Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/02/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 14, Whole Number 1878

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Puzzle (sent in by Tom Russell)
        Ellen Datlow Lecture
        Fresh Air (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Becoming Gregor (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Ambiguous Titles (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        Proof We are Living in the 21st Century (comments
                by Dale L. Skran)
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        Operas, Operettas, and Musicals (letters of comment
                by Tim Bateman, Kevin R, and Paul Dormer)
        Remakes (letters of comment by Tim Bateman, Kevin R,
                Peter Trei, Paul Dormer, Philip Chee,
                and Keith F. Lynch)
        This Week's Reading ("What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light
                Appear", THE FICTIONAL MAN) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Puzzle (sent in by Tom Russell)

What common object looks like a circle, a triangle and a rectangle
from three perspectives?  [-tlr]

The answer will be given next week.


TOPIC: Ellen Datlow Lecture

Tomorrow, October 3, renowned editor Ellen Datlow will speak on
"The State of Horror" at noon in the Old Bridge (NJ) Public
Library.  Admission is free to all.


TOPIC: Fresh Air (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Pope Francis is as different from what we expect from a Pope as
President Jed Bartlett on WEST WING was from what we expect of a
President.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Becoming Gregor (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

A few years back Evelyn and I were in Manhattan waiting for a train
to take us back to New Jersey.  We had an hour or so before the
train was to leave and there was a bookstore nearby.  (Actually
this must have been a few decades ago.  There are very few
bookstores in Manhattan these days.  Welcome to the post-literate
society.)  Of course, a bookstore is a reasonable source of
entertainment for Evelyn and me.

I had wandered around the store and eventually got over to a
section labeled "Classics" or "Literature."  I was curious to see
what classics they stocked.  I admit it, also I was hoping that
among the Jane Austens or Shakespeares they might have a new
edition of something like FRANKENSTEIN or DRACULA with an
interesting cover.  Some of the Poe book covers are of interest
also.  And in general it was of interest to see what of the
classics people were reading.  Some go in or out of fashion.
Anyway, there were two or three schoolgirls also reading the titles
of the classics.

One said, "We had to read this for class.  It was AWFUL!!!

For an instant I thought to myself I wanted to hear what she had to
say about the awful classic.  Maybe I could figure out what book
she had been forced to read.  But with her next sentence I knew
what the AWFUL story was.

"It's about a man who turned into a ROACH!!!"

That did it.  I knew the story.  In high school I was fascinated to
read any classic stories that had science fiction or horror or
fantasy.  One lazy afternoon I was in a library looking at what
books were on the shelves.  There facing me was THE METAMORPHOSIS
by Franz Kafka.  I figured I could spend an hour and give a classic
fantasy a try.  What was my response?  Feh!  Okay, it is a strange
story, but not a very good one.  I guess it occurred to me to ask
facetiously, "Once Gregor Samsa discovered he had the power to turn
into a giant insect, why didn't he just turn into something else?"
Of course, he does not.

I went back a few years later and read the story again.  At least
what I read claimed to be the story.  But it had gotten quite a bit
better in the meantime.  Somehow it felt like the author had
stepped in and rewrote the story better.  Okay, I suppose I
appreciated it a bit more.  So when the schoolgirl said that the
story was AWFUL it occurred to me to ask her what her mother would
have thought of the story.  What about her grandmother?  Her mother
probably never read the story, but as someone a little older she
might have had a better handle on what the story was really about.
After all, she was growing older she might have had to face the
sort of issues that Gregor Samsa did.  To me the story is about the
duality of being what we all are.  We are physical animals and we
also are minds.  And the two are bound together.

The story is about involuntarily changing physically.  Through much
of my life I liked traveling and have visited all fifty states and
something like as many countries.  And even now my mind wants to be
off exploring Tibet; my body is telling me to take it easy.  That
takes a lot of energy.  I have the ambition, but I perhaps do not
really have the physical strength any more.  The very thought of
that globetrotting these days is tiring.  I think like a younger
man, but I do not have the strength I once had.  Today it is all I
can do to watch an evening movie and stay awake.

