not occur to me that saving work for
the staff might not be seen as an unalloyed good.  Here they were
going on strike to hold onto their salaries and I was demonstrating
the node could be maintained with less work and (dare I say it?)
perhaps fewer workers.  In my youthful enthusiasm I assumed that
the easier to use and faster I made my software the happier would
be all concerned.  What can I say?  It was the early 1980s and we
all had more youth, those who were around at all.  I just always
assumed that the computer might remove non-technical jobs but would
replace them with technical jobs.  Non-technical staff needed only
education to become technical staff and perhaps even be better

The mistake I, and other pundits I had listened to, were making was
twofold.  First the number of technical jobs being created was not
as big as the number of jobs that would be removed.  Just by sheer
numbers the number of job created are generally not as numerous as
the number of jobs replaced.  The other was that just like assuming
that when the motorcar came along the displaced horses needed only
good education for them to learn how to earn their keep as motorcar
drivers.  Just because a worker knows how to screw a steering wheel
in place does not mean that he has the intellectual wherewithal to
program a computer.  Humans can be inflexible.  If my front end to
the network node software meant some smaller number of people could
be laid off, those people were probably not going to get technical
jobs.  They were going to have to find new jobs for themselves.  At
one time some employers had a policy of not having workers laid
off, but had them redeployed.  I think at the time of my strike
duty that policy was a fond memory.

The term that seems popular is that we are headed for a "jobless"
future.  I cannot see that happening, at least in this century.  If
you destroy two jobs for every new job you create it will take a
very long time to get to "jobless."  But if I were in college
today, I think that I would be quite anxious about my future job
prospects.  I think that a safe, stable job will with time become a
rare commodity, certainly by the second half of this century.

Sorry I did that to you, strikers.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: CIBOLA BURN by James S.A. Corey (copyright 2014, Orbit,
$27.00 hardcover, 581pp, ISBN 978-0-316-21762-0) (excerpt from the
Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz)

CIBOLA BURN is the fourth book in multi-personality author James
S.A. Corey's (actually collaborative authors Daniel Abraham and Ty
Franck) long-running space opera known as The Expanse. Book five
recently came out; I believe we're currently slated for nine. This
is without a doubt my favorite science fiction I've ever read
(...excepting ENDER'S GAME, but that's in a different class).

In the previous book, Our Hero Holden (the only point-of-view
character who's persisted all the way from book one) had a hand in
opening the gates to countless other stars, planets--worlds for
exploration. In this book, we see what happens when humanity
settles in to fight over the first one. Yep. Countless new
frontiers. Humanity argues over one of them.

It's a little sad that this is a completely believable premise.

The colony who landed first on Ilus/New Terra and the company who
had legal rights to land their scientists there first start
fighting each other after the colonists sort of accidentally-on
purpose kill some scientists and government officials trying to
land. Holden is sent in to mediate under the rationale of everybody
hates him eually, since he is so hilariously idealistic that he'll
step on any number of toes to do the right thing. Holden's POV
chapters are always the most fun to read, and thinking about it,
I'm pretty sure I could ramble for at least a page about why. I
love him as a character. His incredibly optimism and strong moral
compass are both adorable and tempered by an equally strong impetus
to protect the people he cares about--and I kind of loved seeing
these two things go to war with each other in this book. Everything
he does is consistent with who he is. If there is one thing I have
never doubted about Corey up to this point, it's that they can make
you feel exactly how they want you to feel about each of their
viewpoint characters. I mean, is there anyone who didn't love
Avasarala from the previous books?

CIBOLA BURN diverges a little from the rest of the series in that
usually, the viewpoint characters are in several disparate places
and situations that eventually converge into one big disaster. This
time, there's really only one place and situation--the dispute over
Ilus/New Terra--seen through four different people's eyes. While
this makes an admirable attempt at showing all the different sides
of one argument, it also often results in watching the same event
two or three times, and some of them through not-very-interesting
eyes. Though I appreciate what Corey was trying to show us with
Basia, for example, Basia's POV was ... pretty boring, and
sometimes his chapters felt like they happened simply because they
/had/ to happen to maintain the structure of the book, not because
they actually had anything to contribute. Two or three views of one
situation are fascinating; four seems a little excessive, when
they're all in the general vicinity of one another. (Perhaps Corey
should have given us the views of someone from back on earth who
had to deal with the political backwash or something ... and by
someone, I mean Avasarala, because we all need a little more of
foul-mouthed sassy political old Indian ladies in our lives.)