Clearly I am no longer a candidate for the Explorers Club, as much
as I would like to be.  There is a duality in me.  There is the
mind of a young man and the fragile body of the beetle.  My high
school student might not appreciate that duality.  At this age she
probably did her share of partying all night.  Maybe her mother
might or might not understand yet.  But the more my body changes in
unwelcome ways, the more I will have sympathy for the man who
turned into a ROACH.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Ambiguous Titles (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

I hate ambiguous titles.  Every time I see the film CONSTANTINE
listed, I have a brief moment when I think, "Ooh, a film about the
Roman emperor!" and then I remember, "No, it's just a film about a
supernatural detective played by Keanu Reaves," who Lord knows
would not do well playing the Emperor Constantine.

And then there is AUTUMN IN NEW YORK, clear enough in print, but
when Mark first asked me if I wanted to see it, it sounded like
"Ottoman New York", and until it was clarified I thought someone had
done an alternate history, where the Ottoman Empire was not driven
back from the gates of Vienna, but proceeded to conquer all of
Europe, and by extension, the Americas.  A film about a doomed love
story is just not a substitute.

And when Mark recommended the "Why We Fight" series to a friend,
the friend was disappointed to find that it was about World War II.
He had thought it was a series that looked at the psychology,
sociology, and politics of why human beings seem to have an
instinct for fighting.  (That seems like a good topic for a
Teaching Company course.)  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Proof We Are Living in the 21st Century (comments by Dale
L. Skran)

Proof We are Living in the 21st Century Bulletin #32,753

The latest issue of SCIENCE contains the article:

"Skintight invisibility cloak radiates deception: Differing from
previous clunky cloaks, new device erases an object's optical
signature."  Although the experimental version only covers a tiny
area, researchers claim that it should be possible to scale it up
to something that actually operates like Harry Potter's
invisibility cloak.  If this works out, science will have mastered
the first of Rowling's "Deathly Hallows."

Proof We are Living in the 21st Century Bulletin #32,754

I received an email invite to a conference call and it contained
this:  A bot-control algorithm has been instituted that will test
whether you are human before letting you in. We appreciate your

Proof We are Living in the 21st Century Bulletin #32,755

The latest issue of SCIENCE contains the article "A Trial for the
Ages: Nir Barzilai wants to launch the first rigorous test of a
drug that could put the brakes on aging."  The subject of the
article is a serious proposal to the NIH by academics to do a large
scale test of whether the inexpensive drug metformin can increase
"healthspan."  If this works out (keeping in mind that this is only
the first of many steps), science will have mastered the second of
Rowling's "Deathly Hallows."

Proof We are Living in the 21st Century Bulletin #32,756

The September 13, 2015, issue of the NEW YORK TIMES contained an
article "A Dying Young Woman's Hope in Cryonics and a Future."
This article deals with a cancer patient who had her head frozen in
hopes of a future resurrection.  It discusses various recent
advances in techniques for freezing brains without damage.  If this
works out (keeping in mind that brain freezing and thawing is more
of a wish than a firm plan right this minute), science will have
mastered a version of the third of Rowling's "Deathly Hallows."  By
the way,  the idea of freezing brains has been around for a while.
What makes this proof we are living in the 21st century is that the
article appeared on the front page of the nation's newspaper of



by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This is a film adaptation of the memoirs of Yahuda Avner,
Israeli ambassador to Britain who was an advisor, speechwriter, and
aide to five prime ministers of Israel.  This film is a
continuation of THE PRIME MINISTERS: THE PIONEERS and tells more
personal remembrances of his years in service to the highest levels
of Israeli government.  Some of his stories are humorous, all are
insightful, and this film makes for a compact history of Israel
during his years in service.  Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

At age 84 Yahuda Avner gives us a short history of his years as an
advisor to two Israeli Prime Ministers.  Himself, he had little
power of his own in the Israeli government, but he was a highly
placed advisor and aide to an impressive set of the Prime Ministers
of that country.  He had close relationships with Levi Eshkol,
Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres.  Highly
trusted, he shared his insights into the politics of the Middle East
with people in power in Israel.  What power he had was as an
experienced opinion.  Here he tells us what the situations were and
what advice he gave the Prime Ministers.  In return he got to be an
eyewitness to the attitudes of the people of power.  He witnessed
details surrounding events that give a texture to great, if often
frustrating, historical events.  His observations and insights are
told in his memoir, THE PRIME MINISTERS.  It has been adapted into
two documentary films.

In 2013 Richard Trank directed THE PRIME MINISTERS: THE PIONEERS
based on Avner's years serving Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir.  THE
style and picks up his story in 1974, shortly after the Yom Kippur
war, which was an extremely costly victory for Israel.  The newer
film takes us through his years serving Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem

Trank and Avner also take us through the earlier conflicts of the
country's military.  Among them is a description of the Irgun and
the Israel Defense Force coming to violence in vying for. That
conflict would have effects in later political differences.  Avner
gives us his take on acts of sky terrorism, including the mass
kidnapping that led to the raid on Entebbe.  We are given accounts
of Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem and the Camp David
negotiations, and the later assassination of Anwar Sadat.  There is
the friction between Begin and President Carter, the strained
relationship with President Reagan, and the war in Lebanon.

The film covers the history of Israel during the terms of Rabin and
Begin.  Avner covers the substance of the political decisions made,
but he also conveys the texture of being there in the conference
room, in the airplane, or at the demonstration.  He assesses the
people's values.  He tells us that Golda Meir was the first Prime
Minister who had a genuine understanding and empathy for Diaspora
Jews.  Yitzhak Rabin he assesses as a man of utter logic.  By being
present at defining moments for five different prime ministers he
may well have had a better understanding of Middle East politics
than even the prime ministers themselves had.

The extended interview with Avner is illustrated with news and
documentary footage, photographs, and news reports.  Voicing the
words of historical figures are Sandra Bullock, Michael Douglas,
Leonard Nimoy, and Christoph Waltz.  This is a respectable
adaptation of Avner's book, with a straightforward account of
events.  I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.  Note:
Ambasssador Avner died March 24, 2015, in Jerusalem at age 86.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Operas, Operettas, and Musicals (letters of comment by Tim
Bateman, Kevin R, and Paul Dormer)

In response to Mark's comments on FERMAT'S LAST TANGO in the
09/18/15 issue of the MT VOID, Tim Bateman writes:

This reminds me of the question or Issue: what are the differences
between an opera, an operetta and a musical?  [-tb]

Mark replies:

On the musical question there is a reasonable answer at Yahoo at  [-mrl]

Kevin R writes:

I found this:

It seems to make sense.  I'd be interested to know what someone
like Paul Dormer thinks of it.  [-kr]

Paul Dormer replies:

Well, I didn't get chance to fully read it.  My virus checker kept
telling me about a malicious link, so I exited.

It's a difficult distinction to make.  Opera companies often do all
three.  For instance, English National Opera did SWEENEY TODD this
year--not that unusual--but they have just announced they are doing
SUNSET BOULEVARD next year.  [-pd]

Mark replies:

It sounds like they are going to take some liberties with the
material.  The title of the 1950 film was SUNSET BLVD.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Remakes (letters of comment by Tim Bateman, Kevin R, Peter
Trei, Paul Dormer, Philip Chee, and Keith F. Lynch)

In response to Mark's comments on remakes in the 09/25/15 issue of
the MT VOID, Tim Bateman writes:

My first thought on reading this was a recollection of a
conversation I once had with a man who was putting in a bid to
become my brother-in-law.

M: I don't like remakes of films.

Self: I'd agree in general, but there are some good ones, I think.
THE MALTESE FALCON comes to mind.

M: What!?  Someone remade that classic film?

Self: Yes.  It's quite good. Humphrey Bogart is in it.

M: [Reacts].


Kevin R responds:

Oh, that's like THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD with Errol Flynn.
Some like the Fairbanks version better.  They're both good.  [-kr]

Peter Trei also replies:

I think we need to distinguish between 'remakes' which are new
films drawing from the same source as the earlier film(s), and
'remakes' which are derived directly from the earlier film.

The Bogart film is actually the third film version of THE MALTESE
FALCON, but I don't think anyone would suggest it's a remake of

This applies in spades to films derived from evergreen literature:
THE WIZARD OF OZ, PETER PAN, and various Bronte titles for example.

Philip Chee asks:

Would that include or exclude all the Marvel Cinematic Universe
films, the Sony "Spiderman" films and all the 20C Fox "X-Mutant"
films?  [-pc]

Peter Trei also writes:

OTOH, there are films which are explicit remakes of earlier films,
such as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, which is closely modeled on THE
SEVEN SAMURAI (TMS has spawned a small genre of its own imitators).