After watching the planet try to kill everybody on it (after they
tried to kill each other for a while first) through several
people's eyes, everything culminates in brilliant and emotive
action in the last third of the book (not that the first two-thirds
were dull, despite the repetitive POVs--just a little longer than
necessary), and everything was amazing and I realized again why I
love this series so much. It really knows what it's doing, and it
does it splendidly. I have book five sitting on my couch already,
waiting to be devoured as soon as I finish my Hugo reading.  [-gmk]


R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: James Bond has S.P.E.C.T.R.E and now the IMF's Ethan Hunt
must track down The Syndicate, a secret organization committing
terrorist acts to somehow bring about something like a new world
order.  The latest "Mission Impossible" film is toned down a bit
after the last effort, and the villains are more reserved, but even
restrained they are trouble for Hunt.  Christopher McQuarrie writes
and directs the fifth high-octane entry in the "Mission Impossible"
series.  Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

In the "James Bond" series Eon made the flamboyant, silly, (and not
very good) MOONRAKER and then realized they could not keep doing
such comic-book-like stories.  FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, the next film,
was much lower key at least compared to other Bond films with no
mad scientists trying to destroy the world.  The "Mission
Impossible" producers probably made a similar decision after their
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE--GHOST PROTOCOL.  They dialed the flash down
quite a bit to have a slightly more realistic story for their fifth
entry, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE--ROGUE NATION.  This is not to say the
film is anywhere near sedentary.  There is limited use of super-
spy-gadgets (not stressed or pre-introduced in a sequence as they
would be in a Bond film).  There are fewer stunts, though 53-year-
old Tom Cruise can still put on an exciting show.  The first stunt
probably outclasses the best that Bond has ever done.

For writer/director Christopher McQuarrie fewer stunts and gadgets
mean more time to tell story.  Much of the time is spent with an
attractive secret agent, Ilsa Faust (played by Rebecca Ferguson),
who is on somebody's side; it just takes a while for Ethan Hunt to
figure out on whose.  The villains are kept non-descript and
certainly not as flashy as they would be in a Bond film.

As the film opens Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is just preventing
terrorists from getting a shipment of nerve gas in artillery
shells.  His method is to drop the shells by parachute from a
plane.  (To me this seems a really *bad* idea, but the film moves
so fast it goes unnoticed.)  He suspects that behind the sale there
is a new international crime syndicate called, imaginatively
enough, The Syndicate.  The Syndicate seems more engaged in what
nasty things they can do than they are figuring how to profit from
their chicanery.  I did not mind that The Syndicate was trying to
bring about a new world order, but it a little hard to understand
how the terrorist acts would accomplish that.  Meanwhile, the
United States Government is continuing the process of disbanding
and eliminating the Impossible Mission Force.  A Senate oversight
committee wants to make the IMF a branch of the CIA so that it can
be better managed on a shorter leash.  At the same time, Hunt is
off looking for a man who may be involved in The Syndicate, one
with light hair and glasses.  "Mission Impossible" stories just do
not take the liberties that Bond films take and so are a little
more plausible.  The action scenes are no less filled with flash,
but there is a little more space between them.

One of the major set pieces of the action is a backstage fight
during a performance of Puccini's "Turandot" (a personal favorite
of mine). This film is a Chinese co-production and the opera
"Turandot" is a pseudo-Chinese fairy tale with some traditional
Chinese musical themes mixed in.  McQuarrie borrows from the climax
of Alfred Hitchcock's THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (either version)
building to a gunshot at a musical crescendo. But here it is at the
end of the popular aria "Nessun Dorma".  Then through the rest of
the film the music score by Joe Kraemer has little snatches of
"Turandot" and the "Mission Impossible" theme mixed in.

Cruise stays remarkably young-looking, particularly when he is
performing stunts that would kill most men a couple of decades
younger.  Here Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust nearly matches him
physically and perhaps has an edge on him in intelligence.  I have
liked actor Simon McBurney ever since he played an enigmatic figure
in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND.  He is still playing enigmas, perhaps
because he distinctively does not have film star features.  He has
an out-of-the-ordinary face and gives an out-of-the-ordinary

There is nothing in this film I would call a "rogue nation."  North
Korea is my idea of a rogue nation.  There are rogues in the film,
but a distinct shortage of nations.  I am not sure what in this
film they are even applying the term to.

Everything about a "Mission Impossible" film seems to compete with
the "James Bond" series.  Even if it bested that series, I am not
sure it would be noticed.  You cannot beat a myth.  I have never
been fond of Tom Cruise, but one must admit what he does he does
well.  I rate MISSION IMPOSSIBLE--ROGUE NATION a +2 on the -4 to +4
scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: AURORA (letter of comment by Gregory Benford)

In response to Evelyn's comments on AURORA in the 07/24/15 issue of
the MT VOID, Gregory Benford sends the following link to his
comments on it in CENTAURI DREAMS:



TOPIC: Time Zones, ZIP Codes, Unabridged Editions and Readers
Digest Condensed Books, and THE DEATH OF CAESAR and THE LEOPARD
(letter of comment by John Hertz)

John Hertz notes:

You have at least one reader a couple of thousand miles away who
sends you locs not by E-mail but by real mail.

I wondered whether your ZIP Code was prime but as you probably know
it's 61*126.  [-jh]

In response to Peter Rubinstein's comment on unabridged editions in
the 06/19/15 issue of the MT VOID, John writes:

Mostly I want the unabridged.  But I've never forgotten changing my
mind--more than once, which recalls Winston Churchill's crossing
the aisle (i.e., of U.K. Parliamentary seating, leaving his party
for its opposition) and later when [the] occasion seemed to demand
it crossing back--about "Reader's Digest Condensed Books".

At first I liked RD.  I was mystified why my parents esteemed it so
low.  I protested to my mother.  She said, "Consider that you're
eight years old."  I said, "Don't pull rank."  (She and my father
had each served in the Army.)  She said, "What?"  I said, "I think
I'm entitled to an explanation I can understand.  'You'll see when
you're older' may be true but how does it help me?"  We really did
talk to each other like that.  Maybe you did too.

I thought the "Condensed Books" version of RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP (E.
Beach, 1955) was swell.  Later I read the original and got sore.
"What a bunch of dolts leaving out all this good stuff!" I thought.
Then re-reading the condensed version and the original together I
realized what ability had been required to make the condensation.

Some time after that I re-read TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE
SEA (J. Verne, 1870).  Instead of getting sore about all the lists
of fish, I thought, "What if Verne is a good writer and has put
them in here for some reason?"  It came to me what that was.  Since
many MT VOID readers are electronic I'll point out my book note,
which you can find via , right-hand column below
"Meta". [-jh]

Evelyn notes:

For those who just want to click, it's at:

Also, coincidentally, I am starting my eight-column series of
in this issue.  [-ecl]

And in response to Evelyn's comments on THE DEATH OF CAESAR in the
same issue, John writes:

THE LEOPARD (G. Di Lampedusa, 1958) is quite wonderful, as was the
author.  I don't necessarily mean agreeable.  Nor, as you probably
know, is a "gattopardo" a leopard, but that's a long story.
Tancredi's "If we want things to stay as they are, things will have
to change" (ch. 1; pg. 41 in my 1991 Everyman's Lib'y ed'n) is a
character speaking, not necessarily the author; it's much loved by
people hot for change who feeling unable to persuade others deem
them obstinate and decide to cow them instead; but it isn't true,
just as "Change is good" is no truer than "Change is bad."  [-jh]