Kevin R responds:

Yet another one is planned for this time next year:

Peter replies:

I was more thinking of things like BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, THE
THREE AMIGOS, etc.  For an exhaustive listing, see [at].  [-pt]

And Keith F. Lynch writes:

There are lots of classic movies that weren't the first with that
name.  Two examples that immediately spring to mind are FRANKENSTEIN

However, the plot of the silent 1926 WIZARD OF OZ is completely
different from the plot of the better know 1939 film, though it
does contain most of the same characters.

And of course there are lots of cases of completely unrelated films
with the same name.  For instance, "Men in Black":  The movie about
aliens is unrelated to the short in which the Three Stooges become
doctors.  [-kfl]

Kevin R responds:

Aside from different studios making adaptations of public domain
works, another source of similarly or identically titled works is
that titles can't be copyrighted.  You can trademark something,
which could make it difficult to market something with the same
title, but doing so in a way that might confuse the buying public
could be actionable.  If the "trade dress" of the book cover or the
movie promotional art is too imitative, expect "cease and desist"
letters.  [-kr]

Keith replies:

Right.  I was bitten by that myself.  I bought a DVD of THE
POSEIDON ADVENTURE, thinking I was buying the Irwin Allen classic.
Nope, it was a crummy 2005 remake in which the rogue wave had been
replaced by terrorists.  (Not to be confused with POSEIDON, the
big-budget 2006 remake, which retained the rogue wave.)

Then there was the time I thought I was buying TRON, but when I got
it home and removed the shrink-wrap, I saw in fine print the word
"Legacy" after "Tron".  That's not a trademark or copyright issue,
since the same firm owns both films.  But I still feel ripped off.

Tim responds to Philip:

I'd say that [Marvel et al] are in the same category as Holmes,
Dracula, the Brontes, Frankenstein, Poirot, et ceretera.

Of course, YOJIMBO is closely modelled on RED HARVEST, IIRR.


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

That I am only now recommending the novella "What Has Passed Shall
in Kinder Light Appear" by Bao Shu (translated by Ken Liu; F&SF,
March/April 2015) is an indication of how far behind in my magazine
reading I am.  The problem in recommending this is that it is
impossible to describe without taking away some of the impact.  The
most I can say is that it is not a time travel story, though it has
some ideas in common with that genre, and it is not an alternate
history, though it has some ideas in common with that genre as
well.  Its underlying premise has been done before, though Bao Shu
has a major variation from all the examples I have read before.

In addition to being a really fascinating work in its own right,
"What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear" is also a way for
American readers to get some sense of what is being written in
China these days (although this work "could not be published in
China because of the political content," according to F&SF).

THE FICTIONAL MAN by Al Ewing (ISBN 978-1-78108-094-8) has an
interesting premise: cloning has been perfected, but rather than
cloning a "new" person as an infant, they somehow can download a
personality into a fully grown clone.  And this personality is that
of a fictional character, whether from literature or from film or
from television.  (I don't think there were any from video games.)
Oh, and this has apparently been going on for a while, so this is
really an alternate history in the same way that Kazuo Ishiguro's
NEVER LET ME GO is.  That is, there is a not any real change in
society, or politics, or economics, just a minor change in one
aspect of how the world works.  In THE FICTIONAL MAN, there are
clones ("Fictionals") who are basically like actors, but not
considered "Real" people.  They are discriminated against,
relationships between real people and Fictionals are considered
perverse and disgusting, and so on.  And herein lies the problem:
none of this is subtle.  The parallels between the social attitudes
towards Fictionals and those towards various racial, religious, or
other minority groups is just too obvious.

There are a lot of ironies, with Fictionals wishing they were Real,
and Reals wishing they were (or at least pretending to be)
Fictional.  There is even a term for Fictionals so derogatory that
it is usually referred to only as the "P-word" (okay, it's
"Pinnochio").  There is also some discussion of what difference (if
any).there is between Reals and Fictionals.  (Hint: At first it
seems there is, but it turns out not to be necessarily true simply
because of how the Fictionals are created.)  I enjoyed some of the
discussions, but I kept wishing there was more to the book.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           He had the uneasy manner of a man who is not among
           his own kind, and who has not seen enough of the
           world to feel that all people are in some sense
           his own kind.
                                           --Willa Cather