Evelyn adds:

Apparently a "gattopardo" is an ocelot rather than a leopard.  For
what it's worth, this is a confusion in translation, rather than a
confusion in nomenclature.  I have talked about both in Latin
American literature.  For an example of a confusion in translation,
Gilbert Alter-Gilbert's translation of Leopoldo Lugones's "Yzur"
goes back and forth between "ape" and "monkey" for the all-
inclusive Spanish word "mono" when clearly Lugones means what in
English we call "ape" (and specifically "chimpanzee") and not
"monkey" throughout.  He does translate "chimpance" as
"chimpanzee", though.

Of a confusion in nomenclature, Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria in THE
American 'tigre', of course, is not a tiger at all, but a jaguar,
erroneously named by the Spanish conquerors."  Apparently the
conquistadors also miscalled the puma a "leon" or lion, which may
be where we get the alternative name "mountain lion".  [-ecl]


TOPIC: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING and Jonathan Strange (letter of
comment by Kevin R)

In response to Mark's comments on THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING in the
07/31/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

Thank you for highlighting that.  I'm going to be sure to record
it.  It's been years since I watched it all the way through, and I
keep meaning to....  [-kr]

Mark responds:

I hope you got it.  It is one of the great adventure films.  [-mrl]

In response to Gwen Karpierz's review of THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM in
the same issue, Kevin writes:

[Gwen writes,] "I did NOT have same eagerness while I was reading

Is it just me, or are authors lazy about picking names for their
characters?  Re: Jonathan Strange, there were already

2 Adams Strange:

1 Doctor Steven Strange:

An Allen Strange:

and a John Strange:

And that's just off the top of my head.

Also, historical Johns Strange:

I'm a little tired of it.  [-kr]


TOPIC: UNIVERSE (letters of comment by Kevin R and Keith F. Lynch)

In response to Taras Wolansky's comments on UNIVERSE in the
07/31/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

Since Heinlein's generation ship has enough of a radiation
problem to produce mutants, couldn't that make it a breeding
ground for mutated disease organisms the way an isolated
village or a sailing vessel wouldn't be?  [-kr]

Keith F. Lynch replies:

Bacteria are enormously less sensitive to radiation than people
are.  [-kfl]

Kevin answers:

Okay, turning the microscope around.....

Radiation is bad for human immune systems, so could bacteria,
viruses that are the result of normal rates of mutation of bugs the
passengers are already carrying be more likely to survive and be
transmitted?  [-kr]


TOPIC: ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME (letters of comment by Kevin R
and Philip Chee)

In response to Evelyn's comments on ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME in
the 07/31/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

[Bergoglio writes,] "Time and space are not independent of one
another, and not even atoms or subatomic particles can be
considered in isolation."

Sounds like warmed over Fritjof Capra, who was very popular among
the New Agers:



Mark says:

Any similarity between Tao and physics discovered later
is, in my opinion strictly coincidental.  [-mrl]

And Philip Chee says of the comments as a whole:

Hmm.  Sounds like one of them pinko commie bleeding heart liberals.

Evelyn writes:

As noted in my column below, ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME is
probably better known as LAUDATO SI' and Jorge Mario Bergoglio as
Pope Francis.  [-ecl]


(Introduction) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

I will not attempt to review THE HISTORY OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF
THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Edward Gibbon (ISBN 978-0-307-70076-6).
Instead I will make a few observations, and then comment on various
passages I found memorable or significant.  Because of the length,
I will make my general comments this week, and then do one of each
of the volumes in the six-volume edition for each of the next seven
weeks (because I need to split the comments on the sixth volume).

The first observation is that, like Adam Smith's magnum opus, AN
Gibbon's masterpiece is so often referred to by a title abbreviated
by trimming off the *beginning* that it is had to find when works
are alphabetized by title.  At least with Gibbon it is under either
"H" or "D", though, while with Smith it could be "I", "C", or "W".

A related observation is that Gibbon's names for places and people
are not necessarily the ones we commonly use these days.  The
constant references to the "Euxine Sea" are to what we know of as
the "Black Sea", for example.  And the much-vaunted search
capabilities of e-books are substantially impaired by the
variations in naming.  I was completely unsuccessful in finding
"Maximinus Thrax", for example, or "Maximinus" or "Thrax".  It
turns out that Gibbon calls him "Maximin".  (I only found him when
I googled for him and found alternate names.)

Oh, and one must remember if one's ebook uses British or American
spelling.  (I have tried to retain Gibbon's original British
spelling throughout this.)

Connected to this is Gibbon's structure.  Unlike most history
books, which are basically chronological, Gibbon is arranged more
topically.  So for example, the first chapter in Gibbon's fifth
volume is about icons and iconoclasty, the power of the popes, and
the Holy Roman Empire, and covers 726 through 1378.  The next
chapter covers Arabia 569 through 680.  Then we get conquests by
the Saracens and other Muslims, 632 through 718, and so on.  (For
reasons passing understanding, the entirety of the Modern Library
edition of Volumes Five and Six is labeled "1185-1453 A.D.")  So
one finds oneself bouncing around a lot in time, made even more
difficult to follow by the fact that Gibbon puts almost no dates in
his text!  (And what he does put he spells out rather than using
digits.)  If I recall correctly, one edition puts dates and
sometimes emperors' names in the margins, which might help.

If you wonder why Roman history is fascinating, just consider the
death of Valentinian: When he met with the Quadi, expecting them to
surrender abjectly, they instead complained about how he had
invaded them and then treacherously killed their chief (after
inviting him to dinner!), notwithstanding which the recent attacks
on Romans were not by them, but by some "freelance" robbers.  Then,
Gibbon writes:

"The answer of the emperor left them but little to hope from his
clemency or compassion.  He reviled, in the most intemperate
language, their baseness, their ingratitude, their insolence.  His
eyes, his voice, his color, his gestures, expressed the violence of
his ungoverned fury; and while his whole frame was agitated with
convulsive passion, a large blood vessel suddenly burst in his
body; and Valentinian fell speechless into the arms of his

He was not just speechless--within a few minutes he was dead.  Now
that's dramatic!

Plus you have such great designations, such as "The Year of Four
Emperors" (69 C.E.)--a period of chaos.  But then later (193 C.E.)
you have "The Year of Five Emperors", when things are even worse.
But wait--it doesn't end there; no, you get "The Year of Six
Emperors" (238 C.E.).

Next week, the quotations.

[to be continued next week]



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

In last week's column, I talked about ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
by Jorge Mario Bergoglio.  I just thought that this week I would
mention that the work is probably better known as LAUDATO SI' and
Bergoglio as Pope Francis.

THOMAS WORLD by Richard Cox (ISBN 978-1-59780-308-3) is a novel
that one would think should have gotten more attention from the
science fiction community.  The first-person protagonist, Thomas
Phillips, has a strange experience with a shining blue orb that
seems to enter his head during a church service, after which he
starts seeing strange reactions (or lack of reactions) from people
he interacts with, as well as having the feeling that he is being
watched and followed by mysterious men.  And in addition, he hears
voices reciting numbers and even random strangers suddenly turning
to him and telling him things such as that everything is an
illusion.  All this somehow seems to be tied up with a game called
"Ant 2.0" and the novels of Philip K. Dick.

The main problem is that this seems a bit too much like THE TRUMAN
SHOW, though even that comparison raises questions.  The basic one
is whether Thomas's solipsism is purely mental, or has a physical
basis.  With Truman, we see the physical limits, but with Thomas,
his travels seem to cover too large an area to be within a physical

Oddly enough, THOMAS WORLD seems to have made no impression on the
usual science fiction reviewers, and all the reviews I can find are
in mainstream media.  (Maybe Google just doesn't find those in
genre publications.)  In any case, if you are a fan of Dick, you
definitely should seek this out.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The definition of a good mathematical problem is
           the mathematics it generates rather than the
           problem itself.
                                           --Andrew Wiles